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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-04

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Bill would split Tuscaloosa County's probate judge, County Commission chairman positions - A bill headed to the Alabama Legislature would separate the roles of Tuscaloosa County’s probate judge and County Commission chairman.
If adopted, it would allow Hardy McCollum, the current probate judge and commission chairman, to remain the head of the county government while giving up the probate judge seat.
If not, McCollum would have to step down from both. Now 67, he will be 71 when his current term ends in January 2019.
State law does not allow anyone over the age of 70 to run for an elected judge seat, including probate judge.
McCollum said this was the reason he supported the bill, which will be introduced in the Legislature by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, once advertising requirements are met.
“I’m reaching mandatory retirement, and now would be the time to separate them,” McCollum said. “As long as I’ve got something to offer, I’m going to keep working.”
By law, whoever holds the office of Tuscaloosa County probate judge is also chairman of the County Commission. Allen’s bill would allow McCollum to resign his position as probate judge while retaining his seat as chairman of the county’s governing body. McCollum has held both positions since first being elected probate judge in 1976.
According to the bill, the chairman would receive a salary of $105,000.
McCollum now earns $148,936, which is set by state law at $1,000 less than the salary of the highest paid circuit judge in the county.
Under the proposed bill, if McCollum exercised the option to resign as probate judge, the two positions then would become permanently separate. At the conclusion of McCollum’s term, the commission chairmanship would become a countywide elective office with a four-year term. The proposed bill would not otherwise change the duties of the probate judge, whose elected term is six years, or the salary for the position.
Allen said some other Alabama counties already have separate offices for probate judge and commission chair and that he is sponsoring the bill to ensure Tuscaloosa County is poised for the future.
Allen said he believes the size of Tuscaloosa County and its progress in gaining national and international industries means the job of probate judge and County Commission chairman has become too much for one person.
“There’s a number of things that’s developed over the years that’s taken a tremendous amount of time from the probate judge,” Allen said. “It puts lots of stress and pressure on the judge himself to be able to deal with and take care of all of the things it takes to solve major, major issues.”
Responsibilities of the probate judge include maintaining records of deeds, mortgages, election records and other documents, and overseeing probate court, which handles wills, administration of estates, adoptions and involuntary commitments of the mentally ill; the probate judge also is the chief election officer of the county, issues marriage licenses and appoints notaries public, among other duties.
The County Commission chairman presides over commission meetings while also acting as an ambassador, or a de facto mayor, of the county.
“We need someone at the table that can work through the issues and negotiate and be able to manage the affairs of the county,” Allen said. “That’s very difficult.”
County Commissioner Jerry Tingle said he was aware of the bill, but that it had not been discussed by the County Commission as a whole. He did not voice any immediate concern.
He agreed with Allen’s assessment that it is hard for one person to be both probate judge and chairman of the commission.
“There are all kinds of facets to that job. It’s a very complicated job,” Tingle said. “I don’t think one person could do both jobs in the future.”
County Commissioner Stan Acker, however, was bothered that he did not learn of the bill until this week, after it had already been published as a legal advertisement.
“I haven’t seen this bill. It wasn’t something that we asked for or voted on or discussed,” Acker said. “It somewhat takes me by surprise — and is a little bit concerning — that something would (get this far) and we wouldn’t at least have it brought to us.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
April 30th, 2015
Alabama One Credit Union seeks to halt state's cease, desist order - Alabama One Credit Union sought a temporary restraining order Thursday to halt a state regulator’s cease-and-desist order that the Tuscaloosa-based credit union make major changes in its operation.
But newly filed court documents and court comments from the attorney representing the Alabama Credit Union Administration (ACUA) indicated that questionable activities and lending practices at one of the state’s largest credit unions has been on the radar screen of state and federal regulators for several years.
The ACUA, a state agency that regulates state-chartered credit unions like Alabama One, sent a letter dated Aug. 20, 2014, warning Alabama One that a $2,204,794 business loan it had made in April 2014 violated a previous order. That order to Alabama One limited new business loans to no more than $2 million. The letter noted that cap was ordered more than a year earlier by both the ACUA and its federal counterpart, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
The loan limit was ordered after regulators learned Alabama One made almost $25 million in business loans to Danny Ray Butler.
Butler is in federal prison for check kiting and defrauding lenders out of more than $3 million. He also is named in several civil lawsuits filed against Alabama One by credit union members who claim that Alabama One arranged to transfer loans made to Butler to them in an effort to reduce the number of loans on its books to Butler.
The credit union members lost money in the deals.
Robert Reynolds, a Tuscaloosa attorney appointed by the state attorney general to represent the ACUA in the Alabama One case, told Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England Jr. on Thursday that the movement of the loans into other credit union members’ accounts did not reduce the credit union’s losses but was designed to hide the transactions from bank examiners. He gave several hundred pages of bank examiner records, sealed from the public, to the judge to review.
Reynolds noted that credit unions are not like banks that can go to stockholders and private investors when they need a cash infusion.
“Credit unions belong to their members. It’s their money and their organization,” Reynolds said. “This (Alabama One) board and management lost almost $10 million in the last 15 months.”
That loss now is not available to members, he said.
Among the changes mandated in the cease-and-desist order is the hiring of independent auditors.
“We want to know what other loans to Danny Ray Butler have been shifted to someone else,” Reynolds said. “We have got to find out. The members of the credit union lost $10 million. We need to know what other loans are out there in the pipeline.”
ACUA sent the cease-and-desist order to Alabama One on April 2. The order was made public on April 24, the day after ACUA Administrator Sarah Moore met with Alabama One’s board of directors and management at the credit union’s Tuscaloosa headquarters.
Birmingham attorney Vic Hayslip, who represents Alabama One, told the judge the actions ordered by ACUA are vague and that the agency wants many of them in place before the credit union’s appeal will be heard on June 9 by an administrative law judge in Montgomery. If Alabama One wins on appeal, it will have spent an unknown amount of money unnecessarily, he said in asking for the temporary restraining order.
Reynolds responded: “She (Moore) went over this document (the cease-and-desist order) paragraph by paragraph and asked if there are any questions,” at the April 23 meeting at the credit union.
He said only one question was asked — whether the credit union would have to mail a copy of the cease-and-desist order to all credit union members.
Reynolds also noted that the cease-and-desist order was unanimously approved by the entire ACUA board, which consists of presidents, board members and top officers of credit unions from across the state, all of whom are required to have at least five years’ experience in credit union oversight positions.
He called the cease-and-desist order a responsible action and noted that joint examiners from the ACUA and NCUA gave Alabama One’s management the worst possible rating.
England will continue hearing the attorneys’ arguments on the temporary restraining order this morning.
April 30th, 2015
2 bodies of missing sailors found; probe into race launched - DAUPHIN ISLAND | Search teams Thursday recovered the bodies of two more boaters missing since a disastrous sailboat race Saturday as an investigation began into circumstances surrounding the competition, including whether it should have been canceled because of the threat of bad weather.
The discovery of the bodies of Adam Clark, 17, of Mobile and Robert Thomas, 50, of Pickens, Miss., left one person still unaccounted for and five confirmed dead since a powerful squall disrupted the Dauphin Island Regatta on Saturday.
Around 100 boats carrying about 470 people were on Mobile Bay for the race when the squall occurred, even though forecasters had issued alerts about the possibility of severe weather along the coast.
Coast Guard Capt. Duke Walker said the probe could include a review of whether the race should have been canceled.
“That’s for the investigation team to consider, perhaps,” said Walker, commander of the agency’s Mobile sector.
Leaders at the Fairhope Yacht Club, which organized the race this year, did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment on the investigation.
The probe, which Walker said could take as long as six months, began as crews scaled back the hunt for survivors. Searchers have covered 9,500 square miles of water and combed 164 miles of shoreline looking for survivors, he said.
The Coast Guard, using a state law enforcement website, posted an online questionnaire for the hundreds of people who participated in the race. It included a question about whether they heard alerts concerning deteriorating weather conditions before the storm occurred.
“The Coast Guard and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency are conducting a joint investigation into the circumstances surrounding the events in Mobile Bay on Saturday during the Dauphin Island Regatta,” said the notice.
The survey was voluntarily, but officials said they needed responses to help determine what happened.
Other questions included whether boaters saw anyone go overboard or aided with any rescues.
Sailors said in interviews that while they expected rain, a storm with near hurricane-force winds struck instead. While the race began late because of miscommunication and a false start, many boats already had finished the competition and were returning to port when the storm arrived.
The timeline of weather alerts could play a role in the investigation.
Weather Service meteorologist John Purdy previously said a storm moved quickly eastward through Louisiana and Mississippi, prompting a severe thunderstorm watch at 1:36 p.m. Saturday and a warning less than an hour later.
The National Weather Service then issued a special marine warning around 3 p.m. for boaters on several waterways, including Mobile Bay, warning of a line of thunderstorms producing gusty winds, high waves, dangerous lightning and heavy rains.
The notice urged boaters to “seek safe harbor immediately,” but many boats were still on the water when a squall arrived about an hour later with winds in excess of 70 mph.
April 30th, 2015
Paul Bryant High holds commitment ceremony for graduating seniors - Students and staff at Paul W. Bryant High School gathered in the gym Thursday morning to celebrate the virtue of having a plan.
The school held its first-ever College and Career Commitment Ceremony.
Principal Linda Harper said the ceremony honored members of the class of 2015 who are building bridges to their future.
“Ninety-seven percent of our (206) seniors who will be walking across the stage today have received a confirmation from a university, college, the military or a career opportunity,” Harper said. “So 97 percent of our seniors are not just graduating to go home and do nothing. They have a plan in place when they leave us.”
When the ceremony started, the 97 percent made a grand entrance, marching, skipping and strolling into the gym to the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script and will.i.am.
The students proudly held flags, shirts, hats and other college, military and company paraphernalia denoting where they were headed.
“I’m going to NASCAR Technical Institute,” said Alan Ward, an 18-year-old graduating senior. “There, I plan on getting all of my certifications to work on Chevys, Fords, Mercedes and also work on Formula One race cars and hopefully, potentially, be able to drive one.”
Lisbeth Seale, a 17-year-old graduating senior, said she was going to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to learn how to do a job that’s been the career choice of women in her family dating back to her great-grandmother.
“I’m going into nursing,” Seale said. “I’ve already been accepted into the nursing program. I have a collegiate scholarship there.”
The ceremony also included a prerecorded video message from first lady Michelle Obama.
“I want to congratulate each and every one of you for making it to this day,” Obama said.
Faculty and administrators reached out to Obama through the Reach Higher Initiative.
According to the White House’s website, the Reach Higher Initiative is the first lady’s effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college or a four-year college or university.
Bryant High students screamed and applauded during Obama’s message, turning their faces toward one another with their mouths agape.
“This celebration is for all those years of hard work,” Obama said. “For all those late nights and tough classes. For all those obstacles that you overcame. You did it. You made it. And I’m so incredibly proud of you.
“This is a big deal, but of course, it’s not the end of your journey. In many ways, it’s just the beginning. Because getting into college isn’t the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to graduate and live the life of your dreams.”
Obama advised students not to wait to prepare for their next step. She encouraged them to come up with a plan now, even if they don’t have all the answers.
“It’s time to start thinking about what major you might choose, what kind of internship you might want to do, how you pay off your student loans,” she said. “ ... You have all the courage, all the intelligence, all the passion and energy that you need to reach higher and complete your education. And I cannot wait to see everything that you will achieve in the years ahead. Congratulations again, and good luck.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 30th, 2015
Raiders take WR Amari Cooper with 4th pick in NFL draft - While his contemporaries sat among the glitz and glamor and the camera flashes of the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night in Chicago, Amari Cooper stayed true to himself and went low key.
But there was nothing low about Cooper's night.
The Oakland Raiders selected him with the No. 4 overall pick making him the highest drafted wide receiver in school history, surpassing Julio Jones, who was the sixth pick in the 2010 draft.
“I came to Alabama to win, but I also wanted a chance to play in the NFL and that dream was realized tonight,” Cooper said. “This is a special night and just the start of the next chapter of my football career. I want to thank all of my teammates and coaches at Alabama for an amazing experience. I also want to express my excitement to the Raiders' organization and all of their fans, and let them know I'm ready to go to work.”
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Amari Cooper to the Raiders. No. 4 overall. Seventh year in a row for Alabama to have a first-rounder.— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) <a href="https://twitter.com/CecilHurt/status/593936685337018368">May 1, 2015</blockquote>
Cooper bypassed the Windy City to stay in Tuscaloosa in a house he rented for his private draft party that included his family and girlfriend.
Cooper broke school and SEC records his junior season with the Crimson Tide, amassing 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns on 124 receptions. During his three-year career, he totaled 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks went first and second in the draft with Florida State's Jameis Winston going No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by Marcus Mariota to the Tennessee Titans. Florida defensive end Dante Fowler was drafted just ahead of Cooper at No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cooper's selection also represented the 16th Alabama player to be drafted in the first round since 2010. No other SEC school has double digits during that time (Florida with nine).
Cooper joins former Alabama All-American running back Trent Richardson in Oakland. Reached via text message Thursday evening Richardson seemed pleased to team up with Cooper. “Roll Tide. I can't wait,” Richardson texted.
“We liked him as soon as we saw him on tape,” Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said Thursday night. “When Cooper was there (at No. 4), we were excited. When he was there, it wasn't a whole lot of debating.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
D.C. Reeves contributed to this report
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Swapped texts with Trent Richardson about Amari Cooper joining him in Oakland. His response: "Roll tideeeeeee I can't wait."— D.C. Reeves (@_DCReeves) <a href="https://twitter.com/_DCReeves/status/593939327324921856">May 1, 2015</blockquote>
April 30th, 2015
Five things to do this weekend in Tuscaloosa - The first weekend in May features free comic books, a huge garage sale, a choir celebration and a Kentucky Derby viewing party. Here are five suggestions of things to do:
1. Shop ‘til you drop: The Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County will hold a garage sale from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the former Sticks and Stuff furniture store location at McFarland Mall, 900 Skyland Blvd. E. The sale is being held to raise money to help fund the organization’s dictionary and Constitution projects. Each year, the Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County distribute dictionaries to all third-graders in Tuscaloosa city, county and private schools and copies of the Constitution of the United States to all fifth-graders. For information, call Lucy Kubiszyn at 752-9020 or email her at lukubiszyn@comcast.com.
2. First Friday: First Friday is free event when local art galleries, businesses and restaurants show the community to see what downtown Tuscaloosa has to offer. At 5 p.m., a display of paintings by Greg Cartmell, “Broken Color,” will open at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, 620 Greensboro Ave. Cartmell paints en plein air, on- location painting, directly from nature and life. The reception will include a signing of his book, “Mississippi Light.” At Grace Aberdean Habitat Alchemy, 2124 Ninth St., “The Flock,” performed by Patrick O’Brien, will begin at 8 p.m., with music by The Defenders, snacks and more.
3. Songs of celebration: The Alabama Choir School will celebrate 30 years of providing music education to young people in West Alabama with spring concerts at Moody Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Alabama at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The five separate and combined choirs from first through 12th grades will sing a wide assortment of songs including modern American favorites, traditional classical repertory, contemporary composers and folk songs from all over the world in various languages. Tickets for the concerts are available from members of the Alabama Choir School or at the Moody box office. For information call 758-0927.
4. Stand up for comics: Sho’Nuff Comics, 618 15th St., will celebrate Free Comic Book Day on Saturday. More than 5.6 million comic books will be given away by participating stores around the world. Sho’ Nuff Comics will be hosting Marvel Comics artist Javier Saltares and local artists Rick Johnson, Brittney McInnis, and Tony Brock. Free Comic Book Day begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 7 p.m. For more information, call 344-9333 or go online at www.freecomicbookday.com.

5.Back in the saddle: The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Foundation and Downtown T-Town will host the second annual “Hats & Horses: A Kentucky Derby Viewing Party and Hat Contest” from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion, 1305 Greensboro Ave. There is a suggested donation of $25 toward the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Foundation capital campaign, which raises money for the maintenance and restoration of the house museum. The event will include a live broadcasting of the Kentucky Derby, hors d’oeuvres and a hat contest with awards from local businesses. Derby attire is suggested, but not required.

April 30th, 2015
Compassion triumphs: Chairwoman of nonprofit wins Citizen of the Year - The bronze plaque that hangs in the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse will add one more name to its list of 80 honored citizens.
The Tuscaloosa Civitan Club on Wednesday named Nancy Green, mobilization chairwoman of the Compassion Coalition of Tuscaloosa, as the 2015 Tuscaloosa County Citizen of the Year.
In 2005, Green joined the nonprofit organization, which specializes in disaster preparation and response and recovery assistance.
She earned the award for her 10-year volunteer service in disaster relief in which she managed teams of volunteers from 82 congregations, assisted 1,300 victims of the 2011 and 2014 tornadoes with home repairs and assisted thousands more with case-by-case needs. She has also served for the past four years with Operation Warm-up, which houses, feeds and supplies the homeless on nights when temperatures drop below 40 degrees.
“I do what I do because it needs doing,” Green said.
Tommy Hester, a member and past president of the Tuscaloosa Civitan Club, said that people like Green who go beyond their everyday jobs to help others are the ones who have the qualities worthy of the Citizen of the Year award.
“Civitan stands for citizenship. How do you get good citizenship? By getting people involved on a volunteer basis. Nancy fits the bill,” Hester said.
“It's doing things that nobody else wants to do, getting your hands dirty and doing things that are not necessarily what would be desired to do but what are necessary to do to pull people out of the ditch and bring them back, give them hope,” he said.
Green said that's what she loves about working as a volunteer with the organization.
The Tuscaloosa County Compassion Coalition was formed by community churches in December 2000 to assist tornado victims in the Bear Creek area with disaster recovery. The organization became officially recognized as a nonprofit in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina sent thousands of displaced victims into Tuscaloosa County.
Seeing disaster victims at their lowest and helping them put their lives back together is what keeps Green going, she said.
“It gives you that opportunity to see people at the worst possible moment of their life,” Green said. “If you can come in and bring a little hope, shed a little light, that human spirit of resiliency is amazing. They will begin to take charge and climb back up.”
Green said she has worked as a disaster relief volunteer with agencies like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Catholic Disaster Relief since she was 19 years old.
She was quick to give credit to her fellow volunteers on the Compassion Coalition and the two other nominees — Ken Swindle, who has worked to reopen the Salvation Army Center of Hope homeless shelter that was destroyed in the April 27, 2011, tornado, and David Wilson who works to mobilize student volunteers at the University of Alabama.
“No one congregation, no one person is going to do it all,” she said. “It takes a community to recover from what we've been through.”
April 30th, 2015
Republican Women of Tuscaloosa garage sale to be held at McFarland Mall - The Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County will hold a garage sale from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the former Sticks and Stuff furniture store location at McFarland Mall, 900 Skyland Blvd. E.
The sale is being held to raise money to help fund the organization's dictionary and Constitution projects. Each year, the Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County distribute dictionaries to all third-graders in Tuscaloosa city, county and private schools and copies of the Constitution of the United States to all fifth-graders.
For information, call Lucy Kubiszyn at 752-9020 or email her at lukubiszyn@comcast.com.
April 30th, 2015
Kentucky Derby party and hat contest to be held Saturday - The Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Foundation and Downtown T-Town will host the second annual “Hats & Horses: A Kentucky Derby Viewing Party and Hat Contest” from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion, 1305 Greensboro Ave.
There is a suggested donation of $25 toward the Jemison-Van de Graaff Mansion Foundation capital campaign, which raises money for the maintenance and restoration of the house museum.
The event will include a live broadcasting of the Kentucky Derby, hors d’oeuvres and a hat contest with awards from local businesses.
Derby attire is suggested, but not required.
April 30th, 2015
Two teenagers arrested in Gordo car theft - Authorities in Pickens County arrested two teenagers Monday who they say stole a car in Gordo.
The suspects led police on a pursuit Monday before crashing along a county road, according to a release from the Alabama Department of Corrections. The suspects, 14 and 19, crashed the vehicle on a county road and ran, according to the agency.
Officers quickly captured the 14-year-old. Pickens County Sheriff David Abston requested the tracking team from William E. Donaldson Correctional Facilty in Bessemer for assistance.
The team tracked the second suspect along a creek bed before locating him about two miles away. Officers charged Austin Crowell, 19, of Gordo with eluding law enforcement, first-degree theft, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
April 30th, 2015
'Little Mermaid' production will be dedicated to late educator - This weekend’s performances of “The Little Mermaid” will be dedicated to the memory of Katrina May, a longtime Tuscaloosa County educator who died in February.
The musical, produced by the Peanutbutter & Jelly Players Children’s Theater, will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Sprayberry Education Center, 1324 Rice Mine Road, in Northport. Admission is free, but donations of $5 per person are suggested.
“Katrina May was instrumental in helping me launch the theater,” said Kristin Frangoulis, founder and creative director of the Peanutbutter & Jelly Players Children’s Theater, in a news release.
“Not only was she a great musician, she was also really wonderful with the kids. Although her school duties kept her busy at Crestmont, she was one of our strongest supporters. I miss her terribly,” Frangoulis said.
The 58-year-old May was the principal of Crestmont Elementary School. Under her leadership, the school became one of 1,629 Leader In Me schools across the globe. In May 2014, Crestmont received the highest honor in the Leader in Me program — being named a Lighthouse School, an achievement that only 91 schools in the world have earned. Achieving Lighthouse status was a process that took May and Crestmont nearly four years to achieve.
Frangoulis began the Peanutbutter & Jelly Players Children’s Theater in the fall of 2011. It is now in its fourth year of operation. Past musical production have included “The Wizard of Oz,” “Alice In Wonderland,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Of Mice and Mozart,” “A Christmas Cinderella” and “Tom Sawyer.”
“The PB&J Players is for children and by children, where every kid can be a star on stage. It is inclusive, a place where all children can shine,” Frangoulis said.
For more information, contact Frangoulis at 242-4200.
April 30th, 2015
Board denies parole for man guilty in 2002 killing - A Tuscaloosa County man serving a 20-year sentence for killing a man in 2002 was denied parole at a hearing Tuesday.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to grant parole to John Cleveland Hargress, 65.
Hargress pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Walter Lee James in August 2002.
Authorities at the time said Hargress suspected James of cheating with his girlfriend.
Police responded on Aug. 23, 2002, and found James, 38, lying facedown on the ground between buildings at Downing Place Apartments off James I. Harrison Jr. Parkway.
Witnesses told officers that they saw Hargress point the gun and shoot James.
Hargress, 53 at the time, told investigators that he and James were wrestling over the gun when it fired.
He was initially charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September 2003 after reaching an agreement with prosecutors. Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Lyn Head attended the hearing Tuesday to oppose his release.
Hargress is housed at the minimum security Childersburg Community Work Center in Talladega County. He is set for release in 2023 and will be eligible for parole again in 2019.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
April 30th, 2015
Coast Guard identifies third victim found in Mobile Bay after boating accident - DAUPHIN ISLAND | Authorities on Wednesday identified the third person killed when a powerful storm struck a sailboat race off the Alabama coast and said they will search one more day for three boaters who remained missing.
The body of William Glenn Massey, 67, of Daphne was found near a gas platform in Mobile Bay, the Coast Guard said. An angler spotted the body Tuesday and notified officials.
Massey, who lived in his sailboat in a marina on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, was the third person confirmed dead since the boating disaster happened Saturday afternoon. His Facebook page featured of photo of him at the helm of a sailboat.
The other victims were Kris Beall, 27, of Pineville, La., and Robert Delaney, 72, of Madison, Miss.
Searchers have covered more than 6,500 square miles of water looking for possible survivors and victims, and volunteers walked shorelines looking for any signs of the missing.
Capt. Duke Walker, commander of the Coast Guard in Mobile, said the search would continue through sunset today, but crews will go back to normal duties afterward.
Searchers have combed the surface of Mobile Bay, dove to sunken boats and flown 20 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico looking for signs of life, he said.
“You’re looking in a very large area for a very small target, so it makes it challenging,” said Walker.
The families of two of the boaters who are still missing held a news conference Tuesday at Dauphin Island to thank emergency responders and others. They identified the missing as Adam Clark, 17, of Mobile and Jimmie Charles “J.C.” Brown, 71.
Clark’s mother, Angie Tew, choked up when discussing his plan to be a software engineer someday.
“Adam is an amazing kid who loves his brother and his sister so much,” she said.
Brown’s stepdaughter Jennifer Hoffman thanked sailors who helped save people when the storm hit Saturday afternoon during the Dauphin Island Regatta.
In Louisiana, Amanda Allbritton Beall said a funeral will be held Friday for her husband, Kris, who was working hard to build his construction business.
“He had unending energy,” she said. “I don’t know where all his energy came from. He never stopped. I mean, he always made the most of every day. He was not a sitter. It drove him crazy just to sit.”
April 30th, 2015
Northport's new public safety radio system fine tuned - Northport's new public safety radio system will improve the ability of emergency responders and other personnel to communicate citywide, according to city officials.
“Obviously, our primary concern with the system is improving public safety response to our citizens and the entire community,” City Administrator Scott Collins said. “This system allows us coverage to our entire city and neighboring communities.”
The old system for the city's fire and police departments, installed during the 1980s, provided incomplete coverage for the departments, he said.
“The old system, in some areas of the city, simply did not work,” Collins said.
Northport expects that with updates, it will get 30 years of use from the new Motorola P25 radio system, Collins said. The city was putting the final touches on the installation of its new public safety system on Wednesday.
The new system, in addition to offering coverage for the departments across the entire city, will also allow Northport departments to communicate with other area agencies.
The new system cost $3.9 million, Collins said. It includes the dispatch center in the city's public safety building on 26th Avenue, three new towers, and new radio handsets.
The city is partnering with the University of Alabama Police Department, which is using the same type of system, Collins said.
As part of the upgrade, the city has entered into an agreement with Motorola Solutions Inc. for maintenance of the system. The contract is worth approximately $85,000 annually and includes system upgrades every two years, according to Collins and the company.
Collins said the process began in 2010 as the city started research and a business plan to replace its old communication system. Motorola Solutions Inc. and the city signed contracts in 2013, according to the company.
The installation of the equipment locally began roughly nine months ago, as two 300-foot towers and one 90-foot tower were erected. Collins said installation of the rest of the equipment began about three months ago.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
April 30th, 2015
Panel holds hearings on 'fetal heartbeat' abortion bill - MONTGOMERY | The House Health Committee on Wednesday held public hearings on proposed new abortion restrictions in Alabama, including a “fetal heartbeat” bill that opponents said would ban most abortions.
The bill by Republican Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as soon as six weeks gestation. Collins said the bill, to her, is a “common sense” approach.
“If the end of life is determined when heartbeat stops, then why not use a heartbeat to determine when life begins?” Collins told committee members.
The committee heard emotional testimony from both sides on the bill. A woman who had an abortion decades ago said she would have felt differently if she knew the fetus had a heartbeat. Opponents of the bill called it an attempt to ban all abortions and a proposal that would spark a lawsuit they said the state would lose.
A federal judge last year ruled a similar North Dakota law unconstitutional.
“It has already been ruled unconstitutional. It opens Alabama up to litigation we cannot afford,” said Susan Watson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.
The Alabama House of Representatives approved similar legislation last year, but the bill did not get a vote in the Alabama Senate. Prospects for passage this year are uncertain.
A second bill would prohibit abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of a public school.
“Aborturaries are places where
innocent human lives are being ended,” Cheryl Ciamarra, director of Alabama Citizens for Life, said. Ciamarra likened the bill to a zoning restriction prohibiting a bar or other adult business need a school.
A parent and other proponents of the bill said the heated protests, and potential violence, that surround a clinic are inappropriate near a school.
The requirement would definitely close north Alabama’s only abortion clinic.
The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville moved to a new location this fall to comply with a 2013 Alabama law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers, including wide halls that can accommodate gurneys and better fire suppression equipment. The new building is across the street from a public school.
Clinic owner Dalton Johnson said last week that the clinic’s old location, which was near a hospital emergency room, couldn’t be renovated to meet the 2013 law.
The distance from a school is similar to the restriction on where sex offenders can live.
“It is insulting and demeaning to a woman because it treats her like a convicted sex offender,” Watson said. You cannot shut somebody’s business just because you don’t like it.”
A third bill would give legal protections to medical providers who refuse to participate in nonemergency reproductive medical procedures and research, from abortion to cloning, if the procedure violates their ethics.
The committee is expected to vote on the bills next week.
April 30th, 2015
Event will celebrate West Alabama's Adopt-A-School program - A celebration of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama's Adopt-A-School program will be held from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. May 5 at Embassy Suites in downtown Tuscaloosa. The businesses that support the program, which will complete its 30th year at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year, will be recognized during the luncheon.
Under the program, businesses and civic organizations partner with or otherwise support the 58 schools in the Tuscaloosa city and county public school systems to help strengthen the quality of education they provide. The Chamber of Commerce manages the program.
Tickets to the celebration are $30 per person, which includes lunch.
To register, contact Loo Whitfield, the chamber's director of education, at loo@tuscaloosachamber.com or 391-0563 or Carolyn Tubbs at carolyn@tuscaloosachamber.com or 391-0556.
April 30th, 2015
Bill would take Alabama out of marriage license business - MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A state senator who wants to take Alabama out of the marriage license business says he’s not targeting same-sex couples but trying to remove government from the process.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, that would do away with current state marriage licenses issued by probate judges. Instead, couples would take a contract witnessed by a couple’s pastor, attorney or other witness and record the document at the court.
Albritton said he was not targeting same-sex marriages, but was trying to “bring order out of chaos.” The legislation comes after a legal dispute over gay marriage led to some probate courts shutting down in Alabama and ahead of a highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties,” Albritton said.
“Go back long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Early twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred,” Albritton said.
Lawyer Eric Johnston, who signed up to speak at a public hearing that was cancelled on the bill, said the change would prevent probate judges from having to issue marriage licenses that go against their religious beliefs if gay marriage becomes legal.
Albritton said his bill is based off of Oklahoma legislation.
Alabama went through a turbulent period after a federal judge in January struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. Most probate judges began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, but others did not citing a conflicting directive from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to continue to refuse the licenses.
The weddings halted in March when the Alabama Supreme Court directed probate judges to not issue the marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Alabama’s only openly gay legislator said she “actually liked” Albritton’s idea.
“It sort of takes the marriage decision out of the probate court,” said state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham. Todd is also the director of the Human Rights Campaign Alabama, an organization that works for gay and lesbian rights.
However, Todd said she scoffed at the notion that the bill wasn’t about gay couples or same-sex marriage.
“Come on. Why did you do this now?” Todd said.
April 30th, 2015
Rock bands Boston, Kansas to perform at Tuscaloosa Amphitheater - They have sold tens of millions of albums, been on Billboard Top 200 charts for hundreds of weeks, are considered landmark bands of 1970s rock, and begin their first stop on a joint national tour tonight in Tuscaloosa.
Boston and Kansas will kick off what will be a summer-long series of shows at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Boston is headlining, with Kansas opening.
"It's the first show of the tour, and that's always special for us," said Boston guitarist Gary Pihl.
Boston began as a studio-recording project by writer-guitarist-singer Tom Scholz, an MIT graduate who built a home studio to develop innovative techniques for mastering a metallic rock sound, including devices to create violin-like sounds from a guitar. Most of the demos that became the first, self-titled, album were performed by Scholz on all instruments except drums, with Brad Delp on lead vocals.
When Epic Records showed interest, Scholz cobbled together band lineups that wound up re-creating the layered studio sounds on stage.
In 1976 that self-titled debut sold 25 million albums worldwide, becoming one of the hottest debut discs of all time, with chart-topping hits including "More Than a Feeling," "Foreplay/Long Time" and "Peace of Mind." 1978's follow-up "Don't Look Back" also went multi-platinum, with hits inlcuding the title track, "Feelin' Satisfied" and "A Man I'll Never Be."
After an eight-year hiatus caused mostly by legal issues, "Third Stage" came out in 1986, with hits including "We're Ready," and the band's biggest to date, the No. 1 "Amanda." The gradual, sporadic recording process has continued, with Boston releasing its newest, "Life, Love & Hope," in 2013.
Touring in the 1970s and 1980s was not quite the same as touring now.
"We're all adults now; it's not like when you're 20 and everybody is crazy and trying to figure out how to make this band work and hope that the fans like you. We're luckily at a wonderful position where we have a lot of great fans," Pihl said.
He was playing guitar with Sammy Hagar in the late ‘70s, when Hagar was the opening act for a couple of Boston tours. Pihl and Scholz bonded over home-studio fervor, and Scholz brought Pihl into the Boston fold.
Something Pihl said he does not get tired of on tour is seeing the crowd from his point of view.
"I am the luckiest guy in the world. I think of what it's like when I go to concerts. It's a special experience to see a band performing live; I'm just thrilled that we're able to do that," he said.
Boston will offer classics such as "Rock and Roll Band," "Smokin'," "Feeling Satisfied" and "Amanda," but will also play some lesser-known songs.
"We got a lot of Facebook comments about what other songs we should do; some of our ‘deeper cuts' as they call them. We're playing songs that we haven't played for quite a while, so we're hoping that the audience will appreciate that," he said.
Of all the days they will be on tour, there is one thing that Pihl says he is not looking forward to.
"The last day," he said. "It's going to be over, and who knows when we're going to tour again?"
Because of its founder's background, Boston plays its own brand of amps. Scholz is the founder of the Rockman line of amplifiers used during every Boston tour and concert, from his own Scholz Research and Development.
"There's a ‘100 Greatest Guitar Players' list every year and Tom Scholz always shows up on it," Pihl said. "He also shows up on ‘100 Greatest Keyboard Players' of all time. No one else in the world shows up on both of those lists. He's a really special guy and it's been a pleasure to work with him for all of these years."
Pihl is much more than a guitarist for the band. He's more of a jack-of-all trades, as vice-president of SR&D and is a vital cog of the massive machinery of managing the stage equipment on a Boston tour. He also manages tech people, teaches other performers their parts and organizes rehearsals.
"There's always something interesting about trying to put a show on. I pretty much know what's going on inside all of those amps we're using," Pihl said.
Before Boston and Hagar, in his teenage years, Pihl received guitar lessons from Jerry Garcia.
"The other guitarist in a band I was in said there was guy giving lessons in the next town over and that he was really good. So we all went and signed up. People always ask was he stoned, but he was very professional," Pihl said.
"He taught cool riffs from the Stones, The Beatles, and a couple of months later they did a gig under the name The Warlocks. They played at pizza parlors and we went to see them, and a few months later they changed their name to The Grateful Dead."
One thing Pihl said he is truly excited about in starting the tour in Alabama is the warm weather.
"You may not know but this was the most snow that Boston ever received in a year. We set the record for how bitterly cold it was this year," Pihl laughed. "But we've played in Alabama and the folks there have been ready to rock, we're looking forward to it."
Progressive-rock band Kansas, best known for its monster hits "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind," last played Tuscaloosa in 2010, in a pair of concerts with the University of Alabama's Huxford Symphony Orchestra.
Other hits include "Play The Game Tonight," "Point of Know Return" and "Fight Fire with Fire."
The group, whose original members indeed came from small towns in Kansas, blended a love of blues-based jamming with the progressive sounds of English art-rock bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues, leading them to the series of 2010 shows with college-based symphonies. A pair of its original members remain in the lineup, although longtime lead singer Steve Walsh retired last year.
April 29th, 2015
Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones arrested - Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones was arrested late Tuesday night after witnesses said he damaged a woman's cell phone and threatened to harm her.
Jones, 21, was charged with misdemeanor third-degree domestic violence/harassment and was still being held at the Tuscaloosa County Jail early Wednesday.
Tuscaloosa Police were called to a location in the 800 block of 31st Street at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to a press release issued by the department.
"After speaking to both parties and witnesses, it was determined that the suspect had taken and damaged the victim's cell phone earlier in the day and threatened to assault her in front of a witness," spokesman Sgt. Brent Blankley wrote in the release.
The victim is a 22-years-old.
Jones was being held on $1,000 bond and must remain in jail 12 hours from his arrest time, a time period required for all people charged with domestic violence.
Jones, a 5-foot-10 senior who played in all 14 games last season, led all cornerbacks and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. He led the team with 16 passes defended and 13 pass breakups. Jones is the fourth Alabama player to be arrested this spring, following Geno Smith (DUI) and two players now off the UA roster, Tyren Jones (marijuana possession) and Jonathan Taylor (domestic violence). Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson was arrested for third degree domestic violence/criminal mischief in January for kicking a woman's car during an argument at an off-campus residence. - See more at: https://alabama.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1761787#sthash.O80nu2vb.dpuf
April 29th, 2015
Tuscaloosa students build, test model buildings to beat earthquakes - At 9:35 p.m. May 18, 1940, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake referred to as "1940 El Centro" occurred in the region of Imperial Valley, El Centro and Holtville, Calif.
The quake killed nine people and caused an estimated $6 million in property damage.
The historic quake, as well as two others, were simulated at the Large Scale Structures Laboratory in the South Engineering Research Center on the University of Alabama's campus Tuesday to test the strength of a six-story high-rise building model designed and constructed by students in a civil engineering class at the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy.
"Earthquakes, hurricanes and all the normal things that nature (produces) has force," said Kris Strickland, the civil engineering instructor at TCTA. "The thing we're trying to show our students is to build things thinking about how to use the skills they've learned.
"This (model) has been designed, put together to scale, tested with computer programs and now it's going to be put on the (shake) table and they're going to stress test it to see what limits it can withstand before it breaks."
The 4-foot-tall model — made of balsa wood, plywood, Gorilla Glue and 3-D frames — was placed on the lab's shake table and connected to wire sensors.
Set to 1940 El Centro, power to the shake table was turned on. The model vibrated under the 6.9-magnitude quake, but it survived unscathed.
Next, the shake table was set to imitate the 6.9-magnitude "1989 Loma Prieta" earthquake that took place in the San Francisco and Monterrey Bay regions of California, causing 63 deaths, more than 3,000 injuries and an estimated $6 billion in property damage.
The model wobbled and shook violently, but it endured with no damage.
"It lasted longer than I expected," said Jacob Willoghby, a 16-year-old sophomore at Paul W. Bryant High and a second-year student at TCTA. "I thought it would come apart during the second quake."
The third quake simulated was the 6.7-magnitude "1994 Northridge" earthquake that killed 60 people, caused more than 7,000 injuries, left 20,000 people homeless, destroyed 40,000 buildings and caused about $20 billion in damage.
The model wobbled and shook, but appeared unaffected by the quake.
Thomas Moat, a civil engineering student at UA who worked with Strickland to teach TCTA students the procedures of high-rise building design, said he was impressed with the model's endurance.
"It performed a lot better than we thought," he said. "During the teaching of this class, we ran some simulations with students to help them understand how it would react under an earthquake. We had the failure happening at two times the original strength, so it should have failed during the second test, and it didn't fail, so it was very impressive."
After surviving all three historical earthquakes, Moat decided to ramp up the shake table's settings with the intention of showing the students what it looks like when a building is destroyed by an earthquake.
He set the table to reproduce an 8.0-magnitude earthquake, which is just a bit more powerful than the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal Saturday, causing more than 4,700 deaths and 9,200 injuries.
"This is going to be a lot faster, more violent and should destroy it," Moat said.
The model shook violently. Two of its four support beams broke off at the base where they were connected to the table. But after 45 seconds of violent shaking, the model still stood.
TCTA students looked at each other with big grins on their faces and laughed. Moat furrowed his brow.
Everyone in the room walked over to the shake table to examine the model.
"When the two legs broke, it allowed the building to become more flexible and sway, which absorbed the shock and allowed the model to survive," Jacob and his classmates said.
Moat, again, said he was impressed. Magnitude 8.0 is close to being as powerful as an earthquake comes.
"There were some buildings that withstood the Nepal earthquake," Moat said. "A magnitude of 7.8 to 8 is pretty good. There have been magnitude 9.0 earthquakes in Japan's history, but there wasn't anything recording them back then."
Strickland said he considered the class' first earthquake test to be a success. Next year he hopes to expand the project to include multiple groups of students competing to build models that can withstand the strongest earthquakes.
"I'm proud just to get to this point," he said. "I'm excited to see where it can go next year. Hopefully we will have more structures and see it grow."
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon. smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 29th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council committee OKs road paving list - After almost three months of consideration, the Tuscaloosa City Council on Tuesday began the process of approving more than $2.7 million in road paving projects.
This will mark the first widespread street resurfacing by Tuscaloosa's city government since 2012.
To do so, the council's finance committee agreed to take portions of its gas tax allocation for three months this summer to resurface and repair almost 30 streets, roads, cul-de-sacs or turn lanes.
In addition to the paving, this work also will include new striping and, when needed, the replacement of manholes, curbs and gutters.
If approved by the full City Council next week, the resurfacing projects could go out for bids as early as mid- to late May, said city Transportation Engineer Selvin Greene.
If this happens, bids are expected to be opened and accepted in June with work beginning in July.
Greene said he anticipates the work will take about five months.
"My intent was to put 150 days in the contract and let the bid tell me if that was unreasonable," Greene told the committee.
The work is expected to include a partnership with the Tuscaloosa County Commission to resurface Hargrove Road East for approximately 2 miles between Skyland Boulevard and the Dollar General at 6520 Hargrove Road E.
Because this section of Hargrove Road crosses in and out of the Tuscaloosa city limit, Councilman Eddie Pugh, who represents the area, said he obtained a verbal agreement from County Commissioner Bobby Miller and the county's Department of Public Works to contribute $192,000 to the project.
The city's share for the paving alone is about $135,000, although the total could rise.
Pugh said he went to Miller, who represents the area on the County Commission, after the initial slate of road projects first was presented to the council in February.
Then, the road work stopped just south of Misty Wood Drive, and Pugh said he thought residents would complain that more wasn't done.
"I kinda felt like it was a no-brainer to work with the county," Pugh said.
The committee voted to use future gas tax funds to cover the additional Hargrove Road work as well as other additional projects that Greene said had come recently to the Office of the City Engineer.
Among these was a request by Reston Place residents to swap Bienville Street's resurfacing in their neighborhood with the resurfacing of Reston Drive.
Councilwoman Cynthia Almond, who represents Reston Place, said the residents' request had merit despite an increase of about $30,000 over the Bienville Street plan.
Another $25,000 will go toward the addition of a right-turn lane on Dr. Edward Hillard Drive at University Boulevard, a project that Greene said University of Alabama officials had supported.
This list of streets to receive resurfacing was generated based on a grading system that assessed a number of factors, including street cracking, pot holes and surface smoothness that can diminish a vehicle's ability to stop.
That is then weighed against the amount of money available for the work. Based on this grading system, there are about $7.1 million worth of street repairs that would be justified.
All of the street's approved for resurfacing by the finance committee are outside the tornado recovery area. Federal disaster relief funds will be used to repair and resurface streets that are within the path of the tornado that struck on April 27, 2011.
The full list of road projects that could receive resurfacing later this year are:
-- All of 48th Avenue.
-- All of 44th Place East.
-- Ninth Street between Queen City Avenue and 15th Street.
-- Hargrove Road between Skyland Boulevard and the Dollar General and from the Interstate 20/59 bridge to Grace Church.
-- Reston Drive between St. Andrews Drive and Rice Mine Road.
-- All of Patton Avenue/36th Avenue East/18th Street East in Mayfair.
-- All of 43rd Court.
-- All of 43rd Avenue/17th Street.
-- All of Meadow Lawn.
-- All of Starboard Place Northeast.
-- 32nd Street between Culver Road and 31st Street.
-- All of 18th Court East.
-- Bryant Drive between Hackberry Lane and 10th Avenue.
-- Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Stillman College and 35th Street.
-- All of Covey Chase and its cul-de-sacs.
-- Case Road/31st Street between Joe Mallisham Parkway and Culver Road.
-- All of 48th Street East.
-- Orange Street between Second Avenue East and its termination.
-- An alley lying between Fifth Avenue and Hackberry Lane from 18th to 17th streets.
-- 30th Place between 42nd and 43rd avenues.
-- Keel cul-de-sac between Windward Avenue Northeast and its termination.
-- Eighth Street between Queen City Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
-- East Brook Drive between Red Bud Lane and its termination.
-- The portion of Eddins Road that lies within the city limit.
-- All of Lewis Bailey Boulevard.
-- All of Tamera Avenue.
-- Right-turn lane on Dr. Edward Hillard Drive onto University Boulevard.
-- Peach Grove Drive cul-de-sac.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
April 29th, 2015
TUSCALOOSA CITY COUNCIL ACTION: April 28 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:
-- Set May 12 as the date for a public hearing to consider approval of Residence Inn, a planned-unit development.
-- Authorized the filing of a lien at 3730 Seventh St. E. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.
-- Approved request and agreement for water service to HighGrove Subdivision water main extension; total: $698,524.41.
-- Granted permit for Warrior Property Holding LLC to construct water lines for HighGrove Subdivision water main extension.
-- Authorized the issuance of a loan to Joy M. Key for home purchase assistance under the city's HOME Program; total: $5,000.
-- Authorized change order No. 1 for the 37th Street East-Hargrove Road Improvements Project; total: $4,850.00; time extension: 33 days.
-- Authorized settlement of the worker's compensation claim of Jeremy Harbin; total: $4,187.
-- Set June 2 as the date for public hearing on a proposal to vacate a portion of Universal Heights Road and a portion of 30th -- Avenue Northeast at the request of Andrews-Sealy LLC, Tuscaloosa Realty Co. Inc. and Marlin Benton Andrews and Ramona M. Andrews.
-- Approved ABC application of the Black Warrior Corp. for restaurant retail liquor and on- premises retail beer licenses at the Cypress Inn, 501 Rice Mine Road North, 35406.
-- Approved ABC application of the Black Warrior Corp. for a special retail license at the Cypress Inn Loft, 500 Greensboro Ave.
-- Approved ABC application of Townsquare Live Events LLC for a special events retail license on May 16 for America on Tap; 618 21st Ave.
-- Authorized the mayor to enter into negotiations with the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority to request the donation of 20 acres of the Springer Property for the construction of single family homes for the First-Time Home Buyer Neighborhood Development Program.
-- Authorized the arts and entertainment manager to sign rental contracts.
-- Authorized participation in the Bureau of Justice Assistance 2015 Bulletproof Vest Program.
-- Authorized the Office of Federal Programs to make budget and program changes and to advertise those changes to the 2013 CDBG Supplemental Funding Action Plan of the City's Five-Year Consolidated Plan for Community Planning & Development Programs for program years 2010-14.
-- Authorized the Office of Federal Programs to advertise amendments to the 2010-2014 Action Plans of the City's Five-Year Consolidated Plan for community Planning & Development Programs for program years 2010-14.
-- Authorized budget and program changes to the 2010-14 program year Community Planning & Development Programs.
-- Authorized the mayor to renew the tenant based rental assistance agreement for program 2012 with Tuscaloosa Housing Authority.
-- Authorized a funding contract with Discovering Alabama; total: $20,000.
-- Tentatively awarded a public works contract to Centerline Contracting Inc. for The Downs Waterline Upgrade Project; total: $247,833.54.
-- Authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Hyde Engineering for electrical engineering services; total: not to exceed $3,500.
-- Authorized a contract with CSL Services Inc. for a sanitary sewer flow monitoring study at Holt Road; total: $7,000.
-- Authorized a mortgage of the YMCA leasehold interest on the "School Board Property."
-- Consented to the refinancing of property mortgaged through the HOME First-time Homebuyer Program.
-- Authorized the city to accept the 2015 Dr Pepper Snapple Park Bin Grant.
-- Added Section 4-49 to the Code of Tuscaloosa.
-- Amended Section 19-91(a) of the Code of Tuscaloosa.
-- Amended Section 2-41 of the Code of Tuscaloosa.
-- Amended Section 6-8 of the Code of Tuscaloosa.
-- Introduced Zoning Amendment No. 1323 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance amending Section 24-125(c) and 24-125(f) pertaining to parking in front yards.
-- Introduced Zoning Amendment No. 1324 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to Chapter 24, Article I, Section 24-5; Definitions.
-- Set May 26 as the day for public hearing to consider adoption of Zoning Amendment No. 1323.
-- Set May 26 as the day for public hearing to consider adoption of Zoning Amendment No. 1324.
-- Authorized the payment of bills; total: $5,730.18.
April 29th, 2015
University of Alabama students gear up for graduation this weekend - The University of Alabama will have its graduation ceremonies Friday and Saturday, while Shelton State Community College and Stillman College will have their commencements next week.
More than 4,700 degrees are scheduled to be awarded during spring graduation ceremonies at UA on Friday and Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.
The commencement marshals will be Michael George, university registrar, and John Schmitt, associate graduate dean and assistant to the executive vice president and provost.
The first ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Friday and includes students from the colleges of communication and information sciences, education, human environmental sciences and nursing.
Events Saturday will include three ceremonies: the graduation ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Social Work will be at 9 a.m.; the ceremony for the Culverhouse College of Commerce and the College of Engineering will be at 1:30 p.m.
The School of Law will have a separate ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power Co., will deliver the law school commencement address.
The weekend ceremony can be viewed online at ua.edu/commencement/, and it will be available for viewing for 30 days after Saturday. More information is available at registrar.ua.edu/degrees/commencement/.
Shelton State will have graduation ceremonies on May 6-7. The nursing program’s ceremony will be at 6 p.m. May 6 in the Martin Campus gymnasium. On May 7 at the Martin Campus in the gym, there will be a 9 a.m. Honor’s Convocation, an 11 a.m. graduation ceremony and a 4 p.m. GED graduation.
Stillman will have its commencement at 9 a.m. May 9 in Birthright Alumni Hall on campus.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Walter F. Johnson III, the first African-American selected as chief of the Medical Service Corps, will be the commencement speaker.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
April 29th, 2015
Inmate in takeover as teen is denied parole - A man who helped take over the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center as a teenage inmate in 2005 was denied parole at a hearing held in Montgomery Tuesday.
Christopher Cooper, 24, is serving a 10-year term for charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree escape and second-degree robbery. He was one of several teenagers who lured a guard into a cell before taking the keys in November 2005. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant probation, Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Lyn Head said.
Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s deputies and Tuscaloosa police were called to help take back control of the facility after an off-duty guard, who drove to the facility after becoming suspicious
because no one there was answering his phone calls, found the inmates out of their cells at about 2:30 a.m.
No one escaped from the facility, and all 21 inmates were searched and placed back in their cells without further incidents.
A search of the facility turned up a crudely made knife and keys to the facility that some of the inmates are believed to have obtained. Cooper pleaded guilty and was granted probation but was ordered back to prison after he was arrested on first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and second-degree kidnapping charges. Police said that Cooper followed and assaulted a woman
behind a building in Alberta in 2008, but a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor sexual misconduct instead.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
April 29th, 2015
Dothan area recovers from weekend storm - DOTHAN | A vast majority of Houston County is still reeling from the effects of devastating weekend storm.
Thousands of homes suffered damage, some catastrophic, and thousands more lost power as a result of the storm on Saturday, with many still powerless as of Monday night.
“We still have touchy situations, still have power lines down in the middle of roads, so there are some areas that still do not need to be touched at this time,” said Kris Ware, a public information officer for the Dothan-Houston County Emergency Management Agency. “It was all areas of the county — Columbia, Ashford, Cottonwood, Rehobeth, Taylor, Dothan.”
Ken Farley has been volunteering in Dothan since 2001, and he’s never seen the likes of this.
“This is the largest event through Dothan I’ve had to deal with in my 13 or 14 years here,” said Farley, a disaster coordinator for the Columbia Baptist Association.
Driving around Dothan reveals a sampling of the damage.
Limbs are littered along streets on the east side of the city, and some houses still have trees across or through their roofs.
Mary Thomas hid in a bathroom with her 15-year-old daughter as a tree demolished their house on Galaxie Drive.
“I was changing clothes, and by the time I could change, we knew to run to the middle bathroom and ride out the storm,” she said. “We had just come out of the bedroom where the tree landed and knocked the back side of my house off. (I thought) ‘I’m gonna die.’ I’m just thanking God that we’re still living.”
Ed and Elaine Onley saw their back yard in ruins after the storm.
“All these trees were down, and our garden shed was totally destroyed,” Elaine Onley said.
They said they’re grateful that they’re among the lucky ones in terms of damage.
“There were other people that got a lot more damage than that, that had trees go through the roof of their house,” Elaine said.
Even the storm’s aftermath caused chaos.
One house burned to the ground Sunday after electricity was restored to it.
“We had one burn down on Moates Street, because they turned the power back on,” Ware said. “That’s our biggest fear, when they say, ‘We’re turning the power on.’ We had trees catch on fire throughout the county, and one house.”
Cleanup efforts will be ongoing in Dothan and Houston County, but County Commission Chairman Mark Culver warned residents that debris pickup could take weeks or even months.
He said residents have until May 15 to get debris to the right of way for workers to pick up.
Limbs, building debris and metal must go into different piles, and debris can’t be stacked on the road.
April 29th, 2015
Lawmakers will consider gambling bill - MONTGOMERY | Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Tuesday that he will introduce a casino and lottery bill next week after many GOP senators said they’re willing to explore the possibility of legalizing gambling in Alabama.
The Republican Senate leader met with GOP senators on Tuesday to discuss gambling as a potential revenue source for the state’s perpetually cash-strapped budgets. Marsh’s office paid for a study that projected four casinos and a state lottery could generate $400 million annually for the state.
“We had just a few members that were adamantly opposed. The bulk of the caucus felt that it needs to be kept in play and have asked me to put together a draft piece of legislation that I can get to them,” Marsh said. “Remember this: It will go before a vote of the people at the end of the day. They will have the ultimate decision,” Marsh said.
The suggestion of gambling comes as legislators struggle with how to put together a budget, and Republicans are faced with politically unsavory options of either deep cuts to government services or raising revenue somehow. Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed a $541 million tax package, including an increase in cigarette taxes.
The governor said Tuesday that gambling would not help next year’s troubled budget since a public vote would be some time away.
“I do not believe this is the best solution. I believe we have presented a fair package. I’m going to stick with my package. I do believe we are seeing some movement,” Bentley told reporters during a visit to the Alabama Statehouse on Tuesday.
Republicans hold a lopsided majority in the Alabama Legislature but have historically opposed gambling legislation.
“I think everything has got to be on the table. I think it is wise of him to keep everybody’s mind open,” Sen. Cam Ward, R-
Alabaster, said. Ward said he would support a bill to authorize a lottery referendum. Alabamians voted down a lottery in 1999, but Ward said he believed they would approve one now.
Some senators said they would oppose gambling.
“I’ll be more than a ‘no’ vote. I’ll be a filibuster, or let’s say extended debate,” said Sen Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.
Marsh has not decided on the specifics of his legislation. He said he will give legislators a draft bill to take home over the weekend. The study commissioned by Marsh said that a lottery could generate $332 million and allowing casinos at four existing state dog tracks would generate another $70 million.
Allowing table games and slot machines at the tracks could open the door for the
Poarch Band of Creek Indians to have the games as well, although the tribe would not be obligated to share revenue with the state. The tribe currently operates bingo machines
that resemble slot machines.
Gambling would not provide a solution to next year’s budget problem since it would take time to hold a public vote and then establish a lottery or casinos.
April 29th, 2015
Police clash with Baltimore protesters for a second night - BALTIMORE | A line of police behind riot shields hurled tear gas canisters and fired pepper balls at as many as 200 protesters Tuesday night to enforce a citywide curfew, imposed after the worst outbreak of rioting in Baltimore since 1968.
Demonstrators threw bottles at police and picked up the canisters and hurled them back at officers. But the crowd rapidly dispersed and was down to just a few dozen people within minutes.
The clash came after a day of high tension but relative peace in Baltimore, as thousands of police officers and National Guardsmen poured in to try to prevent another round of looting and arson like the one that rocked the city on Monday.
It was the first time since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 that the National Guard was called out in Baltimore to quell unrest.
The racially charged violence on Monday was set off by the case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of a spinal-cord injury under mysterious circumstances while in police custody.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said 2,000 Guardsmen and 1,000 law officers would be in place overnight.
“This combined force will not tolerate violence or looting,” he warned.
In a measure of how tense things were on Tuesday, Baltimore was under a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew. All public schools were closed. The Baltimore Orioles postponed Tuesday night’s game at Camden Yards and — in what may be a first in baseball’s 145-year history — announced that Wednesday’s game will be closed to the public.
The streets were largely calm all day and into the evening, with only a few scattered arrests.
About 15 minutes after the 10 p.m. curfew took effect, police moved against protesters who remained in the street in the city’s Penn North section, near where a CVS pharmacy was looted the day before.
Shortly before the curfew and in a different neighborhood, police arrested three to four juveniles in South Baltimore after people started attacking officers with rocks and bricks, authorities said. At least one officer was reported injured.
Monday’s outbreak of looting, arson and rock- and bottle-throwing by mostly black rioters erupted just hours after Gray’s funeral. It was the worst such violence in the U.S. since the unrest last year over the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
At the White House, President Barack Obama called the deaths of several black men around the country at the hands of police “a slow-rolling crisis.” But he added that there was “no excuse” for the violence in Baltimore, and said the rioters should be treated as criminals.
“They aren’t protesting. They aren’t making a statement. They’re stealing,” Obama said.
Political leaders and residents called the violence a tragedy for the city and lamented the damage done by the rioters to their own neighborhoods.
“I had officers come up to me and say, ‘I was born and raised in this city. This makes me cry,’” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said.
Haywood McMorris, manager of the wrecked CVS store, said the destruction didn’t make sense: “We work here, man. This is where we stand, and this is where people actually make a living.”
But the rioting also brought out a sense of civic pride and responsibility in many Baltimore residents, with hundreds of volunteers turning out to sweep the streets of glass and other debris with brooms and trash bags donated by hardware stores.
Blanca Tapahuasco brought her three sons, ages 2 to 8, from another part of the city to help clean up the brick-and-pavement courtyard outside the CVS.
“We’re helping the neighborhood build back up,” she said. “This is an encouragement to them to know the rest of the city is not just looking on and wondering what to do.”
Some of the same neighborhoods that rose up this week burned for days after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 47 years ago. At least six people died then, and some neighborhoods still bear the scars.
Jascy Jones of Baltimore said the sight of National Guardsmen on the street gave her a “very eerie feeling.”
“It brought a tear to my eye. Seeing it doesn’t feel like the city that I love,” she said. “I am glad they’re here, but it’s hard to watch.”
The rioting started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon and by midnight had spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium.
At least 20 officers were hurt, one person was critically injured in a fire, more than 200 adults and 34 juveniles were arrested, and nearly 150 cars were burned, police said. The governor had no immediate estimate of the damage.
With the city bracing for more trouble, several colleges closed early Tuesday, including Loyola University Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and Towson University.
The violence set off soul-searching among community leaders and others, with some suggesting the unrest was about more than race or the police department — it was about high unemployment, high crime, poor housing, broken-down schools and lack of opportunity in Baltimore’s inner-city neighborhoods.
The city of 622,000 is 63 percent black. The mayor, state’s attorney, police chief and City Council president are black, as is 48 percent of the police force.
“You look around and see unemployment. Filling out job applications and being turned down because of where you live and your demographic. It’s so much bigger than the police department,” said Robert Stokes, 36, holding a broom and a dustpan on a corner where some of the looting and vandalism took place.
He added: “This place is a powder keg waiting to explode.”
In the aftermath of the riots, state and local authorities found themselves facing questions about whether they let things spin out of control.
Batts, the police commissioner, said police did not move in faster because those involved in the early stages were just “kids” — teenagers who had just been let out of school.
“Do you want people using force on 14- 15- and 16-year-old kids that are out there?” he asked. “They’re old enough to know better. But they’re still kids. And so we had to take that into account while we were out there.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, and the governor hinted she should have come to him earlier.
“We were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time,” Hogan said. “She finally made that call, and we immediately took action.”
Rawlings-Blake said officials initially thought they had the unrest under control.
Gray was arrested April 12 after running away at the sight of police, authorities said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a police van. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside. He died a week later.
Authorities said they are still investigating how and when he suffered the spinal injury — during the arrest or while he was in the van, where authorities say he was riding without being belted in, a violation of department policy.
Six officers have been suspended with pay in the meantime.
Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman, Matthew Barakat, Tom Foreman Jr., Jessica Gresko and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.
April 29th, 2015
Ex-Rock Quarry teacher faces new charges - A former Rock Quarry Middle School teacher who resigned in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations is facing new felony charges.
Jason Burd, 35, resigned from Tuscaloosa City Schools in March after a seventh-grade student reported he had sent her a nude photo of a man and asked her for a nude photo of her in return, according to police.
Burd was charged with one count of electronic solicitation of a child and one count of being a school employee having sexual contact with a student younger than 19. Although no sexual contact was alleged, the charges fall under the definition of the law passed in 2010.
Last week, Burd was charged with second-degree attempted rape and second-degree attempted sodomy. A grand jury that reviewed the evidence collected from Burd’s phone agreed to issue the additional charges last month.
Burd was arrested Friday and has since bonded out of the Tuscaloosa County Jail.
Court documents filed by a Tuscaloosa police investigator state that Burd became friends with the student via the messaging application Snapchat before he began to ask her for nude photos in December and January.
“(The student) advised that he began speaking to her in a sexual manner that made her feel uncomfortable,” the investigator wrote in the deposition filed in Tuscaloosa County District Court. “Mr. Burd then sent her a nude picture ... and she then shut down her account.”
April 28th, 2015
Parole denied for man convicted in girlfriend's slaying - Parole was denied for a Tuscaloosa man serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend in 2008.
Jermaine Tyrone Hargress, 31, shot Sondricka Sont’a Harris after a six-year relationship wrought with documented domestic abuse.
Hargress shot Harris in the head at her Downing Place apartment before engaging police in a stand-off that lasted nearly seven hours on Feb. 13, 2008.
He pleaded guilty to murder in 2012 and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied his parole application at a hearing in Montgomery Tuesday morning, said Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Lyn Head, who attended the hearing to oppose his release.
Harris called 911 around 11:45 a.m. that day to report a domestic dispute. Hargress said something and hung up the phone, prompting the 911 operator to send police officers. An officer who knocked on the door saw someone look through the blinds of the second-floor apartment and then heard a gunshot. TPD officers had been looking for him that day after missing a court date on a domestic violence case in which Harris was the victim.
Hargress had told Harris’ co-worker at Partlow that she had tried to “put him in jail and scandalize his name,” according to case documents. Another of her friends told police that Harris had been talking about a restraining order against him and arrest warrant that morning.
A daylong, tense stand-off ensued as hostage negotiators spent hours trying to persuade Hargress to give himself up. Nearby Holy Spirit School was placed on lockdown for hours and kids who lived nearby were kept at city schools well past the regular dismissal time. Harris’ brother told police that Hargress called him during the standoff and said “She did this to herself” while laughing.
Much of the conversation between negotiators and Hargress centered upon his fear of the death sentence, police said at the time.
Prosecutors dropped charges of capital murder during a burglary, capital murder while stalking and capital murder during a kidnapping in exchange for his guilty plea.
Harris was the mother of four children who were 9, 6, 3 and 1 when she was killed. Hargress was the father of two of the children, her family said at the time.
Friends and family described her as a doting mother who cared deeply for her children. She worked at Partlow as a caregiver to the residents and attended Shelton State College. Harris had moved to Tuscaloosa after graduating from Aliceville High School in 2000, where she played softball and basketball.
Hargress will not be eligible for parole for at least another four years.
April 28th, 2015
Rosedale remembrance: Plaque honors those who died in April 27, 2011, tornado - The names of those who died at Rosedale Court on April 27, 2011, were read one by one.
Kaiden Blair.
Ta’Christianna Dixon.
Airelle Edwards.
Makayla Edwards.
Sheena Nicole Hutchins.
Zyqueria McShan.
Lee Andrew Lee.
Justin Le’Eric Thomas.
Christian A. McNeil.
These storm victims now will be permanently remembered with a plaque that was dedicated Monday, the fourth anniversary of the storm that took their lives, at the rebuilt Rosedale Court on 10th Avenue.
Their names were read by Jeannette Barnes, a former Rosedale Court resident who easily could have had her name listed among them.
Barnes, 66, was buried in her apartment when tornado reduced the housing community to rubble. Two men, her former neighbors, helped dig her out of the wreckage.
“Four years ago, on this day, a storm passed through this community,” Barnes said. “Yet, out of all that tragedy, flowed an overwhelming sense of love throughout the Tuscaloosa community.”
Barnes, who now lives in McKenzie Court, organized the plaque ceremony through the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority as a way of honoring her former neighbors.
The ceremony was attended by Mayor Walt Maddox and several City Council members, city staff members, officials with the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority and Anthony Grant, the former University of Alabama men’s basketball coach.
Grant said he befriended Willie J. “Dino” Fort before the storm and, afterward, made efforts to help the housing authority residents.
Fort didn’t let Grant get by with such modesty, claiming that the coach made weekly contributions to the housing authority residents, including the purchase of clothing and other items for the children who were affected by the storm.
Grant said it was important to him and his wife, Christina, that they attend the plaque dedication ceremony.
“I remember the devastation that struck our community,” said Grant, who is now an assistant basketball coach at the University of Florida, “and it’s good to see what this community looks like now.
“It’s always something that will be etched in my memory.”
Maddox said it was on April 28, 2011, while standing among the ruins of Rosedale Court, that he realized Tuscaloosa would have the spirit to return and rebuild.
He told of being at Rosedale, his first visit since the tornado struck, and hearing a commotion as a crowd of people rushed to a pile of rubble to help save someone believed to have been trapped inside.
Without the proper equipment or concerns for their own safety, strangers and neighbors alike took to tearing away the broken pieces in the hopes of saving one more life.
“I realized at that moment that we were going to win,” Maddox said. “We’re going to scrape, we’re going to claw ... but, with God’s grace, we’re going to make it.”
Originally built in 1952, more than half of the aging apartment community was destroyed when the EF4 tornado tore a 5.9-mile path of destruction across Tuscaloosa.
Officials immediately pledged to rebuild Rosedale Court better than it had been and less than two years later, in December 2013, tenants began moving into the 88 affordable living units that were part of Rosedale’s $13 million Phase I.
Phase II, at a cost of $19.2 million, added another 86 units to the Rosedale community.
Now, work is underway on Phase III, a $7.42 million project that will include 128 units with 256 bedrooms for senior housing.
“On this rock, we will rebuild Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said, “and Rosedale is the perfect place to start.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
April 28th, 2015
Woman charged with attempted arson - Tuscaloosa police arrested a woman after seeing her set a fire inside her apartment Saturday night.
Diane Michelle Hardy, 45, was charged with attempted first-degree arson. She was arrested at her apartment building in the 2200 block of Fosters Ferry Road.
Officers responding to a call from neighbors saw that a pillow had been set on fire at the foot of the apartment stairs, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a Tuscaloosa police spokesman.
Witnesses told officers that Hardy had set several small fires in the parking lot during the last few days, Blankley said. The officers noticed piles of ash and debris.
Hardy went inside and locked her door as officers approached, Blankley said.
“They saw her grab a pot and rag and put it on the stove, then smoke as coming from inside the apartment,” he said.
The building was occupied by other residents at the time. The fire was extinguished and no one was injured.
Hardy remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Monday with bond set at $20,000.
April 28th, 2015
Students raise money to fund scholarship in memory of UA law student - Tiffany Ray, one of the University of Alabama School of Law students involved in an effort to endow a scholarship in memory of Dominic Desimone, said they have reached their fundraising goal.
The students organized Dom Fit, a community fitness fair held on April 11, to raise money for the scholarship. Desimone, a UA law student from West Blocton who loved fitness, died in
a motorcycle accident a year ago.
Participants in Dom Fit donated money to work out with instructors at CrossFit Candor, a crossfit training facility. They also could purchase T-shirts and bid in a silent auction.
Before the event the organizers were halfway to their $10,000 goal. They also collected money through a kickball tournament and from other donors.
The Hector Dominic Desimone Memorial Scholarship will benefit one law school student annually with $500 for books.
April 28th, 2015
Dauphin Island Regatta became race for life - DAUPHIN ISLAND | At first it seemed like a perfect day for sailing on Mobile Bay. Skies were partly cloudy and rain was in the forecast, but there was plenty of wind to propel a boat across the murky, choppy waters.
Then, in what seemed like an instant, a yearly regatta turned into a race for life.
Gray skies quickly turned black and lightning popped all around. Skipper Susan Kangal said the wind spiked from around 20 mph to 73 mph — 1 mph short of hurricane force — and the 34-foot-long craft she was piloting heeled over on its side.
Around the same time, as they were headed back to shore after finishing the 57th annual Dauphin Island Regatta, Connor Gaston and father Shane Gaston saw the wind yank the mainsail of their 16-foot catamaran. Within seconds, the boat flipped and dumped the two men into the roiling, frothy bay.
“After that we were in the water, we were holding on to the boat,” said Connor Gaston, 26, of Helena. “The boat’s being tossed around. We ended up cartwheeling around about three times.”
Unhurt but soaked, the Gastons eventually righted their little boat after about 30 minutes in the water and sailed back to shore with a broken mast. Once the storm passed, Kangal’s all-female crew of three women and five teens made it back safely to dock under engine power.
Others weren’t as fortunate. Two people caught in the storm are dead, and four others remain missing. Another round of strong storms forced authorities to suspend air and water searches on Monday, but officials encouraged anyone who was willing to walk along the shore looking for signs of the missing.
About 20 relatives of the missing sought shelter at a state sea laboratory on Dauphin Island, where aid workers set up cots for them to sleep during the hunt for survivors.
“This very difficult, very difficult for all of them,” said Michael Brown of the American Red Cross. “There is still hope.”
More than 100 sailboats of varying sizes and as many as 200 people were participating in the regatta when the storm hit Saturday afternoon. Sponsored each year by area sailing clubs that rotate organizational duties, the race begins in the middle of Mobile Bay and ends about 21 miles to the south near the bridge to Dauphin Island.
Kangal, 52, was at the helm of her ex-husband’s sailboat with seven others aboard when the wind kicked up about 15 minutes after she got a call about the potential for rough weather. As is a common practice aboard sailboats with engines during storms, she lowered a sail and cranked the motor.
Then, she said, wind hit the boat like a hammer. The boat slammed over on its side, nearly to the point over overturning.
“It was frightening because at that point, in that second that that happened I was laying on the back of the boat, between the wheel and the aft of the boat, and was standing up straight looking down at the water, watching the water starting to ease over the side,” she said.
Both Gaston and his father were wearing life preservers when they hit the water, and they desperately hung on to the boat in case they had to be rescued. The worst part wasn’t the wind or the water, Gaston said, but the electricity that danced all around.
“We’re sitting there on the boat trying to get away from any type of metal that we could ...,” he said. “And I’m sitting there on the boat just waiting for a flash and a bang and that to be it.”
Steve Zito, commodore of the Mobile Yacht Club, had seven passengers on his boat when the storm hit.
“We were just finishing the race and the wind picked up. I cranked the engine and lowered the sails. It was a massive black wall of water and rain coming right at us,” he said.
“I’ve never seen conditions this intense. It came on so fast,” he said.
The start of the race was delayed for more than an hour, Zito said, but the reason was unclear. The National Weather Service issued a special marine warning for boaters about an hour before the deluge, but many sailors didn’t consider skies threatening.
“There was plenty of wind, it was partly cloudy, a perfect day to go sailing just about,” Gaston said.
Reeves reported from Birmingham, Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta and video journalist Johnny Clark in Mobile, Alabama, contributed to this report.
April 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa man recounts harrowing experience at Dauphin Island regatta - Roger Smith of Tuscaloosa paused Saturday to take photos of the upended interior of his 30-foot sailboat Sweet Liberty, where submerged windows had became dim portals into the dingy waters of Mobile Bay.
At the time, Smith's photos were a pragmatic consideration in anticipation of filing an insurance claim on the 30-foot Tartan sailboat, which he believed was sinking after a sudden and powerful storm that had laid the craft on its starboard side in rough water, where it took on water from an unseen breach.
“I was writing the boat off,” Smith said.
Smith's boat was among more than 100 participating in the Dauphin Island Race on Saturday in Mobile Bay, which turned deadly after the storm capsized several sailboats, killing at least two people. The annual race is sponsored by Mobile-area yacht clubs. The sailboats race southward toward Dauphin Island from the middle of Mobile Bay.
Saturday was the first time Smith participated in the Dauphin Island race in his sailboat.
“I was trying to step into the big-boy world of racing,” Smith said.
Smith, fascinated by sailing since childhood, regularly races smaller 18-foot sailboats on Lake Tuscaloosa as part of the Tuscaloosa Sailing Club.
The Sweet Liberty, a 1976-model Tartan Smith spent four-years restoring, is moored in Orange Beach. For the past two years, Smith traveled about once a month to take the sailboat out on the Gulf.
The weather conditions Saturday as the regatta began were “not too bad,” Smith said, though sailing was rough as the boats raced with full sails and rain was expected.
Smith said he regularly listens to a weather radio channel but, like others in the race, was tuned into a race channel during the regatta.
“There was no real warning from the race committee,” Smith said, who was racing the boat by himself.
What little warning Smith received came as he watched the storm's winds shred the sails of another boat.
“I saw the top of his sail blow apart,” Smith said. “It didn't take about three seconds and it hit me and laid my boat down.”
Smith estimated the winds that struck the regatta were about 80 knots, or around 90 miles per hour. The sailboats might have fared better if their crews had a chance to drop their sails earlier, Smith said.
“It was bad, and it all hit so quick,” Smith said. “The sails look like a lawn mower ran over them.”
As the wind laid his boat against the waves, Smith rushed to cut lines and drop his sails.
He scrambled through the top hatch into the interior. His inboard motor, in addition to the outboard, was swamped and the contents of his cabin had come to rest against the starboard side.
The boat was taking on water, he said.
“It should not have been,” Smith said.
Smith, intimately familiar with the sailboat because of the detailed restoration, could not initially pinpoint the leak.
Afterward, Smith discovered a busted weld on a bracket on the starboard side of the deck as the source of the leak. The bracket was an anchor point for one of the cables, or stays, that attached to the mast. The busted bracket created a hole in the submerged decking allowing water to seep in, Smith said.
Smith scrambled to start his sump pump to get the water out and returned topside to try to free the sails.
“It would not end. It just kept on dragging. Finally, after about 15 minutes, it seemed to subside. Then I went up on deck and managed to get the sails loose,” Smith said.
Smith secured what was left of his sails and headed for the eastern shore of the bay under the power of his motors, coaxed back to life after the boat righted.
Smith encountered a state trooper marine patrol. He asked the officer to contact his wife, Michelle Smith, in Tuscaloosa and tell her he was OK.
“I gave him a note. I could not even talk. I was so shook up,” Smith said.
Michelle Smith first learned of the storm that struck the regatta from the state trooper.
“I was in shock,” she said.
With the assurance her husband had come through the storm OK, Michelle and her parents made the hours-long drive to Orange Beach to meet her husband when he returned to the marina. She called ahead to hear his voice. Smith said he returned to the marina near midnight.
The Sweet Liberty is fixable, Smith said. He will have to repair the deck around the busted bracket and likely do some electrical work to replace parts damaged by exposure to seawater.
The 49-year-old is back in Tuscaloosa with this wife, recuperating. Smith said he was bruised and cut in the scramble to save his boat.
“I am licking my wounds,” Smith said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
April 28th, 2015
Hillcrest High School senior wins National Achievement Scholarship - Hillcrest High School senior Abriana Fornis was selected as one of 700 winners in the 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program.
As a National Achievement winner, Fornis will receive a $2,500 scholarship to a college or university of her choice. She plans on majoring in software engineering.
According to a news release, about 150,000 students entered the 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program by requesting consideration in the competition when they took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as high school juniors.
In September 2014, about 1,600 of the highest scorers were named semifinalists. To continue in the competition, semifinalists had to demonstrate a record of consistent high academic performance, be endorsed and recommended by a school official, make SAT scores that confirmed their preliminary SAT scores and write an essay.
From the pool of semifinalists, 1,300 were selected as finalists and 700 as $2,500-scholarship winners. An additional 100
received corporate-sponsored Achievement Scholarships, which are renewable and provide stipends ranging from $500 to $10,000 per year.
The National Achievement Scholarship Program is a privately financed academic competition established in 1964 to honor high performing black students. It is conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corp.
In the 51 years of its existence, the program has awarded $108 million in scholarships.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 28th, 2015
Amari Cooper will not attend NFL Draft - Amari Cooper is in a comfortable position heading into this week’s NFL Draft, which begins with the first round on Thursday evening. So serene, in fact, that the former University of Alabama wide receiver sees no need in disrupting his ease by attending the draft in Chicago.
Cooper, who is widely projected as the top wide receiver in the draft, only challenged in some minds by West Virginia’s Kevin White, will not attend the draft, according to SI.com. That’s no surprise to those who’ve followed Cooper’s three-year Crimson Tide career. Cooper never enjoyed being in front of the cameras or microphones, although he stepped forward into that role as an offensive leader in 2014.
The 6-foot-1 dynamic receiver is projected by most draft analysts going with the No. 4 pick to the Oakland Raiders, although as of late the Jacksonville Jaguars have shown interest in possibly selecting Cooper with the No. 3 pick.
The last Alabama wide receiver drafted in the first round was Julio Jones, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft to the Atlanta Falcons.
Some analysts, including the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Mayock, have White rated narrowly ahead of Cooper, but the majority have Cooper as the top receiver.
“In terms of Cooper and White, I’m still going with Cooper,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said during a recent conference call. “I’ve been consistently with Amari Cooper all along. I still have Cooper as the higher rated player.
”It doesn’t mean Kevin White won’t be a great player. I do think Cooper has a better chance to come in right away because he’s a great route runner. He has three years of productivity, so I would give Cooper the edge to help out right away. But I think White’s going to have a great career, and I think (Louisville’s) DeVante Parker is going to have a really good career.”
Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver during a junior season in which he recorded 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns on 124 receptions. During his three-year career, he amassed 228 catches, 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Kiper said you can’t go wrong with Cooper or White.
“You don’t have to love one and not like the other,” he said. “Love them both. It’s just that I would separate the two by, Cooper’s had three years of production, not one like Kevin White. His workout was really good. In fact, he’s only four pounds lighter and one inch shorter, and he has bigger hands and a better 3-cone [drill] and a better short shuttle.
“He’s not only quick. He’s fast. A lot of guys are fast not quick or quick not fast. He’s both, and he’s probably the hardest working player in this draft. That’s why I would give Cooper the edge.
“They’re both going to go high.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
April 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County School System expands dual learning opportunity - Starting next academic year, Tuscaloosa County School System students will have the opportunity to take dual enrollment and dual credit courses in core subjects at Shelton State Community College.
The courses will allow students to earn high school and college credit in core subjects, such as English and math.
Students already had the option to take career technical education courses at Shelton, but now they’ll be able to take core classes there as well.
“We’re thrilled about expanding that partnership,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford. “This increases the number of credits that a student can graduate with that will be accepted in college. So we could have a student graduating from high school with a high school diploma and entering college as a sophomore.
“They’re going to be able to take English classes, math classes, classes like calculus and other advanced classes. Before, it was just career technical education.”
This is the second dual enrollment partnership the system’s made with a college or university. It’s also partnered with the University of Alabama.
Swinford said the partnership shouldn’t cost the system anything since the system can provide teachers. But if they have to use Shelton’s teachers, it could cost them unless they work out an arrangement.
“If Shelton provides the teachers, it may cost (us) unless we allow the college to use our facilities or work out some other arrangement,” she said. “Students will take classes during the day and Shelton State would be able to use Tuscaloosa County School System facilities in the evening.”
The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education approved the agreement between the system and Shelton State Monday. On May 6, the system and Shelton will officially sign the agreement.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 28th, 2015
Senate Republican pushes legislators to consider gambling as revenue option - MONTGOMERY | As Alabama once again struggles to put together a budget, one of the state’s most powerful Republicans said Monday that the time has come to look at gambling as a revenue option.
During a news conference, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh cited a study that says four casinos and a lottery would generate $400 million in new state revenue — with $332 million of that coming from a state lottery — and 11,000 new jobs. Marsh’s office commissioned the study, done by Auburn University at Montgomery.
“Those are pretty impressive numbers no matter what you think of gaming and I personally don’t game,” said Marsh, R-Anniston. “Those numbers are big enough that the body needs to see them and make a decision,” Marsh said.
The powerful Republican’s endorsement of gambling as a revenue source could be a significant boost to the idea that has previously fallen flat with conservative lawmakers. The Senate leader said he will discuss the study with legislators this week as a possible answer to the state’s perpetual General Fund woes.
The study assumes a state lottery and casino games and slot machines at four existing dog tracks in Mobile, Birmingham, Macon and Greene County. Neither form of gambling can take place unless voters approve a change to the Alabama Constitution.
Alabama lawmakers face tough budget decisions, with a projected minimum $280 million shortfall in the General Fund plus unfunded needs in corrections, Medicaid and other agencies. Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed $541 million in tax increases, but so far, his proposal has not found much support among legislators.
Marsh says he’ll discuss the idea with senators, but will only introduce gambling legislation if he believes it has a chance of passing.
“Is this worth looking at? This is what this is about,” Marsh said.
“If I’ve got a decision to raise $700 million in taxes, or I’ve got a decision to allow the people to vote whether they want gaming, then that is an easier decision for me, but I’m one senator. I’ve got to see what the caucus wants to do,” Marsh said.
Alabama is one of only six states without a lottery. Voters in 1999 rejected the idea of a lottery in a referendum proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman. Democrats for several sessions have proposed gambling, including a lottery, as a revenue source but have met resistance from Republicans.
“I’m excited about the fact that they are hopping on board with the Democratic Caucus plan,” said House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden.
Republican officeholders have also previously waged a legal war to shut down electronic bingo machines at dog tracks at VictoryLand in Macon County and Greenetrack in Greene County. The bingo machines resemble slot machines.
The numbers cited by Marsh do not include a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates bingo casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka. However, the Mobile dog track is operated by the tribe.
Tribal chairwoman Stephanie A. Bryan said the tribe would have to carefully study any proposed gambling legislation before forming an opinion on it.
“As a sovereign nation, we are subject to federal, not state laws, and we are under no obligation to negotiate a compact,” Bryan added.
A spokeswoman for Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said the speaker is reviewing the study but said gambling would not provide a solution to next year’s budget since a referendum couldn’t be held until next fiscal year.
A group that fought the lottery in 1999 urged legislators to resist gambling legislation.
“Those studies never tell the whole picture,” said Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizen Action Program. “Where is all that money going to come from? It’s going to come from the pockets of losers,” Godfrey said.
April 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Board of Education approves July 3 school holiday - The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education on Monday approved July 3 as a system holiday since
July 4 falls on a Saturday.
School will be closed that day.
April 28th, 2015
Dogfighting is a growing concern in central Alabama - MONTGOMERY | Joe Denham doesn’t go to work without a pistol holstered to his hip. Most of the time he works alone, and not on a main highway where someone could see if he were being attacked.
He isn’t keeping the graveyard shift at a gas station, guarding a drawer full of cash. He’s a part-time employee at the Bullock County Humane Society animal shelter.
Recently, the shelter was broken into two nights in a row. In total, six dogs were stolen — two pit bulls and four mutts. Since then, three of the dogs have been found in the Opelika area, and a fourth was found 10 miles outside of Union Springs, but shelter director Jennifer Gallagher doesn’t think they were stolen randomly.
“I would say the break-ins were related to dogfighting,” Gallagher said. “The first night, female pit bulls were targeted. That’s typically for breeding purposes. The second night, mixed breeds, that’s bait dogs.”
Gallagher has become aware of the dogfighting culture in Bullock County after taking over the shelter seven months ago. And the more fellow animal activists she speaks with, the more she realizes the problem isn’t confined to Bullock County.
Scott Hill retired this month from the Montgomery Humane Society as an officer and investigator for animal cruelty. During his 13 years on the job, he said he prosecuted roughly 100 dogfighting cases.
“There’s not a lot of national facts out there, surveys, records, that keep up with how many dogfights have been busted or how many trends there are, but it’s very prevalent in our county,” Hill said. “It’s very prevalent in Bullock County, Butler County, all the surrounding counties.”
It’s so prevalent that some Bullock County residents, such as Rebecca Atkins, can hear the snarls of dogfighting from her back door on most weekend nights.
“It’s been going on for about 10 years now,” Atkins said. “I hear, sounds like several dogs, fighting, going at it. I want to say 30 minutes to an hour later you hear a gunshot, like somebody unloading a gun like several rounds (presumably killing the losing dog). I feel so bad because I can hear them, but I can’t do anything.”
Others, such as Tiffany Forshey, who works as an EMT in Bullock County, have stumbled upon abandoned dogfighting rings — crudely built plywood boxes standing about four-feet high.
“It looks like a boxing ring in a way,” Forshey said. “Blood all over the walls. We’ve found dead dog carcasses on the ground.”
But nights of dogfighting are never just about the fights themselves. There’s drugs, gambling, stolen property and firearms.
“What happens is these high-end drug dealers end up with a lot of excess cash, and they’ll spend it on big bets at these dogfights,” said John Goodwin, the director of animal cruelty policy at the U.S. Humane Society.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney for Montgomery County Clark Morris heard about high-rolling bets and deals firsthand when she prosecuted eight people involved in the second-largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history.
“One of our witnesses testified that he brought $340,000 in cash to a dogfight: $150,000 of that was to bet on a dogfight, and the rest of it was to buy 5 kilograms of cocaine,” Morris said.
While state laws are fairly tough on convicted dogfighters, (it’s a felony to even own a dog with the intent of fighting it, and fighters could receive up to 10 years in jail per count) the suggested federal penalties for dogfighting is shockingly low.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggest the sentences that federal judges should dole out for different crimes. For criminal dogfighting, the suggestion is anywhere from zero to 18 months, and only zero to six months for lesser counts.
Federal penalties don’t account for a range of crime, so someone who fought 100 dogs could get the same sentence as someone who fought one dog, Clark said.
For prosecutors to obtain longer sentences for dogfighters than the suggested penalty, they have to convince judges that the situation is so extraordinarily horrendous that the longer sentences are warranted.
In Clark’s case, District Judge W. Keith Watkins found that going outside of the federal suggestion was warranted. He handed down the largest sentence in any federal dogfighting case in the country, sentencing the kingpin to eight years.
“The sentencing guidelines, in my view, are wholly inadequate in dogfighting cases and are, in fact, in this Court’s opinion, irrational,” Watkins said.
Watkins also quoted a federal judge from North Carolina who saw a similar case and said, “I would say that other than the criminal dogfighters in America, every other person in America would be shocked beyond belief that you could do what (the defendant) did and come out with a federal sentence of zero to six months. No one could defend that, no judges, no legislators, no president, no one.”
Far outside the walls of a federal courtroom in the backwoods of Bullock County and elsewhere, the problem continues.
People such as Gallagher and Denham do what they can to alleviate the problem by not allowing anyone to adopt a pit bull without being thoroughly vetted first — a measure that’s caused backlash.
Both have received threats for neutering a stray pit bull, whose owner said was a champion fighter, and then not allowing the owner to reclaim the pit bull during the 17 days it was at the shelter.
Denham was walking his lab two nights after the conversation with the pit bull’s owner, when he heard a car approaching.
“The next thing I know shots started ringing out. I could hear one bullet pass me and rip through the woods behind us. But they obviously weren’t shooting to hit anything. It was simply a warning,” Denham said.
Denham continues to work at the shelter, even though they’ve had to close down operations until they can install better security.
“Everybody picks their cause, and you fight to eliminate it,” Denham said. “You’d like to stop it, but there’s reality. If you’re not at least trying to do something about it, it’ll do nothing but get worse and worse.”
April 28th, 2015
Alabama Legislative Black Caucus lawyers file for redistricting - MONTGOMERY | Lawyers for the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus asked a federal court on Monday to toss out Alabama’s legislative districts and hold new legislative elections next year.
Lawyers for black lawmakers filed the motion after the U.S. Supreme Court in March sent Alabama legislative districts back for further review.
Black legislators had challenged the 2012 plan — drawn by the newly elected GOP majority — saying that it illegally packed black voters into designated minority districts.
They also said it limited their ability to influence elections outside of those districts.
The Supreme Court said in March that a federal court applied the incorrect legal test when it approved the plan. Justices said the lower court should have looked at claims of racial gerrymandering from a level of district by district, not just statewide.
Caucus lawyers argue that the legislative districts, “display unmistakable evidence of racial sorting.” They argued the map improperly split counties and communities in favor of racial quotas. “When county and precinct boundaries are split along clear racial lines, as shown above, the subordination of traditional districting principles to race is obvious,” lawyers for the caucus wrote.
The districts should be declared unconstitutional and new districts should be drawn, lawyers wrote. They suggested a new primary could be held in March of 2016 with a General Election the following November.
State Republicans have said they believe the districts will be upheld.
Republicans said their plans complied with the voting rights law by preserving all the districts in which African-Americans were a majority and adjusting populations so that districts contained roughly the same number of people.
The new plan, allowed only a 2 percent population difference between districts, a much lower variance than previous plans.
April 28th, 2015
Latest on police-custody death in Baltimore: Massive fire related to riot - 9:30 p.m.
A massive fire has broken out in a building that was under construction and the Baltimore mayor's spokesman says it's related to the riots.
Spokesman Kevin Harris confirmed that the fire is related to the riots and that it's burning the Mary Harvin Transformation Center, described online as a community-based organization that supports youth and families.
A CVS pharmacy was also set on fire earlier in the day. Businesses have been looted and at least 15 officers were injured in the chaos.
The riots started after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died of a mysterious injury after being arrested.
9:20 p.m.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is condemning the rioting in Baltimore that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died from a spinal injury he suffered while in police custody.
In a statement Monday, her first day on the job, Lynch said those who have destroyed property have done a disservice to Gray's family.
She said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days, including Vanita Gupta, the agency's top civil rights lawyer.
Rioters set police cars ablaze, leading the Maryland governor to declare a state of emergency and call in the National Guard.
The FBI and Justice Department are investigating Gray's death for potential criminal civil rights violations. The six officers who were involved in Gray's arrest have been suspended.
8:55 p.m.
Maryland's governor says activating the National Guard to help police with riots in Baltimore was a last resort.
Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday night that he did not make the decision lightly. He earlier declared a state of emergency, activating the Guard. Hogan took office in January.
The call for the Guard comes after people set cars on fire, looted businesses and threw bricks at police officers, hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray.
Gray died after suffering injuries in police custody.
8:30 p.m.
About 200 mostly men are marching arm-in-arm through a neighborhood that is littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris after riots in Baltimore.
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings is among them. As the group approached Fulton Avenue, getting close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees.
After the ministers got back on their feet, they walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.
Neighborhood residents were standing on their stoops, taking pictures. Some clapped their hands.
The marches were protesting the police-custody death of Freddie Gray.
8:15 p.m.
Police say 15 officers have been injured in the Baltimore riots and two are still in the hospital.
More than two dozen people have been arrested after people looted stores, set cars on fire and threw bricks at police.
The riot started just hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died following injuries he suffered while in police custody.
8 p.m.
The mayor of Baltimore says she will impose a weeklong curfew after people looted stores, set fire to cars and threw bricks and other objects at police officers.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says a curfew will be imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The mayor, a lifelong Baltimore resident, says too many people have spent generations building up the city for it to be destroyed by “thugs.”
The riot began hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died after suffering an injury in police custody.
7:55 p.m.
Police are firing beanbags and rubber bullets at looters at a mall where the Baltimore riots began.
As three dozen police entered the mall, looters began running and driving away. The mall was one of several businesses to be looted as rioters set cars and a business on fire.
The riot happened after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died after being injured in police custody.
7:40 p.m.
People are looting stores at a mall where the riots in Baltimore started.
As police moved away from the mall into a nearby neighborhood, the mall became unprotected and people started carrying clothes and other items away.
Cars have been burned, other stores have been looted and a pharmacy caught fire during the mayhem. The riot started hours after Freddie Gray was buried.
Gray died after suffering an injury in police custody.
7:05 p.m.
The governor of Maryland has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help with the violence and rioting in Baltimore.
Gov. Larry Hogan signed the order Monday night at the request of the city. Cars and at least one store have been set on fire during a riot. Businesses are being looted in part of the city.
The riot started just hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died after being injured while in police custody.
7 p.m.
Maryland's two senators are faulting a few in Baltimore for the violent protests, looting and clashes with police.
“This is terrible,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski told reporters in the U.S. Capitol Monday night. The five-term senator and Baltimore resident said about 300 students primarily from one high school acted out and showed “disrespect toward Freddie Gray.” Mikulski said some 85,000 school children went home and were not involved.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said their “immediate concern is to restore the peace in Baltimore.”
The two lawmakers said they are awaiting the independent, civil rights investigation by the Justice Department into Gray's death.
Gray died of an unexplained spinal injury while in police custody.
6:45 p.m.
A pharmacy that has been looted in the Baltimore riots is on fire and police are trying to keep people back as firefighters battle the blaze.
Smoke is pouring out of the CVS pharmacy, which is about 1.5 miles from downtown Baltimore. Some people cut holes in a hose that firefighters were using.
Nearby, liquor stores were busted open and being looted. People were in the streets drinking while police stood still nearby.
The riot started just hours after Freddie Gray's funeral. Gray died after suffering injuries in police custody.
President Barack Obama is pledging the federal government's help to respond to riots that have broken out in Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray.
The White House says the Baltimore mayor updated Obama on the situation and that Obama told her his administration would provide assistance as needed.
The White House says Obama also discussed the rioting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in hours earlier.
Obama and Lynch met in the Oval Office while violent scenes of rioting in Baltimore played out on television. Gray died April 19 after suffering a mysterious spinal injury while in police custody. The Justice Department and local authorities are investigating.
6:05 p.m.
An attorney for the family of Freddie Gray says they are in shock watching the violence in Baltimore.
Hours after Gray's funeral, a large group of youths had a standoff with police, throwing bricks, bottles and other items at officers. Several stores have been looted and cars have been set on fire.
Gray family attorney Billy Murphy said the family is urging for calm.
“They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
Murphy said Gray's family is lying low Monday night. Gray died after suffering critical injuries in police custody.
5:55 p.m.
Protesters are looting a check-cashing business and other stores in Baltimore, busting through the windows and climbing inside to take items.
Cars have been lit on fire and a large group of youths threw rocks, bricks and other items at police. As people arrived home from work, some yelled at the youths to stop causing trouble.
Ted Bushrod, 32, who's lived in the area all his life, said his father died in an officer-involved shooting involving the Baltimore Police Department. He criticized the violence.
“It's disappointing. I understand the kids' frustration. We go through this every day,” he added, referring to black people being targeted for their race in Baltimore.
Freddie Gray, who is black, died after he suffered injuries while in police custody.
5:35 p.m.
Police are urging parents to locate their children and bring them home after youths clashed violently with police in Baltimore.
Baltimore police made the announcement on its Twitter feed. A group of youths threw bricks, rocks and other items at police during a violent clash hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray. At least seven police officers were injured.
A lot of the youths clashing with police had backpacks and were wearing khaki pants, which are a part of many Baltimore public school uniforms.
The activity broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters.
Gray died April 19. He suffered injuries in police custody. Authorities are investigating.
5 p.m.
A drug store is being looted in Baltimore as police and a large group of people violently clash.
Television images show a CVS being overrun and people running out with items. Police have not responded yet.
The rioters have been throwing rocks, bricks and other items at police, injuring at least seven of them. A police car was set on fire.
The clash began just hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody.
4:45 p.m.
Police say at least seven officers have been injured in a violent clash with a large group of youths.
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk (koh-wall-check) said one officer is unresponsive and others have broken bones after people threw bricks, rocks and other items at police.
The riot occurred just hours after a funeral for Freddie Gray, who died of a mysterious spinal injury while he was in police custody.
The clash started near the Mondawmin Mall and spread out over a wide area as a line of police officers pushed them back.
In a series of Tweets, police said they are hearing reports of groups setting fires around the area. Earlier, a photographer was shoved and kicked in the back.
At one point, a police car was surrounded and destroyed by people jumping on it. As officers arrived, one person was taken into custody.
4:15 p.m.
Hundreds of youths outside a mall in northwest Baltimore are clashing violently with police in riot gear, throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at the officers.
Baltimore police say on Twitter that several officers have been injured. Officers are using pepper-spray to keep the protesters back.
A flier circulated on social media called for a period of violence Monday afternoon to begin at the Mondawmin Mall and move downtown toward City Hall.
Earlier in the day, thousands gathered for Freddie Gray's funeral. Gray died of an unexplained spinal injury while in police custody.
4 p.m.
People are throwing rocks and bricks at police in riot gear near a Baltimore mall.
Dozens of people were throwing objects at police, just hours after the funeral for Freddie Gray.
Gray died of a mysterious spinal injury while in police custody. Baltimore police say on Twitter that a few officers have been hurt in the chaos.
Officers are advancing on the crowd, and at times retreating when the objects are thrown.
3:30 p.m.
Numerous police officers in riot gear have responded to a mall in northwest Baltimore and the mall is closed.
Images broadcast by WJZ-TV show a line of officers with helmets and face shields blocking off the mall's parking lot. Some people were throwing objects at officers and a police armored vehicle.
It's not immediately clear if the response was related to a Freddie Gray protest. One man held his arms up as the police moved toward him, an action that has been repeated throughout the Gray rallies.
Gray died of an unexplained spinal injury he suffered in police custody.
2 p.m.
The University of Maryland campus in downtown Baltimore shut down its campus at 2 p.m., saying it has been warned by the Baltimore Police Department that “activities” in the area may turn violent.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the activities had anything to do with Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury while in police custody. Demonstrators angry over Gray's death have become violent at times.
In an alert to students and staff, the university says “the safety of our students and employees is of paramount importance. Please vacate the campus as soon as possible.”
School spokesman Alex Likowski said he didn't know what type of activity might be passing through campus or what prompted the warning from police.
The university's main campus is in College Park, about 30 miles south of Baltimore.
1:45 p.m.
The funeral for Freddie Gray has ended after a service of nearly two hours.
The dignitaries attending included long-time activist Dick Gregory, former Maryland representative and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and current Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.
The casket was rolled out of the church with the family following behind. Within minutes, the entire church was empty, leaving the musicians to play a rousing processional.
As people left, there was an image of Gray projected on the screens flanking the altar. It showed him wearing a striped polo shirt, baseball cap, pants and sneakers. The front of the program read, “Loving Memory, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr.”
Gray died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered while in police custody.
The NAACP says it's opening a satellite office in Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighborhood, known as Sandtown.
In a statement on the organization's Facebook page, the NAACP said its police reform action in Baltimore dates back to the 1980s, and has involved targeting racial profiling cases. The NAACP said it also filed legal action involving traffic stops targeting black people and another one involving a high rate of incarceration of black people in the city.
Gray, who is black, died of an unexplained injury he suffered in police custody.
The satellite office in Gray's neighborhood will include legal support from the national office, the NAACP said.
It's unclear when the office will open.
12:10 p.m.
Baltimore police say the department believes three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to “take out” law enforcement officers.
In a statement Monday, the department called it a “credible threat” and said members of the Black Guerilla Family, the Bloods and the Crips have formed a partnership against the police.
The department warned other law enforcement agencies to “take appropriate precautions.”
The police statement came as mourners gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of a mysterious spinal injury while in police custody.
Police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk would not say whether the threat is related to the death of Gray. Kowalczyk said the threat announcement has been circulated to law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Earlier this year, Baltimore police said the Black Guerilla Family sent a man into the Northeastern District station house with marijuana, cocaine and a loaded gun to test the station's security.
12 p.m.
The daughter of Eric Garner, who died of a chokehold in the custody of New York City police, is at the funeral of Freddie Gray.
Gray suffered critical spinal injuries while he was in Baltimore police custody.
Erica Garner, 24, says she came Monday because watching the video of Gray crying out when he was arrested reminded her of the crying and agony that her father went through.
“My father was yelling out, 'I can't breathe and (Gray) was yelling out — he didn't have any words but he was just hurt,” she said.
She says she hasn't met Gray's family, but would tell them: “I feel your pain. I know what you're going through. Stay strong and continue to fight.”
Garner died last July after police placed him in a chokehold on a Staten Island street.
April 27th, 2015
Man stabbed in the face, police say - A Tuscaloosa woman is accused of stabbing a man in the face after he tried to collect a debt from her boyfriend.
Krystal Doughty, 26, was charged with attempted murder and third-degree burglary after the incident in the 1300 block of James I. Harrison Parkway. The victim was in critical, but stable, condition at DCH Regional Medical Center, where he is being treated for a life-threatening injury.
Police were called to the apartment complex at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Witnesses reported that Doughty entered an apartment and stabbed the victim, 23, once in the mouth, said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Capt. Gary Hood.
The witnesses said that became angry when the victim asked her boyfriend for money that he owed, he said.
Doughty remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Monday with bond set at $80,000.
April 27th, 2015
Shots fired outside bar - Shots were fired early Saturday morning outside Kennedy’s Bar, a downtown nightclub that’s under increasing scrutiny after a string of violent events.
Tuscaloosa police officers patrolling Temerson Square heard multiple shots at 2:44 a.m., said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a Tuscaloosa police spokesman .
The officers approached and saw Kennedy’s security guards chasing a vehicle as it traveled east on Fourth Street toward 23rd Avenue, Blankley said. The driver tried to get away from the officers by driving a route along Greensboro Avenue and Jack Warner Parkway before stopping on 21st Avenue.
One of the three occupants of the vehicle was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and carrying a pistol without a permit. Larry Bolden, 22, has since been released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail.
Officers are seeking warrants to file additional charges, including discharging a firearm inside city limits, Blankley said.
Blankley said that the shots followed an argument that took place just outside Kennedy’s. Police believe shots were fired into the air, not aimed at anyone. Blankley was unsure whether the men had been inside the bar, which was the site of a shooting early April 23.
Two men fought as the bar was closing April 23, which escalated to a brawl involving several people. A man has been accused of firing rifle shots toward someone who was walking down Greensboro Avenue, but instead striking a woman who had no connection to the fight. She has been treated for a gunshot wound to her arm.
Mayor Walt Maddox told the Tuscaloosa City Council in an email sent April 23 that the bar’s business license should be revoked.
Maddox said that activity at Kennedy’s has led to two shootings, fire code violations, vagrancy, lewd behavior and vandalism. He said that a police officer was once surrounded and nearly assaulted there, according to the email.
“It is time to take action or the next incident resulting from Kennedy’s will likely be a homicide,” he wrote.
The City Council could choose to discuss the business license revocation as soon as it’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
April 27th, 2015
Program spotlights people at center of 2011 tornado outbreak - Author and University of Alabama graduate Kim Cross' nonfiction account of the April 2011 tornado outbreak, “What Stands in a Storm,” inherently deals with the anguish of loss but is meant to celebrate the positive things that also followed in the wake of the storms.
Cross and some of the students, residents, first responders and others featured in her book will be at the Alberta School for the Performing Arts on Thursday for a free two-hour program titled “Beautiful Things Come from Our Brokenness.”
“Really, at heart, it is not a book about tornadoes, it is a book about people,” Cross said.
The panelists for the event include meteorologist James Spann; Chelsea Thrash, a UA student who learned to walk again after being injured during the storm; Adam Watley, a paramedic who aided Thrash and others; DCH disaster coordinator Andrew Lee; Kelli Rumanek Arthur, a UA student who had two roommates die in the storm when their house was destroyed; Ashley Mims, the mother of Loryn Brown, one of Authur's roommates; and stormchaser John Oldshue.
“It is their story. I wanted to put the spotlight on them,” Cross said of the panel for the event.
The school, built to replace the one destroyed when an EF4 tornado struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011, is emblematic for Cross of the overarching theme of her book.
“The end focused on how the tragedy brought people together and the positive things that came from the bad things. I felt the school was a living example of that,” Cross said.
The event in the school's main theater will include a panel discussion by the characters from the book, a reading from Cross' book and a book signing. Barnes and Noble, which is partnering with Cross, will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from books sold at the event to the new Alberta school.
The bookstore approached Cross about the possibility of donating something for the school.
“I just thought it was perfect. I was looking for ways to give back. It is almost overwhelming since there are so many needs out there,” she said.
Cross has also launched a fundraising drive for the school through GoFundMe. Her goal is to raise at least $5,000 for the school.
The roughly 300-page book tracks the lives of the featured people as the storms churned across the Southeast and the tornado's aftermath as Tuscaloosa and other communities rebuilt.
“I wanted a broad representation because I thought everyone experienced the storm in a different way,” Cross said.
From her home in Hoover, Cross watched the television news coverage of the storm as it moved through West Alabama.
“I felt really tied to that tornado because it cut through the heart of my (college town),” Cross said, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from UA.
At the time of the outbreak, Cross was working as an editor at Southern Living. The magazine canvassed disaster areas in several states as it covered the aftermath of the storms.
“We kind of touched upon the three common themes that survivors experience,” Cross said. “Faith, food and fellowship — that is how people cope with horrible things.”
The publication received an outpouring from readers who said the story helped them cope with the aftermath, Cross said.
The response stuck with Cross, who began considering the possibility of a book in 2012 and started working on the manuscript in 2013 after quitting her job at Southern Living to focus on the project.
Cross chose to map the narrative through the lives of her characters in the storm's path.
In Tuscaloosa, she was interested in the experience of college students, “people on the cusp of their future.”
She immersed herself in the details of their lives in the days around the storms, including sifting through social media posts and text messages.
“That was the best part of writing the book for me, spending so much time with the families, getting to know them, getting to know the people they lost,” she said.
Cross likened the effect of the outbreak of storms on Tuscaloosa to Hurricane Katrina's impact on the Gulf Coast, reshaping lives and communities.
“I felt like it needed a story where you could zoom out and see the magnitude of the whole outbreak, but you could zoom in and see how deeply it affected individual people,” Cross said.
April 27th, 2015
Breakout seeks to lock up customers for some puzzling fun - Sam Adams was locked in “Detention” with only one way out — find the code to unlock the door. Adams searched for clues, one leading to another, with only one hour to complete the task with the help of his teammates to solve the puzzle and break out.
Adams was one of about 15 people who were locked in three different themed rooms — “Detention,” “the Trapp” and “Who Done It?” — to participate in a preview of Breakout, a new Tuscaloosa entertainment business at 2310 14th St. Breakout's grand opening is Friday.
Breakout is designed to entertain families and friends or to provide a team-building exercise for co-workers. Breakout locks up to eight people in one of the rooms to find clues leading to the code that unlocks the door. But it can't be done alone.
“If you try to do it on your own, you're not going to make it,” said Adams, head football coach at Hillcrest High School. “You have to rely on other people's help because there are just simply too many things to cover by yourself, and if everybody works together, then you have a shot.”
Co-owner Lori White said the concept of Breakout, which is to communicate with teammates to reach a common goal, came from Europe and is now all over the United States. White said she and co-owners Kim Parker and Candace Kizziah took their families to a similar business and enjoyed it so much they wanted to bring it to Tuscaloosa.
“We felt like Tuscaloosa needed some form of entertainment like that,” White said. “We've got football when it's available — any kind of sports when it's seasonal. We have the amphitheater, then we have the usual bowling and movie night. This just adds another element of entertainment to Tuscaloosa — definitely unusual — like nothing that we've seen before.”
Each of the owners created her own room with complex puzzle-solving challenges.
White created the “Who Done It?” room that is set up like a house in which the homeowner was murdered, and the team has to solve the mystery to unlock the door.
Kizziah created the Detention Room in which the team is locked in a school-themed room and must find the hall pass to escape.
Parker created “the Trapp Room,” a zoo-like atmosphere, where the team must find clues to open the door before they are bitten or the timer buzzes.
White said they will change the room themes every year, and they plan to add a fourth room. She said they also hope to create a mobile room to take to businesses, schools and other locations.
Joy Collins, a fifth-grade teacher at Englewood Elementary School who was locked in “the Trapp,” said she would love to have her students participate in Breakout to encourage communication and team work.
“It's really about communication and talking it out and listening to each other,” Collins said. “You cannot come in here without having the mindset of a team player. If you're thinking you're going to come in here and do this on your own and that you don't need anybody else, then you might as well deem yourself a loser because you can't do it without other people.”
So, each teammate drops their belongings into a basket, including cellphones, which aren't allowed, then gets to work. And it's no small feat.
No single group unlocked their doors in the allotted hour on a recent Sunday.
“It was tough, but it was fun,” Collins said.
Breakout will be open Thursday through Sunday starting Friday. Rooms can
be booked online at www.breakouttuscaloosa.com and the cost is $25 per person.
April 27th, 2015
Blood drive today at McAlister's Deli - A blood drive will be held from 1-6 p.m. today at McAlister's Deli, 101 15th St.
A bloodmobile from the West Alabama chapter of the American Red Cross will be at the deli to
accept donations.
Also, McAlister's will donate 20 percent of all sales from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. today to the West Alabama Red Cross chapter.
April 27th, 2015
Confederate Memorial Day considered expired by some - MONTGOMERY | One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War’s end, several Southern states will mark Confederate Memorial Day as an official state holiday.
In ceremonies scattered across the states of the Old Confederacy, cannons will sound, mournful bagpipes skirl and wreaths made from magnolia leaves placed at monuments and graves. State offices in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia will be closed
today in a holiday that some call a day to honor the dead and others call an anachronistic tradition with no place in the modern South.
Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia name the last Monday in April as Confederate Memorial Day to mark the surrender of Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston and his army on April 26, 1865. South Carolina holds a Confederate Memorial Day in May to mark the day Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died.
Purdue University professor Caroline E. Janney, the author of “Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause” said the roots of Confederate Memorial Day began with ceremonies immediately after the war. Various ladies’ memorial associations across the South in 1865 and 1866 worked to move the bodies of dead soldiers from mass battlefield graves to proper burials in cemeteries.
The ceremonies became a celebration of the Confederacy with veterans parading in full uniforms, songs, flowers and a “benediction or eulogy about the so-called Lost Cause.” The events, she said, were carefully advertised as “mourning” during Reconstruction because people knew the activities were bordering on treason.
“It is a way to sustain an identification as a Confederate. It’s a way to sustain your Southern identity and to continue to resist the federal government. Even though there is no longer a Confederate army, even though there is no longer a Confederate government. These are very much places where what I call a Confederate identity, is perpetuated,” Janney said.
On Sunday, the Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery for the 149th consecutive year will hold a ceremony at Montgomery’s Oakwood Cemetery
Wreaths will be placed in honor of the Confederate dead and a peace lily placed at a monument to the Union dead, Association President Leslie Kirk said.
The event, Kirk said is about remembering the dead, both Confederate and Union, and the massive pain inflicted by “brother fighting brother.”
“It was about the burial of the men, north or south. They were someone’s child when they died,” Kirk said. She said the group shies away from the political. The ceremony will include the Pledge of Allegiance and “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“A lot of people want the Confederate monuments taken down. They want the holiday to be done away with. I don’t think you rewrite history. I don’t think you need to. What better place to show how far we’ve come then to see the history of Montgomery?” Kirk said.
People wearing Confederate uniforms will gather at a separate event Monday on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol.
“We’re celebrating the lives of our ancestors,” said Gary Carlyle, Alabama Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Carlyle, who prefers to call it the War for Southern Independence, said the war was started by an invasion.
Alabama State University, a historically black university in Montgomery, will host a symposium on Confederate Memorial Day.
Dr. Derryn Moten, acting chair of the Department of History and Political Science, said many people likely find the idea of a day dedicated to Confederate dead quaint or strange.
“I think more people question the ethicacy of giving it or having it as an official state holiday,” Moten said.
Moten said he wants the conference to debunk some of the myths, including that the Confederacy was not interested in the perpetuation of slavery.
The Constitution of the Confederate states discussed slavery multiple times, including that there would be no law impairing the right to own in “negro slaves.”
Moten said he always liked how Martin Luther King closed his speech ending the Selma-to-Montgomery march with several stanzas of the Union anthem, ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’
“I think Dr. King invoked an image that the South would lose the war of segregation, Jim Crow and nullification just like it lost the Civil War,” Moten said.
There have been recent efforts to rename Confederate celebration holidays.
A bill in Texas was suggested by Jacob Hale, a 13-year-old student from Austin. Hale’s idea is to change the Texas state holiday named Confederate Heroes Day to Civil War Remembrance Day, a name that he said would reflect a broader range of viewpoints and Texans’ diverse heritage in relation to the Civil War. Hale said Texans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and there were also more than 100,000 slaves in Texas.
“I think it’s a common sense, logical thing,” Hale said. “We’re trying to commemorate all the lives that were lost during that War.”
April 27th, 2015
Former Holt baseball players celebrate beloved coach - More than 50 years removed from his job coaching the Holt High School baseball team, Jerry Belk is still providing his former players with valuable advice.
The legendary Ironmen coach, who also led American Legion team Tuscaloosa Post 34 to its only national title in 1967, spoke at a reunion set up by former players to show their respect and gratitude at Holt High School on Saturday.
“Find you something, and get out and do it,” Belk said to his former players, many of whom are retired. “There are so many people who don’t have what you do and can’t help themselves... Don’t just go home and sit there and watch TV all day. You need to find you some things to do to keep you busy.”
The head coach, whose Ironmen wreaked havoc on the Warrior Athletic Conference in the early 1960s, was lauded by more than 40 former plays, not just for what he meant to them on the field, but off it as well.
“He added so much value to us, not only as ballplayers, but as people,” said Freddy Williams, who played under Belk at Holt. “It was more than just going to practice and winning games. He taught us about hard work. He taught us that commitment and education can overcome a mountain of hurdles.
“Many players have the desire, many have the skill, but few have the commitment. He instilled that for us.”
A graduate of Tuscaloosa High School, Belk played third base for the University of Alabama, where he earned his masters degree. He later served as an infantry platoon leader in the U.S. Army for two years before taking the head coaching job at Holt in 1959.
There, Belk transformed the Ironmen into a force, turning a group of blue-collared country boys into one of the most feared teams in West Alabama.
“They were hard workers,” Belk said of his players. “We had a big plant here, and they were blue-collar people. I learned a lot from coaching them. We worked, and we were more disciplined than anyone else. Working with them, I learned that they were hard-nosed, and you learn how to work with them. My first few years, I wasn’t the coach that I was. They made me better, and I got to be a better coach each year.”
Belk’s teams, known particularly for their discipline and how they ran on and off the field before and after each inning, didn’t always posses the same amenities as some of their city rivals. However, when it came to work ethic and preparation, the Ironmen were seldom defeated.
“It wasn’t so much pride, we just thought, ‘Hell, we are better than them,” said former Holt player Mike Innes, who also pitched on Belk’s 1967 American Legion championship team.
“You expected to win, and you won and lost as a team. It was just a team, I mean we didn’t really even keep up with stats back them. We just weren’t going to lose to Tuscaloosa or County High.”
Added Williams, “A good part of it was preparation. He would have us all in the outfield, and hit he’d hit the ball where he wanted to. He’d have a runner on base in different situations, and he would tell us how many outs there were. Every position knew exactly what they were supposed to do with the ball in every situation.”
Belk had a job for each player on the team, from the star players to the bench players, who he affectionately referred to as the Scabeanies. Belk would require players who were not on field to stay sharp, walking down the bench quizzing his Scabeanies on situational tactics.
Holt players were also required to be loud and encouraged to cheer and holler from the dugout, a trait that proved to get under the skin of opposing teams.
“That was just a way of life for us,” said Carl Wright, who pitched for the Ironmen as well as the national champion Post 34 team. “The other teams would tell us later that it was kind of intimidating to them, but it was just what we did.
“We were kind of like a family. Coach Belk was more than a coach, he was kind of like our daddy. He was a player’s coach, but everybody knew who the boss was. He worked us beyond what we thought we could do.”
By far, the most remembered of Belk’s teams was the 1967 Tuscaloosa Post 34, which is still the only Alabama team to win an American Legion national championship. Belk’s Post 34, which included five Ironmen, were once again pitted up against boys from bigger cities and once again proved their grit, beating a group of the nation’s finest before finally topping Northbrook, Ill., 1-0, in the final game to claim the title.
“I remember the 66 team only had 12 players, and we had uniforms that didn’t even match,” Innes said. “We were playing some teams that had charter planes. We were just traveling in station wagons, and (the other teams) were gone in two games.”
Added Belk, “We had five guys from Holt on that team, and we wouldn’t have been able to win it without them. They were just country boys, but city boys just aren’t as tough as country boys.”
To each in attendance Saturday, Belk serves as an unique role. To some he’s a counselor, to others a father figure. He’s a best friend you can call, even at 2 a.m. in the morning, and expect an answer.
However, to everyone Belk has touched, he claims one role — difference maker — and in his 83 years, no trophy has meant more than that.
“I really believe that every day I left here, I helped provide a turning point in someone’s life,” Belk said. “They might have not known it, and I might have not known who they were. But that was my goal, and I truly believe I did that.”
April 27th, 2015
Coast Guard: Second body found in waters near Mobile Bay, 5 still missing - DAUPHIN ISLAND | Coast Guard crews searched for five people missing Sunday after recovering two bodies following a powerful weekend storm that capsized several sailboats competing in a regatta near Mobile Bay.
One body was discovered after Saturdays storm and another Sunday morning, said Major Steve Thompson, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safetys Marine Patrol Division.
Authorities said crews used boats and planes to search the Alabama waters, including areas near Dauphin Island where anxious family members have gathered at a Coast Guard station awaiting updates. Red Cross volunteers and an ambulance also were at the site.
Names of the missing and deceased were not immediately released Sunday. One person was rescued Saturday evening.
More than 100 sailboats and as many as 200 people were participating in the 57th running of the Dauphin Island regatta in Mobile Bay when the storm hit Saturday.
Gary Garner, commodore of the Fairhope Yacht Club which organized the race, said members are heartbroken.
We are helping and cooperating fully with the U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities in accounting for all of the sailors, he said in an emailed statement.
Officials on Sunday said not all of the missing were taking part in the regatta.
Speaking at a news conference in Dauphin Island, Thompson called Saturdays events an awful tragedy.
Our hearts go out to the families, and we are using all available resources, he added.
Coast Guard Capt. Duke Walker said officials are focused on finding the missing. Walker said conditions were optimal for Sundays ongoing search, with light winds and sunny skies on smooth water.
Spokesman Seth Johnson said earlier Sunday that the Coast Guard will investigate the weather conditions and the decision to go ahead with the regatta.
The conditions were calm early Saturday before the storm, according to tourists Joe B. Stuard and Andrea Stuard of Wilmer, who were watching Sunday as search boats moved offshore.
They were riding their bikes on Dauphin Island as the storm blew through around 4 p.m. Saturday. We wouldnt have been out on our bikes if we knew it was going to come in like that. It was fast and quick. We made a dash for shelter, Joe B. Stuard said.
National Weather Service Mobile meteorologist John Purdy said Sunday that the storm moved eastward through Louisiana and Mississippi quickly, prompting a severe thunderstorm watch at 1:36 p.m. Saturday and a warning less than an hour later.
The NWS then issued a special marine warning around 3 p.m. for boaters on several waterways including Mobile Bay, warning of a line of thunderstorms producing gusty winds, high waves, dangerous lightning and heavy rains. The notice urged boaters to seek safe harbor immediately.
When storms are moving quickly as in this case, things will change very rapidly especially if you are on a boat in the open waters, Purdy said.
April 26th, 2015
Cottondale woman killed in Friday crash - A 36-year-old Cottondale woman died Friday night in a one-vehicle crash, according to a news release from the state troopers.
Robin Hattie Averette, was killed when the 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee she was driving left the roadway and struck two trees. Averette was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced dead on the scene.
The crash occurred at 8:30 p.m. Friday on Daffron Road, about five miles east of Tuscaloosa.
The news release states that Averette was not wearing a seat belt and troopers are continuing to investigate the crash.
April 26th, 2015
Robbery reported on Campus Drive - Two people say they were robbed at gunpoint while walking early Sunday morning on Campus Drive, according to an email from University of Alabama Police Department.
The email states that the two people were walking north on Campus Drive around 3 a.m. Sunday when a southbound vehicle stopped nearby. A man with a handgun got out of the vehicle and demanded money from the two people.
The victims gave the gunman cash and property, but they were not injured. The gunman fled the scene, traveling south.
The gunman is described as being in his mid-20s, between 5 feet, 8 inches and 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing between 200 and 215 pounds. He was wearing a black T-shirt and dark pants. He was driving a 2000s-model SUV, described as possibly being maroon.
Anyone who has any information about the robbery is asked to call UAPD at 348-5454 or Crime Stoppers at 752-7867(STOP).
April 26th, 2015
"To Kill a Mockingbird" play to go on under Harper Lee group - MONROEVILLE | "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee has started a nonprofit company that will produce a play about the book, ending a dispute that threatened to derail the long-running performance, a publishing group said Saturday.
Dramatic Publishing Co. had refused to extend the performance rights for the production in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, but the Illinois-based publishing company said Saturday on its Facebook page that Lee has founded a new, nonprofit group called the Mockingbird Company. The organization will produce the play beginning next year.
"We are also happy to announce that the play will be performed by Mockingbird Players, who have acted this American classic so well for so long," the statement said. "We believe that this is the best way (from the stage) to celebrate Ms. Lee's masterpiece throughout the greater Monroeville area."
The Monroe County Heritage Museum has staged the play for years, but it has been involved in legal disputes with Lee in the past.
Lee sued the museum in 2013 over "Mockingbird" souvenirs sold in its store after the museum opposed her application for a federal trademark for the title of her book. The dispute has since been settled.
The play is currently in its 26th season in Monroeville, which was the template for the fictional Maycomb in Lee's book. The performances this month and next are sold out; excitement over the upcoming publication of Lee's second book, "Go Set a Watchman," helped tickets sell out faster than normal.
April 26th, 2015
Four years after the storm: Recovery from 2011 tornado comes in all forms - In the four years since Tuscaloosa was torn asunder by an unstoppable force of nature, its recovery has taken shape in various forms.
Buildings that were wiped from existence have been replaced with newer and improved versions. Homes lost to winds and toppled trees have been rebuilt around the families that make them.
But not every story of recovery is made from bricks and mortar or nails and wood.
In the process of damaging or destroying about 12 percent of the city, the tornado that struck on April 27, 2011, was indiscriminate in the lives it affected.
And while 53 died either directly from the storm or indirectly from its lingering effects, hundreds — perhaps thousands — were left to find some way to emerge from the wreckage.
Jeannette Barnes is one of these.
After being buried in the rubble of her Rosedale Court home and freed only by the efforts of volunteers who scoured the ruins once the storm had passed, she has channeled her life toward service for others and those who live around her.
Barnes, 66, now serves on the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners as its resident commissioner, having been selected by residents to represent them, and is treasurer of the McKenzie Court Resident Council, where she relocated after the destruction of Rosedale Court.
She was chosen by Mayor Walt Maddox to serve on his Citizens Advisory Committee to help guide the recovery efforts of those affected.
And Monday, she will preside over the dedication of a plaque featuring the names of the nine Rosedale Court residents who died in the storm.
But these are just the official roles. Barnes volunteers to help organize events to educate or provide benefits for her fellow public housing residents in addition to helping others one-on-one to gain the assistance or information they need.
"She was able to sustain herself through the storm, and after the storm she has continued to provide leadership. Not only to this community, but also to the folks in public housing," said Willie J. "Dino" Fort, the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority's assistant executive director. "With all that she went through, some folks would've just thrown their hands up. But she chose to get more involved.
"She was just blessed because she survived the storm. Since then, she has not stopped — she's been going and giving."
‘I heard a voice'
For Barnes, April 27, 2011, began like any other day.
She took her grandson to school and returned to her home, apartment 10D, in Rosedale Court to prepare her breakfast, her coffee and her medications.
As the day went on, she saw news coming out of Cullman that a tornado had struck its downtown, heavily damaging the First Baptist Church and the Cullman County Courthouse in addition to several other buildings and stores within a two-block area.
"I usually take a nap," Barnes said, "but I didn't that day. I watched the news."
She watched the news and the skies in the hours that followed and noticed that the air had grown progressively warmer.
"Then I looked at the sky and it looked real funny, like a greenish color — weird," she said, "so I went back in and I closed the door and I lit a candle on my coffee table because it was beginning to get dark and I didn't know if the lights were going to go out or what."
That's when she heard meteorologist James Spann, having turned his attention from Cullman to Tuscaloosa, instruct residents within the area of Greensboro Avenue to take cover.
Still clutching the television remote, Barnes began searching for a place of safety. She reached the hall closet but found it too full. She then considered her bed or possibly the bathtub.
"It was just like I heard a voice say ‘go get in your closet,' and I took off running to my upper bedroom closet," she said. "By the time I got in the closet on top of the clothes in the clothes basket and was beginning to pull the clothes down over my head, that's when I heard this loud noise that sounded like a freight train, and it sounded like it was just bulldozing down stuff.
"I knew that was it. And I began to pray."
'Is there anybody in there?'
Barnes still can't talk about this moment in her life without growing emotional as memories of the fear and confusion began to take hold.
She said that in the terrifying chaos that ensued, she turned to God — "Spare my life. Let me live. Let me be all right. Let my family be all right. Let everybody be all right," she prayed — and, after that, her memory goes incomplete.
"I don't know when it was over. I don't know how long it lasted," Barnes said. "But I know that everything had fallen down on me and I was trapped in there and couldn't get out."
Bricks had fallen around her on both sides and they had become lodged in such a way that she couldn't move them.
She pulled the clothes off her face so she could breathe and began calling for help.
She doesn't know how long she cried out.
And she doesn't know how long it took someone to hear.
"I heard somebody say ‘Is there anybody in there?' I don't remember what I said. But all I know is two guys came to my rescue," she said. "I was still in the clothes basket with the remote control.
"And, I remember, in my right hand was a picture of me."
Her rescuers — John Wedgeworth and Bernard Brackett — pulled her free and helped her to safety, but her shock and pain also keep the exact details of these moments hazy.
Eventually she was checked by paramedics who informed her she was suffering from a sprained ankle and a few scratches. After learning this, Barnes sent the emergency workers away to treat someone who she believed needed it more.
Then she was loaded into a van and driven to the Belk Activity Center in Bowers Park, which had been set up as a temporary shelter for storm victims. There, she found some of her fellow Rosedale Court neighbors who had survived with her.
"We all looked like something that came out of a war zone. Filthy. It was just a bad day," Barnes said. "But I just thanked God for still being here."
‘A better person'
A friend rescued her from the shelter and took her to a home in Tuscaloosa County where, after two days, she had a tearful reunion with her daughter and family.
On the same day that President Barack Obama visited Tuscaloosa to survey the destruction, the emotion of this moment was captured on film by NBC News and reporter Lester Holt.
"They hadn't seen me for two days," Barnes said, "and it was real emotional."
Within a week, Barnes had been relocated to McKenzie Court, where she now resides.
Having lost almost all of her possessions to the storm — and, later, to looters who scavenged items from the wreckage — Barnes had nothing with which to begin her new life.
"It wiped out everything," she said. "I had just the clothes on my back."
Then came Calvary Baptist Church.
On Mother's Day of that year, the church delivered two beds, a living room suite, an entertainment center, cleaning supplies, appliances (including a toaster and new washer and dryer), shower curtains, linens and a coffee maker, among other things.
"That was the best Mother's Day present I'd had in years," Barnes said, smiling at the memory. "Everything is as if I was already living there, and they set up everything.
"That's why I'm so grateful to that church."
In the years that's followed, Barnes presented the men who saved her with certificates of appreciation. She said she had known these men for years, but on the day they pulled her from the rubble she couldn't recall their names. It took awhile, but eventually she was told who they were.
She's also committed more to service.
Having served on the Rosedale Court Resident Council, she transferred that position to the one at McKenzie Court.
And now she's taken on even more responsibility with the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners, in addition to her other volunteer roles.
Barnes' experience has left her changed in other ways, too.
She said storms now draw out a sense of fear, and if the wind picks up, she starts searching for shelter.
"I'm always trying to find my safe place," she said.
Still, she claims her life is better than it was before the storm. She's still here to drive her grandson to school. And she's still here to help the Housing Authority residents.
And there is only one reason for that, she believes.
"If I had still been in my living room sitting on my couch, I would've been crushed," she said. "Put your trust in God. Keep the faith. Read your Bible. Ask him to watch over you, and he will.
"I told him if he'd spare my life, I'd be a better person. This just made my faith stronger and made me want to get even closer to him."
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
April 26th, 2015
SCHOOL NEWS: April 26 - The 2015 Leadership Academy was sponsored by the Office of the President, the Honors College and the Capstone Council at the University of Alabama. UA received hundreds of nominees of high school students before selecting 124 teens for its annual Leadership Academy in April. The Capitol School nominated Melanie Mew as the school's representative for 2015. Melanie is the daughter of Dr. Wendell and Mrs. Norma Mew of Northport.
The third nine-weeks awards includes:
Remarkable readers: Kleshon Abron, Emma Avery, Kaylyn Barnes, Brooke Blazer, Judson Bryant, Kera Craig, Noah Davis, Dalton Fondren, Aaron Graham, Katie Jaggers, Kennadi Kirkland, Sabrina Kock, Tyler McCraw, Trevor McGee, Brinlee Miller, Bree Milligan, Stailee Moseley, Riley Pate, Karma Pringle, JaBoris Sears, Alexis Snow, Jacob Strickland, Philip Stringham, Gabe Taylor and Allie Clare Wilson.
Hard-working students: Will Andrews, Maddy Cain, Lora Catt, Caden Channell, Will Childress, Logan Clark, Tiffany Collins, Isabella Cornelius, Spencer Davis, Samuel Heptinstall, Bella Hubbard, Nathan Jarrell, Cassidy Johnson, Connor Katz, Tylee Kizziah, Caden Lanphere, Keisha Niece, Alyssa Pate, Brandon Ramirez-Tax, Davis Torri, Riley Toxey, Ian White and Daniel Williams.
Special Award (extra hard work learning): Kyalynne Holland.
Marvelous Mathematicians: Ethan Bruce, Janeth Cervantes, Emma Cornette, Diana Cuatra, Bailey Denard, Hunter Dunaway, Camden Duncan, Owen Egan, Devin Fant, Braxton Ferguson, Dylan Garner, Hunter Hollingshead, Josh Kersey, Dillon Massengill, Sean Moncrief, Jacob Nations, Wesley Reid, Aiden Salter, Lexi Sanders, Giselle Smith, Carson Strickland, Taylor Stringham, Aubrey Watters and J'Yden Williams.
Super scientists: Hayden Akins, Bradley Andrews, Isaac Blankenmyer, Ryan Brewer, Joshua Cedatol, Garrett Cumberland, Jolie Dunn, Hayden Elliott, Jackson Farmer, Bradley Audrey Fisher, Drew Frye, Chase Gilliland, Audrey Houston, Jon Allan Lawrence, Kylie Lewis, Ja'Zharea Madison, Sloan Moseley, Emily Myers, David Oglesby, Justin Olin, Jude Oswalt, Emalee Rakowitz, Connor Sanders and Thomas Terrell.
Amy J. Vest, principal of Vance Elementary School, announced that Bailey Denard, a fifth-grader in Ms. Hill's classroom, was this year's Champion of Character from Vance Elementary.
2015 Sakura Art Contest
Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International announced the winners of the 2015 Sakura Art Contest.
Artwork by students in the Tuscaloosa City Schools and from Narashino were featured April 12 at the Sakura Festival at Midtown Village. There were 75 entries from the Tuscaloosa City Schools system and Narashino, Japan. The theme of the contest was “Connecting Communities for Peace and Prosperity.”
Elementary category: Kendra Aina Labinjo, Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary, first place; Hayden Myers, Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary, second place; Kathryn Claire Herbert, Rock Quarry Elementary, third place; Amani Harris, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, honorable mention.
Middle school category: Kotoha Suga, Toho Junior High School, Narashino, Japan, first place; Kanon Nakajima, Toho Junior High School, Narashino, Japan, second place; Mina Hosoi, Toho Junior High School, Narashino, Japan, third place; Ai Hayakawa, Toho Junior High School, Narashino, Japan, honorable mention.
High school category: Ayaka Nakamura, Narashino High School, first place; Nonoka Yonekawa, Narashino High School, second place; Alexis Williams, Paul W. Bryant High School, third place; Alex Hayslip, Northridge High School, honorable mention.
Narashino High School student Ayaka Nakamura's artwork “Bond” will be sent to Washington, D.C., to compete for international recognition in the Sister Cities International organization's Young Artists Showcase.
Three students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School participated in and finished the first Read a Half-Marathon held in conjunction with the 2015 Tuscaloosa Half Marathon.
Fifth-grade students Fernandell Britton and Verdae Smith and third-grade student Queontirria Britton completed the event ahead of many participants.
The concept involved students reading 13 books and writing a short book review for each one, then running a mile during a physical education class. Students “trained” for the event during February and March of this year to create awareness for the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon, which raises money to assist public libraries in the area.
Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa recently inducted students into the Fleur de Lis Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society and the Bishop David Foley Chapter National Honor Society. These students have achieved the high standards set by this prestigious national organization for academic performance, leadership, character, citizenship and service.
National Junior Honor Society inductees include Obinna Alilonu, Brooke Bassett, Brendan Fuller, Layne Goodbread, Amelia Hitt, Sylvie Kang, Ben Midkiff, Elijah Sheffer, Chidimma Alilonu, Samuel Contorno, Eva Farrish, Ronica Peramsetty, Sydney Colburn, Peyton Goodbread and Alex Kincaid.
National Honor Society inductees include Max Bassett, Tristan Boler, Caitlin Diano, Angus Durham, Andie Gamble, Maria Garcia, Alex Giggie, Kelsey Johnson, Anna Kidwell, Danika Louw, Mikaela McDaniel, Roeder McNair, Nikita Peramsetty, Maria Phelps, Anna Pitts, Henry Pitts, Kate Pitts, Anna Presnall, Jordan Richmond, Caroline Sisson and Olivia Wyatt.
Students were also inducted to Mu Alpha Theta. New members include Max Bassett, Tristan Boler, Angus Durham, Maria Garcia, Kelsey Johnson, Grace Anne Lake, Roeder McNair, Abby Mitchell, Nikita Peramsetty, Maria Phelps, Anna Pitts, Henry Pitts, Kate Pitts, Anna Presnall, Jordan Richmond, Reagan Washington, Alexie White and Leah White.
National Latin Honor Society new members are Leah Clark, Jackson Colburn, Marian Cook, Julia Giggie, Olivia Kapera and Haley Thompson.
On April 3-4 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Holy Spirit students Lilly Laubenthal, Mason Gibbs, Isabella Sullivan, Marty Maggi, and Conner Schoolmann received honorable mention in the Alabama Science & Engineering Fair. Sophie Petrovic earned fourth place and Brooke Bassett earned third place. Wilhelmina Durham was awarded first place and received a first place award from the Boeing Co. and a nomination of the Broadcom Masters Competition.
The eighth grade study of ancient Greece culminated in the annual version of the Holy Spirit “Greek Olympic” games. The project places the students into one of six city-states to compete in a series of tasks as they learned about ancient Greece. The students earned grades in science and social studies classes for their projects and tasks completed. The students dressed in costume and the city-state teams tried to earn points for competing in academic games and completing projects about ancient Greece.
Students, parent chaperones, faculty members, Johnathan Loper and Jessica Mitchell took a bus trip to Washington, D.C., from Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa. The group spent the week touring the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and monuments dedicated to the Korean War, World War II and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The group also participated in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and attended Mass at the Basilica. The group also toured the Capitol Building, Mount Vernon and Library of Congress. Time was also spent at the Holocaust and Smithsonian museums and everyone got to see the White House. Each year the 10th-grade class takes the trip to learn about our country's history and government procedures.
The all-A’s honor roll for the third nine-weeks includes Allison Michaela Averette, Thomas Andrew Barnes, Madison Paige Bray, Jada Sheree Buckner, Elizabeth Claire Cameron, Rylee Hermoine Channell, Hannah Rae Church, Caitlyn Rochelle Cordova, Ja’Mya Te’Anna Edwards, Sarah Gayle Franklin, Kelsie Grace Gilliam, Brandon Clyde Henry, Savannah Re Hodge, Savanna Lynn Holmes, Anna Lise Nicole Hughen, Jayci Michelle Jones, Lynzie Marie Karthaus, Logan Lamar Laird, Aeriel Latrista Lee, Savana Grace Marshall, Asia Danielle McMillian, Eboni Brooke Nichols, Charles Ridgeway Payne, Halle Scot Payne, Sarah Kirk Pearson, Christina Rose Peeples, Franchesca S. Perkins, Marion Kaddell Perry, Nolie Celeste Ray, Hannah Grace Reid, Rachel Lin Rose, Sarah Anne Rose, Katie Marie O’dell Smith, Justine Rena’ Spence, Amanda Meggan Stuber, James Earl Terry Jr., Camden Blake Tucker, Peyounce O’neshia Williams, Carson Alexander Woods, Gary Wayne Wyatt II, Joshua Gordon Wyatt Jr., Kayla Nicole Wyatt, Kelli Renee Wyatt, Lawson Shonn Wyatt and Sarah Joyce Wyatt.
Amber Fenimore of Northside Middle School was awarded the Champions of Character Awards for outstanding efforts of students. She demonstrates leadership and character in her home, school, neighborhood and community. Amber is the daughter of Danny and Amelia Fenimore.
On April 2, the fourth-grade class took a field trip to Montgomery. They visited several historic buildings and other landmarks.
The kindergarten class took a field trip to the Children’s Hands-On Museum on April 6.
The kids enjoyed all the eudcational, hands-on activities that were available.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors took a trip to tour the campuses of Shelton State Community College and the University of Alabama on April 9.
The seventh-12th graders took a reward trip for good behavior to City Cafe on April 10. The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders took a trip to reward for good behavior as well. They went to the Fun Factory and to Cici’s Pizza.
During the week of April 13-17, the seventh-11th graders took a trip to New York City. After flying into Baltimore, they toured Philadelphia and saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the famous “Rocky steps” at the art museum.
While in New York, the group visited the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the 9/11 memorial, Chinatown, and saw the Broadway play “Aladdin.”
Elections were held for the 2015-16 Student Government class representatives.
The representatives are NaFayzia Mobley and LaKweili Rice for seventh grade; Hayden Calhoun and Casey Burch for eighth grade; Emily Wallace and Joe Gee for ninth grade; Katelyn Burkhalter and Tre’ Butler for 10th grade; Anna Boswell and Taylor Reed for 11th grade; and Joel Horne and Kelsey Williams for 12th grade.
Brookwood High School represented the state of Alabama at the National Consumers League’s 21st annual LifeSmarts competition in Seattle on April 17-21. The team that calls itself “Bad Assets,” are from left, Brookwood High career technology teacher Jackie Emplaincourt, Ian McKee, Zach Hicks, Jesse Nash, Brady Cain and Scott Trull. It was the first time that Brookwood’s team had participated in the competition that included spelling bee-style questions, written assessments and other events that focused on the areas of personal finance, consumer rights and responsibilities, technology, environment and health and safety. Though the team finished the competition unranked, it began ranked eighth nationally after the first round of competition that featured a video presentation written and produced by the team. Titled “Budget Man” and still available on YouTube, it was scored based on the number of views it received as well as its and content. It amassed more than 3,000 views, earning it a fourth-place overall ranking. Team members Jesse Nash and Ian McKee were named honorable mention for the Safety Smarts Ambassador scholarships, and Brady Cain ranked fifth nationally for his written assessment category in Health Safety.
The annual Tiger Idol contest was held recently. The runner up was Christian Spencer and the winner was Diamond Thomas.
April 25th, 2015
Workshop will help train people in art of caregiving - St. Mark United Methodist Church, 1421 McFarland Blvd., Northport, will host a half-day Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
On-site registration begins at 8 a.m.
The workshop includes three sessions to train people how to provide compassionate caregiving to others who are going through a crisis.
The cost is $15 per person or $50 for a group of four or more from the same congregation or organization.
Participants will learn about the grief process and how to minister to those grieving in the first session.
The second session will introduce the Stephen Series, a system of lay caring ministry that will equip participants to provide one-to-one care.
The third session explains how Christian caregiving is unique and how participants can use prayer and scripture in providing care.
The Rev. John Drawhorn, shepherding minister at the church and Tuscaloosa’s Stephen Ministry leader, said the workshop will benefit anyone involved in caregiving from church members and leaders to counselors, funeral home directors, hospice workers and the like.
“It is probably one of the best tools I’ve seen to train people in what we call Christian caregiving, or compassionate caregiving,” Drawhorn said.
Stephen Ministries is a St. Louis- based, independent, nonprofit Christian educational organization that was founded in 1975 to provide training to lay caregivers.
About 12,000 congregations representing more than 150 denominations have implemented the
Stephen Series, according to
information from www.stephen
Drawhorn said his group, which includes four Tuscaloosa County churches, just finished two and a half years of training, and the benefits have been palpable.
The training has helped ministry leaders in his group, not only with understanding and helping people deal with crises like sickness, grief, divorce and more, but in their own personal lives as well, he said.
“It enlarges the ability to care for people,” Drawhorn said.
He said there is a need for caregiver training among the 156 United Methodist churches in the southwest district.
“There is a lack among organizations who give caregiving training,” he said. “By and large, our congregations do not receive this kind of in-depth training in Christian caregiving, especially outside of the metro areas.”
At St. Mark, in particular, Drawhorn said it is difficult for the church’s two full-time ministers to give one-to-one care to their 1,100 members.
“By training lay people in the art of Christian caregiving, we expand the pastoral staff in caregiving. The more people we train, the better off we are,” he said.
The workshop is for all denominations and anyone who works with those dealing with crises. For more information or to register to attend the workshop, visit the Stephen Ministries website.
For more information about Stephen Ministries, go to www.stephenministries.org
April 25th, 2015
Tim Anderson's speed leading him on fast track to major leagues - Just as it seemed Tim Anderson's world was beginning to slow down, he's decided to speed it back up.
The former Hillcrest shortstop, who was drafted with the 17th pick of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox, spent much of last season steadily shooting up the minor-league ladder.
Last year, Anderson spent time in the Arizona Fall League before receiving a call up to Class High A Winston Salem. Success there led to another promotion, this time to Class AA Birmingham, where he spent the final 10 games of the season less than an hour away from his hometown of Tuscaloosa.
For most, a return home offers a chance to settle in and calm the hectic pace of their surroundings. However, while there is no doubt Anderson enjoys playing in front of friends and family, slow just isn't in his vocabulary.
One look at Anderson, and his speed is obvious. In 15 games this season, he has equaled last year's stolen base total of 10, swiping all his bases without getting caught once.
“I'm definitely trying to add that to my game,” Anderson said. “I want to show my speed and show them I can run. It's working real well. I didn't have many stolen bases last season, so I'm hoping to get more this year.”
In the field, his speed is equally deadly.
Monday night, Anderson wowed the Birmingham crowd as he ranged to a ball on the right side of second base before gliding midway down the line to throw the batter out with ease, a play which led one Barons staff worker to shake his head and say, “Tim Anderson. The man. The Myth. The Legend.”
Plays like that have now become routine for the shortstop who some said was too raw to remain at the position at the next level coming out of college.
“I don't know where that story came from,” Barons head coach Julio Vinas said of Anderson having to switch from shortstop. “I've had him as a shortstop the whole time I've had him, and I think he's going to be a big league shortstop.
“He's got good range, he's got a plus arm, and everything he gets to he catches... He's just a game-changer for you, and those kind of players don't come every day.”
Anderson has hit safely in all but two games this season and is batting .333 with a .348 on-base percentage. The step from Class A to AA is typically one of the hardest jumps for a prospect to make, and Vinas attributes Anderson's intense work ethic to his early success this season.
“He's been really consistent,” Vinas said. “His plate discipline has really improved, and it keeps improving. He's putting barrel to ball right now, and we are tickled to death with what he is doing.
“I'm not surprised. He's an athlete, and he's a very hard worker. With everything he's be doing, no, it doesn't surprise me.”
The early numbers have not gotten to Anderson's head either. Perhaps the only thing that slows down the star shortstop is his family and fans, who he takes the time to interact with before and after every game. Signing a broken bat for a young fan after the game, Anderson is home, he's settled and at ease. But he knows it won't be long until his speed has him on his way again.
“Right now, I'm just taking it one game at a time,” Anderson said. “I'm getting as many at-bats as I can, and staying aggressive and staying focused. It's a grind to come out and compete every day, and if you don't, you will get embarrassed. You can't put your head down, you just have to come back ready to play the next day.”
“I'm shocking myself, so it's a little bit surprising, but it's going real well.”
April 25th, 2015
Aston Martin considering a new plant near Mercedes-Benz - A British automotive publication reported Friday that Aston Martin, the British luxury car maker, might build a new factory near the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance.
The publication, Autocar, quoted Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer as saying: “It is not decided yet, but clearly, with our arrangement with Daimler, it would make sense to look closely at the possible synergies of working close to them in Alabama.”
He said if the plant is built, it will be close to Mercedes' Vance factory, which makes SUVs and sedans.
Autocar said Aston Martin likely would produce a version of the Aston DBX concept car, which could be based on the new Mercedes GLC, being made at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance.
Autocar said the plant, if built, would receive partly completed rolling chassis from MBUSI. It said setting up close to Mercedes would reduce the costs of transporting the rolling chassis and would allow Aston Martin to tap into the existing automotive suppliers in the Tuscaloosa area.
Autocar said the move would also allow Aston Martin to have access to the U.S. market, which is now the biggest market for crossover vehicles and SUVs.
The vehicles could be easily exported to Europe and China “by piggybacking the existing infrastructure that Mercedes has established for its own SUV exports to those markets.”
Aston Martin makes some of the most expensive vehicles in the world. Its vehicles are perhaps best known in popular culture as the sporty, high-powered cars driven by James Bond in the 007 movies.
Daimler AG, the German parent company of Mercedes-Benz, already owns 5 percent of Aston Martin. There was speculation a couple of years ago that Daimler would acquire the British automaker, but Daimler head Dieter Zetsche quashed the rumors. Zetsche said Aston Martin's limited production — then well under 10,000 vehicles yearly — did not fit in with Mercedes, which makes more than 1 million vehicles annually.
The two companies, however, signed a technical partnership in 2013 with Mercedes agreeing to supply Aston Martin with components such as electrical systems.
Mercedes also agreed to support Aston Martin's new generation of models that will incorporate new technology and V8s, according to reports on the technical partnership.
April 25th, 2015
Weather cooperates for crowd participating in 9th annual Mayor's Cup 5K fundraiser - After thunderstorms at dawn on Saturday, the rain quit and the clouds briefly parted. The temperature rose a bit, and a slight breeze helped create nearly perfect weather for the Ninth Annual Mayor's Cup 5K.
The run, which raised money for Tuscaloosa's pre-kindergarten initiative, started at 8 a.m. at Government Plaza downtown. The initiative serves more than 250 youngsters in 21 classrooms in the city school system.
“We got very fortunate,” Mayor Walt Maddox said. “Early this morning, we were uncertain we were going to be able to even host the race. For over 1,000 people to turn out with the threat of severe thunderstorms, it really is humbling.”
Participants walked, ran and jogged through the wet streets of downtown Tuscaloosa, passing Temerson Square and then making their way down Greensboro Avenue to Bryant Drive. They then headed to Bryant-Denny Stadium before heading back downtown via University Boulevard.
Cheerleaders and marching bands kept up the runners' morale as they pushed themselves farther. Even University of Alabama mascot Big Al came out to give high fives at the Walk of Champions.
The weather did slightly affect the turnout, but close to 1,100 people registered for the run, which was on par with past years.
A few vendors set up tents on the muddy plaza showing off their products and other tents had activities for kids while a DJ kept the crowd entertained.
The overall winner of the 5K race was Andrew Wrist with a time of just over 18 minutes. Chris Ammen finished second in less than 19 minutes while Will Gardner completed the 3.1 miles in 191⁄2 minutes.
In a fun run of mascots, Ricky the Recycling Raccoon won by a nose, beating out Big Al, Sparky the Fire Dog and McGruff the Crime Dog.
Nancy Webster and Michelle Robinson said they wanted to participate in the 5Kbecause they like to contribute to local enterprises and they support the mayor.
“I think we've done almost every (race),” Robinson said.
Maddox said he appreciates the support from the community and all the businesses who contributed by being sponsors. Kelsey Colglazier of the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission worked as the sponsorship coordinator for the race.
“Tuscaloosa's pre-K program is one of the best in the state, and it's because of people who support the initiative, such as those that are running in this race,” Colglazier said. “Because of events like this, and those who support the pre-K initiative, we get to serve about 300 academically at risk 4-year-olds every year.”
This was Julie Gresham's fourth year participating in the Mayor's Cup. She felt the race was really well run, and she said she appreciated the encouragement of bystanders along the way, she just wished there were more water stations on the race route. Gresham said she keeps coming back to support the pre-K initiative.
“You have got to get a good start for these children,” she said. “If you don't get a good start, they fall behind quickly.”
Colglazier said the statistics show that those who get to participate in the pre-K program have a track record of being successful and not dropping out of school.
“They identify the academically at-risk kids, they take care of them, and in the future they're successful,” Colglazier said. “It's really important for us to support programs like that so the future is very bright for these children. We're giving them opportunities through programs like the pre-K.”
Over the past nine years, Mayor's Cup 5k has raised more than $150,000 for Tuscaloosa's pre-K program. The amount raised from this year's run will be known in about two weeks after expenses are paid.
“No doubt we've raised tens of thousands of dollars that will go directly into the classroom and make a difference for our children,” Maddox said.
Bill Woodruff works in education and came from Birmingham to run with friends including Susan Windham, who said Maddox's dedication for the event has allowed it to grow over the years.
“It's a great event, and it supports a great cause,” she said. “It also supports fitness in the community, which is important.”
Colglazier said the fun thing about the race is that it is a community event where everyone is making a difference and running for a purpose. Next year's race is tentatively set for Saturday, April 23. Colglazier said there will be some big, new things for the 10th anniversary.
“We've got big things planned, and we're excited to make some of those announcements over the next year,” she said.
April 25th, 2015
Ex-magistrate Gene Boswell. who served for 27 years, dies - During a career that spanned decades as a public servant in Tuscaloosa County, Gene Boswell earned a reputation for fairness and his diligence in keeping up with the always-changing legal system.
Boswell, a well-known and well-respected figure within Tuscaloosa County’s law enforcement and judicial community, died Friday morning. He was 82.
Boswell was Tuscaloosa County’s second warrant magistrate, serving for 27 years after Gov. George Wallace appointed him to the position in 1972.
As magistrate, Boswell’s job was to hear evidence from citizens and law enforcement officers and decided whether there was enough evidence to issue arrest and search warrants. He was a perfect fit for the job, colleagues said, because of his experience as a Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s deputy and the department’s chief investigator.
“Gene was a constant student of the law and was tirelessly reading law books and case reports to stay abreast of the latest decisions,” said Tommy Smith, a former Tuscaloosa County district attorney.
“He was able to combine that legal expertise with his practical training as a deputy sheriff to make sure that arrest warrants and search warrants and the criminal cases related to them were as strong and fair as they could possibly be. He was on call and available virtually 24/7 to work with law enforcement investigators and officers to ensure that evidence was obtained fairly and legally.”
The position was created by the state Legislature in 1971 after the Supreme Court ruled that warrants must be issued by a neutral magistrate and not by law enforcement personnel such as district attorneys, said Tuscaloosa attorney David Andres.
Boswell audited a class at the University of Alabama School of Law and used what he learned to research and stay informed of legal issues, he said.
“He learned how to research the law and then did the research at a time when the law was evolving in the area of searches and seizures. He was the best source of search-and-seizure law for police, investigators, assistant district attorneys and private lawyers,” Andres said. “Gene was a great individual.”
More importantly, Andres said, Boswell had the courage to turn police officers away when they didn’t have enough evidence to warrant an arrest or seizure. He also had the patience and the knowledge to tell the officers what they needed to do to make good cases that would stand up in court.
“Ultimately, they would learn from him,” Andres said.
After retiring from the warrant clerk position in 1999, Boswell worked at the District Attorney’s Office as the law enforcement liaison until December 2013. He worked with law enforcement offices and prosecutors to improve the flow of information, Smith said.
“Thanks in large part to Gene’s hard work and understanding of people, victims, witnesses and defendants were all treated fairly and with respect,” he said. “ Gene also worked with community leaders to keep the flow of information to and from the DA’s office open to the public. He made sure that the public could see that people were being treated fairly.”
The multi-agency Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit and West Alabama Narcotics Task Force were created while Boswell was still serving as the county magistrate. He worked closely with both units to produce strong cases, Smith said, and to decline cases with insufficient evidence to press charges or issue search warrants.
Smith was working as a law clerk in the district attorney’s office when he first met Boswell in 1973.
“I quickly came to admire him as the truly good person that he was,” he said. “No one could have a better or more loyal friend than Gene
Boswell. Gene was a solid rock and a confidant to countless people who sought his advice and perspective on whatever issue they had. He was always willing to patiently listen and then guide them in the right direction. Tuscaloosa County and Alabama are much the better for having had Gene Boswell.”
Boswell is survived by Cherrye Ravenelle Boswell, his wife of 57 years, their three sons and several grandchildren.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
April 25th, 2015
Part of Crescent Lane East closed Monday - Part of Crescent Lane East will be closed on Monday to allow for the installation of new sanitary sewer mains. The work is being done by GFC Construction Inc. as part of the Holt Community Sanitary Sewer Extension Project.
April 25th, 2015
Ala. Highway 14 at bridge overpass to be closed - Alabama Highway 14 at the Interstate 20/59 bridge overpass will be closed by the Alabama Department of Transportation Monday through Saturday. Detour routes will be posted and motorists in the area being advise that they could see about a 30-minute delay.
April 25th, 2015
Stillman to showcase art and performances - Stillman College will present a showcase of art and performances by local high school and college students Sunday.
The Young Artist Showcase begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Wynn Center. The showcase includes students at Central High, Northridge High, Paul Bryant High, Stillman and the University of Alabama.
The showcase includes visual artwork and musical and spoken word performances from the high school students. Stillman’s choir and dancers from UA will also perform. The Actor’s Charitable Theater will present a scene from the play “Dreamgirls.”
The event benefits the Tuscaloosa chapter of The Links’ Vision for Haiti — the Gift of Sight. Those who attend are asked to bring a pair of prescription eyeglasses to donate for the charity, which will be sent to Haiti.
April 25th, 2015
COLLEGE NEWS: April 26 - Spikey W. Howard Jr. of Northport has become a member of the Phi Sigma Theta National Honor Society at the University of Alabama. The honor society recognizes undergraduate academic achievement. He is the son of Spikey and Deidre Howard of Northport and is a graduate of Holy Spirit Catholic High School.
Noah Ferguson, a freshman at the University of Alabama, has accepted membership in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Membership is by invitation and is based on grade-point average and class standing for freshmen and sophomores in college. He is the son of Carol Ferguson and is a graduate of Northside High School.
A number of students and staff members from the University of Alabama were honored at the Public Relations Council of Alabama’s annual conference.
Award winners were:
Jessika White, communications specialist, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations: Judge’s Choice Award, Betsy Plank Day 90 Facts Team; Medallion Award, Betsy Plank Day 90 Facts Team; Award of Excellence, Betsy Plank Day Team; Award of Excellence, 2nd Annual West Alabama Food and Wine Festival.
Edith Parten, communications specialist, Culverhouse College of Commerce: Award of Excellence, Fall 2014 Executive Magazine (Edith Parten and Sherry Lang); Award of Merit, Fayard Accounting Brochure.
Stephanie Kirkland, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences: Award of Excellence, Award of Merit: Arty Party (Becky Florence, Amanda Kachler, Stephanie Kirkland, Denise Kloster).
Also honored were:
Capstone Agency, a student-run firm housed in the College of Communication & Information Sciences. It received Medallion Awards for Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, NASCAR Instagram; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, NASCAR Twitter; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, NASCAR Vine; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, The Plank Center’s Betsy Day 2014 Twitter; PR Plans and Programs, LessThanUThink Sacred Heart University Implementation; PR Plans and Programs, The Plank Center’s Betsy Day 2014 Implementation; PR Plans and Programs, Tuscaloosa City Schools
Publications/Writing, Alabama Power Newspaper Article; Publications/Writing, Alabama Power Platform Online Magazine Power Plan; Publications/Writing, Alabama Power Press Release; Publications/Writing, LessThanUThink #Responsible Resolutions Blog; Publications/Writing, LessThanUThink Pre-Concert Event News Release.
Awards of Excellence for Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, LessThanUThink: Orange County Twitter; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, LessThanUThink: Sacred Heart University Twitter; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, NASCAR Facebook; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, NASCAR Plansbook; PR Plans and Programs, Alabama Power Plansbook; PR Plans and Programs, LessThanUThink Rising Tide Student Tailgate; Publications/Writing, Alabama Power Feature Story; Websites, LessThanUThink Website.
Awards of Merit for Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, LessThanUThink: Orange County Facebook; Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities, LessThanUThink: Sacred Heart University Facebook; PR Plans and Programs, LessThanUThink Orange County Implementation.
Michael Ferguson has received the 4.0 Academic Award at the Birmingham Southern Football banquet. He was one of only two players to receive this award. He played both junior varsity and varsity football as a freshman, was a starting offensive linesman as a sophomore and junior and played center as a senior. He will graduate this year with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
April 25th, 2015
Bloomin' all over - The Arc of Tuscaloosa's spring plant sale is being held weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the next couple of weeks at The Arc, 1330 University Blvd. E. The plants have been raised by consumers at The Arc as part of its horticulture therapy program.
April 25th, 2015
Credit union regulators slam Alabama One - State regulators have ordered major changes at Alabama One Credit Union, slamming the Tuscaloosa-based credit union’s lending practices, its management and its board of directors.
The Alabama Credit Union Administration, a state agency that regulates state-chartered credit unions, said Alabama One’s officers, directors, committee members or employees “have engaged in unsafe or unsound practices and violations of law, rule or regulation, have committed fraudulent or questionable practices in the conduct of the credit union’s business and have violated conditions duly imposed in writing by the (ACUA) administrator.”
The agency issued a cease-and-desist order, demanding that the credit union make major changes in its management, training of its directors and lending practices, including its business loans. The order was issued to the credit union on April 2 and made public by the state agency on Friday.
In the order, the ACUA also required Alabama One to “engage an independent third party to conduct a comprehensive loan review of all loan transactions involving Danny Ray Butler, including but not limited to any alleged ‘straw buyer or borrower’ transactions involving Mr. Butler.”
Butler, who once owned a Tuscaloosa used car dealership, had a number of other business ventures in Tuscaloosa County and in 2012 had almost $25 million in loans from Alabama One to finance those ventures. Butler is now serving 36-month prison sentence at the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution for check kiting and defrauding lenders out of $3 million. He also has filed for bankruptcy.
The ACUA also ordered Alabama One to “recruit and retain qualified management with the qualifications and experience commensurate with assigned duties and responsibilities at the credit union. The order specifically mentions the positions of chief executive officer, senior lending officer and chief operating officer.
It did not say the people now holding those positions should be fired.
In an email response to The Tuscaloosa News, Alabama One’s in-house attorney Paul Toppins said, “there have been no changes in management or the board of directors at Alabama One as a result of the order, and no changes are contemplated by the credit union.”
The statement noted that John Dee Carruth remains Alabama One’s manager and CEO.
Toppins also sent a copy of a lawsuit filed by Alabama One against Sarah Moore, the ACUA administrator. The suit, filed in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon, asks the court to void Moore’s actions as head of the ACUA because there is no record of her being sworn in as the administrator or of her posting a required $25,000 bond for holding that post.
Moore was out of her office on Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
She was named ACUA administrator by Gov. Robert Bentley on April, 15, 2014.
The Alabama One lawsuit claims that because no official bond was filed for Moore, she legally cannot hold that office as of June 5, 2014, and that any actions she took since that date are null and void.
In its April 2 cease-and-
desist order, the ACUA ordered that all members of Alabama One’s board of directors receive training in lending, operations and compliance with laws, rules and regulations applicable to credit unions of Alabama One’s size as well as specific training in the duties, responsibilities and obligations of the board.
It also ordered Alabama One within 30 days to develop and implement an exit strategy to reduce its member business loan concentration. It furnished the credit union a confidential addendum listing certain borrowers who were not identified in the order made public Friday. The order also had to hire a qualified appraiser to appraise undeveloped land and buildings on property in the confidential memorandum.
The 18-page ACUA order gave the credit union 60 days to “implement monitoring and reporting procedures for suspicious activity reports and currency transaction reports to ensure that all appropriate credit union employees are aware of the procedures, including accurate record-keeping, form completion and the detection and reporting of known and/or suspected criminal activity.”
The order also put restrictions on making business loans and told Alabama One to develop a plan to improve its funds and liability management and other financial matters and not to pay any bonuses to employees or credit union officers without the state administrator’s approval.
Moore and officers from the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency that regulates credit unions, met with Carruth and Alabama One’s board of directors on Thursday at the credit union’s headquarters in Tuscaloosa.
John Fairbanks, a spokesman for the NCUA in Washington, D.C., said in an email response to questions from The Tuscaloosa News on Friday that Alabama regulators are in charge of matters pertaining to Alabama One since it is a state-chartered credit union.
He also said the accounts of credit union’s member “remain insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.”
He did not respond to a question of whether Alabama One is the subject of any investigation, hearing or formal open- or closed-door discussion by NCUA or its board.
April 25th, 2015
Alabama One Credit Union says order is part of conspiracy - Alabama One Credit Union attorney Paul Toppins said Friday that the Tuscaloosa-based credit union is disappointed that the Alabama Credit Union Administration has chosen to release information about a disputed action.
“Alabama One’s financial condition is excellent, and the deposits and accounts of the members are completely safe. The order entered by the ACUA is unwarranted, and the publication of an order that has been disputed seems designed deliberately to hurt the credit union. Among other things, the ACUA took issue with the credit union following an order from a federal court,” he said.
Toppins said he believes the credit union will be vindicated in its appeal of the action.
“In 2014, a small group of attorneys heavily lobbied the ACUA and other government officials to convince them to take regulatory action against the credit union,” he said. “Alabama One has discovered that these lawyers held secret meetings in Montgomery with regulators and other officials in furtherance of their plan. These attorneys were representing parties who had sued the credit union, but were losing their cases in the courts.
“For that reason, they instead sought to win by forcing a change of management at Alabama One. The credit union has been seeking to uncover the content of communications between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the officials. The state took this action against Alabama One only after the credit union obtained an order from a court directing the lawyers to turn over 100 email communications they had sent in an effort to avoid the judicial process. The plaintiffs’ lawyers have appealed that order to the Alabama Supreme Court in an attempt to further delay the full exposure of their campaign to manufacture a regulatory situation at the credit union.”
Tuscaloosa-based Alabama One is one of the state’s largest credit unions with around 60,000 members and more than $600 million in assets. It operates offices at 11 locations. The credit union formerly was known as the BFGoodrich Employees Credit Union.
April 25th, 2015
Lab tests confirm that brownies at district attorney's office were laced with marijuana - BAY MINETTE | A laboratory test has confirmed that a batch of brownies given to an Alabama prosecutor’s staff contained marijuana.
Two people who work for Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon got sick earlier this month after eating brownies at the office.
Dixon said a temporary court reporter gave her staff the treats. The worker has not been identified.
WKRG-TV reported that Dixon said a lab test found that THC, an intoxicating chemical found in marijuana, was in the brownies.
Dixon said she doesn’t know if anyone can be charged for the incident. She’s asked a district attorney from another county to examine the case.
“It was scarier than you would’ve thought,” spokeswoman Tammy Toler told AL.com last week. “You don’t expect something like that to happen to you at your office. (The people who got sick) were not the only ones who consumed (the brownies).”
April 25th, 2015
Spring commencement at University of Alabama slated May 1-2 - More than 4,700 degrees will be awarded next weekend as the University of Alabama holds spring commencement at Coleman Coliseum.
Degrees will be awarded over two days — May 1 and May 2.
At 6 p.m. May 1, students in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, College of Education, College of Human Environmental Sciences and Capstone College of Nursing and will receive their degrees.
There will be three graduation sessions on May 2.
At 9 a.m., students in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Social Work will receive their degrees. At 1:30 p.m., Culverhouse College of Commerce and College of Engineering will receive their degrees. At 5:30 p.m., students in the School of Law will receive their degrees.
April 25th, 2015
Mayor's Cup 5K to close some downtown streets Saturday - Some downtown streets will be closed Saturday for the Mayor’s Cup 5K.
According to the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation, these areas will be closed from 6 a.m. until noon:
-- 21st Avenue between University Boulevard and Eighth Street.
-- Sixth Street between 21st Avenue and 23rd Avenue.
-- Seventh Street between 21st Avenue and 23rd Avenue.
The 3.1-mile race begins at 8 a.m., rain or shine, at Government Plaza in downtown Tuscaloosa. The event will be family- friendly, with a kid zone featuring games and music by a local disc jockey.
After the 5K, Sparky the Fire Dog, McGruff the Crime Dog, Ricky the Recycling Raccoon and Big Al will have a mascot race.
Proceeds will be used to fund the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative.
Registration is $25. For more information about the race, go to www.tuscaloosamayorscup.com.
April 25th, 2015
American Christian Academy, Hale County baseball both win to force Game 3 - MOUNDVILLE | American Christian Academy freshman Carson Crowe did more than just cross home plate.
He kept the Patriots' playoff hopes alive.
Crowe scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Hale County to give the Patriots a 6-5 victory, and force Game 3 in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs between the Area 6 rivals. The Wildcats came from behind to win Game 1, 9-5.
Game 3 is scheduled for today at 1 p.m.
“At first we'd been talking about if there was a passed ball that I've got to get home and I've got to be more aggressive, so when it happened I couldn't believe it,” Crowe said. “I hesitated for a second, and I saw my coach sprinting down the line.
“He beat me home, actually, and when I got there I just realized we had won the game and jumped up with excitement.”
As soon as Crowe stepped on the plate, his teammates burst out of the dugout in celebration. Caleb Squires came in as relief and picked up the win on the mound. Deacon Medders picked up the loss, and struck out 10 batters in seven innings pitched.
“With one out, we were being a little more protective, but with two outs, anything that got away we were going to be a little more aggressive,” ACA coach Eric Dubose said. “Carson got a good jump and was able to get in there and so he did a good job. There is a ninth grader coming through in the clutch.”
This was the first win for the Patriots (21-12) against No. 1 ranked Hale County (28-4) this season. During area play, Hale County edged out ACA 2-1 and 7-6. The victory also marked the Wildcats' first loss to a team from Alabama since its season opener.
“They are a good team,” Hale County coach Jeff Cameron said. “We knew at the beginning of the season that this collision course would be here, and tomorrow we'll find out.”
In Game 1, ACA took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, but Hale County scored a pair of runs in the fourth inning, and seven more in the fifth inning for the win.
Kyle Cameron picked up the win. He struck out five batters in seven innings pitched.
A pair of Wildcats outfielders collided in the second inning, and center fielder Parker Dare left the game with a bloody nose and did not return.
Reach Joey Chandler at joey.chandler@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.
April 25th, 2015
Strong storms could develop Saturday in the Tuscaloosa area - Rain is likely Saturday as weather forecasters predict a slight risk of a severe storm in the afternoon and evening.
The National Weather Service predicts a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday in the Tuscaloosa area, most in the early-morning hours.
From 3 to 9 p.m., forecasters say there’s a 50 percent chance of storms, with a possibility of gusty winds, hail or an isolated tornado developing.
April 25th, 2015
Moody Radio South wins Public Broadcast Media award - Moody Radio South in Tuscaloosa received the Public Broadcast Media Award this month for its work on caring for the elderly.
The statewide award, presented April 9 by the Alabama Gerontological Society, is given to an individual, organization or business in the field of broadcast journalism that’s made significant contributions to helping the elderly through broadcasting, according to a news release.
“Moody Radio South did an outstanding job recording public service announcements used across the state dealing with issues affecting the elderly,” said Doris Ball, who is an employee with the Alabama Department of Human Resources’ adult protective services division and who nominated Moody Radio for the award.
“Their panel show, ‘Seat at the City Gate,’ that dealt with elderly care encompassed many panelists that were experts in their field.”
Because of the station’s public service announcements and its “Seat at the City Gate” broadcast on the topic of elderly care in the fall of 2014, DHR patient referrals in Tuscaloosa increased by
9 percent, according to the news release.
Rob Moore, station manager of Moody Radio South, said they’re honored to receive the award and glad they could help.
“One of the things that was a blessing to us is that we’re able to help the elderly by offering programming that in a practical way was helping the elderly and their caregivers,” he said. “People in their 40s and 50s have to make some difficult decisions about that. We were trying to give them some information about how to take care of themselves (and) their safety and make them aware of programs that are out there that can help them free of charge like Focus on Senior Citizens.”
“Seat at the City Gate,” named for how people in biblical days would sit at the gates of cities to learn the latest news, addresses a variety of issues from affordable housing, crime, drug abuse, sports, Christian topics and more. The show airs on the first Thursday of every month from 7 to 8 a.m. on 88.9 FM.
April 25th, 2015
Seniors to bid University of Alabama farewell with show - Students raise hands to the rafters, while “All These Things That I’ve Done” by the Killers fills the compact Allen Bales Theatre. Those graduating dance in the center, while underclassmen encircle them. As a group they bounce to the beat, chanting along with the refrain: “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”
It’s an ode to the graduating seniors and a tradition of Alpha Psi Omega’s Guerrilla Theatre, held in the Allen Bales Theatre of Rowand-Johnson Hall on the University of Alabama campus.
Alpha Psi Omega is the national theater honor society, with local members drawn from UA’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Once a month during school semesters, the Gamma Gamma cast of Alpha Psi Omega hosts Guerrilla Theatre, a 10-act cabaret. Performers are given 10 minutes each to work in. Some sing. Some act. Some dance. Some perform original material or combine mutiple skills.
Virtually anything can happen, so much so that former Alpha Psi Omega officers imposed two still-standing rules: no full-frontal nudity and no animal sacrifice (an early performer swallowed a goldfish on stage; he was banned).
What began in the early 1990s as an open artistic space for theater and dance students has grown into a popular late-Saturday-night out. UA’s campus paper The Crimson White once cited Guerrilla Theatre as the No. 1 thing to do before you graduate; experience Crimson Tide football was second. The themed event — Diva Guerrilla, F. Scott FitzGuerrilla, DraGuerrilla — often sells out.
Saturday's Guerrilla Theatre, the last of the 2014-2015 academic year, is Senior Guerrilla, honoring those leaving the Capstone. Senior performers will get an extra five minutes to leave their hearts on the stage one last time, and the usual 10-act limit will be extended to include all those graduating. The show will begin at 10 p.m., with doors opening at 9:30. Mature content will be included, and the show will run later than typical performances. A $2 donation is suggested.
For many, it’s a chance to reflect on their college past and consider their future.
The Allen Bales Theatre holds a special place in the heart of senior Eric Marable Jr.
“It’s been a space where I’ve faced fears and gotten to express myself and make real connections with audiences. We got to cry together, rejoice together and grow together. I want this last performance to be a ‘thank you’ to all of it,” Marable said.
Senior Taylor Schafer has been acting since she was 12 but didn’t start taking performance seriously until 16. The college years have changed her.
“When you’re getting ready to pack the car for the first time, people tell you that you will be changed in ways you can’t imagine when you step onto your college campus,” she said. “And they’re right. I have learned that I need to make mistakes and try uncomfortable things if I intend to push forward, in hopes of making something unique and unseen. I have learned that difficult, sweaty and sometimes mentally exhausting work can lead to (the) most amazing breakthroughs.”
At Get On Board Day freshman year, she met Drey Mitchell, an Alpha Psi Omega member. “I just remember thinking ‘This group sounds amazing. This is where I should be, this is what I’m going to do in college,’ ” Schafer said.
“And I’ve never regretted a moment since. Alpha Psi Omega has made my college experience what it is, and I’m so grateful.”
Senior Kaylee MacKnight transferred from Birmingham-Southern College to finish her bachelor’s degree in musical theater at UA. With Alpha Psi Omega, she found where she belonged.
“The biggest thing Alpha Psi Omega has given me is a family,” MacKnight said. “These people are my home away from home. My support, my rock. They are the people that, since I transferred, I grew with, that I was vulnerable with. These people know me inside and out, more than anyone. They truly are my family.”
April 25th, 2015
St. Paul's to host archbishop of Anglican Church of North America - Foley Beach, the archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, is coming to Tuscaloosa on Sunday to preach at St. Paul's Anglican Church.
Archbishop is the highest position in the hierarchy of the Anglican Church. Foley, who was appointed archbishop in June 2014, oversees the Anglican Church in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Other archbishops within the denomination oversee the church in different parts of the globe.
“I'll be there Sunday morning for preaching and confirming people who join the church. I'll be teaching Sunday school at 9:30 a.m., and the service starts at 11 a.m.,” Beach said. “We're still in the season of Easter, so my sermon will be on how the Resurrection impacts our life today.”
The Rev. Lanier Nail, pastor of St. Paul's, said it's an honor to have Beach visit their congregation, especially since this is his second time doing so in the three years since St. Paul was founded.
“Between last year's visit and this year's visit, our bishop was elected the archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America,” Nail said. “So this year, our bishop is visiting again, but this time he's not just the bishop of our diocese, he's the bishop of our entire province.
“It's part of his duties as a bishop to check on, encourage and help each priest under his charge. It just so happens that this year he's visiting as the archbishop. It's an honor and treat for us.”
Beach said he's been involved in Christian ministry since he was in college. He became a youth pastor, went to seminary and was ordained as a priest in 1992. He became bishop over the Diocese of the South in the Anglican Church in 2010 and became an archbishop last year.
Looking back, Beach said becoming the archbishop of North America isn't something he could have ever imagined for himself.
“I was born and raised in Atlanta,” he said. “I come from a broken home, and my mother was a hippy. She was arrested for drugs when I was 12. I was a street kid all that time on the streets of Atlanta.”
But Jesus turned his life around, and he's been serving Him ever since.
The Anglican Church in North America unites 112,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States, Canada and Mexico. On April 16, 2009, it was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 25th, 2015
New group seeks the rights to stage "To Kill a Mockingbird" in Monroeville - BIRMINGHAM | A new group plans to produce a stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in author Harper Lee’s hometown, where leaders fear a stalemate over rights to the play will kill an annual production that lures thousands of visitors annually.
An actor in the play, Connie Baggett, said Friday that a new nonprofit group is working to obtain rights to the production and hopes to continue putting on “Mockingbird” with the same amateur actors who’ve been involved for years.
The effort comes as Illinois-based Dramatic Publishing Co. is refusing to sell performance rights beyond this year to the group that has staged the play for years, the Monroe County Heritage Museum. The museum has been involved in legal disputes with Lee in the past.
Baggett, a friend of Lee’s attorney Tonja Carter, said the new group will be locally based. Organizers hope to perform the play at the old Monroe County courthouse that helped inspire “Mockingbird” and served as a model for the screen version of Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racial injustice in the South in the 1930s, Baggett said.
“I think this will be a conclusion that everyone is happy with,” Baggett said.
The play is currently in its 26th season in Monroeville, which was the template for the fictional Maycomb in Lee’s book.
The performances this month and next are sold out. Excitement over the upcoming publication of Lee’s second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” helped tickets sell out faster than normal.
The president of the museum board currently in charge of the production, Tom Lomenick, said he’s not sure why the licensing company has refused to extend the rights past 2015. “All their lawyers are telling them to say right now is that no one in Monroeville will have a license in 2016,” he said.
The president of Dramatic Publishing didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Lee sued the museum in 2013 over “Mockingbird” souvenirs sold in its store after the museum opposed her application for a federal trademark for the title of her book. The dispute has since been settled.
Lee’s upcoming book is set 20 years after lawyer Atticus Finch — based upon Lee’s attorney father — defended a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. In “Watchman,” Finch’s daughter, Scout, returns to her childhood home as an adult.
April 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox touts city's recovery from deadly 2011 tornado - Rebuilding is moving faster than Tuscaloosa officials believed it could nearly four years after the devastating tornado of 2011.
That was part of the message delivered Friday by Mayor Walt Maddox during a meeting with reporters as part of the city’s anniversary events for the storm that struck four years ago Monday.
The mayor also highlighted challenges that the city has faced since recovery efforts began.
As examples of progress, Maddox pointed to the $425 million in commercial building permits and $184 million in residential building permits that have been issued for areas within the 5.9-mile path of the storm since 2011.
Citywide, almost $723 million in commercial investments and $455 million in residential construction have been made in Tuscaloosa in the past four years.
Additionally, more than $24.7 million in public funds have invested in rebuilding city facilities and constructing new infrastructure and amenities, and more projects totaling about $115.3 million are planned.
One of the planned projects the mayor highlighted is the $2.8 million technology center for Alberta next to the Tuscaloosa Police Department’s East Precinct, which also was rebuilt after the storm.
This 5,000-square-foot facility is expected to have a coffee shop, child activity center and training room alongside a digital library that will contain no physical books. Similar models are already operational in several cities across the nation.
“I believe it’s going to be one of the most diverse and active facilities ever built in the city’s history,” Maddox said, comparing it to the type of facility that will benefit generations of future Tuscaloosa residents, much like Lake Tuscaloosa has since its impoundment in 1970.
The mayor said it has been a conscious effort to cluster government facilities — such as the East Precinct, the new Fire Station No. 4 and the Alberta School of Performing Arts — near one another as a means of fostering private economic investment in Alberta.
This also includes development of the Tuscaloosa City Walk, a recreational path that will traverse the tornado’s path and include technological upgrades, such as enhancements to the city’s fiber optic network and wireless Internet access.
“We can’t go back to the way things were,” Maddox said. “We have to build to the standard that’s coming in the next five or 10 years from now.”
As for the rebuilding challenges, Maddox mentioned the large number of rental homes that were destroyed, which, in the relocation of survivors, swallowed much of the city’s conventional rental stock, as well as the significant number of businesses that faced rebuilding challenges because they were operating in buildings that were constructed before the enactment of local, state and federal zoning codes.
“In six minutes,” Maddox said, referring to the amount of time the EF-4 tornado took to cross through the city,
“40 years of state, local and federal regulations caught up with many businesses.”
To assist the businesses, the city created a number of financial aid programs with some of the federally appropriated money that it received for disaster relief. The Commercial Revolving Loan program, for example, has granted almost $3 million in interest-free loans for a number of small businesses that have returned or rebuilt since the storm.
The mayor also said the floodway that cuts through the recovery zone hampered some rebuilding efforts because the city’s participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Mitigation Assistance Program prevents construction in areas prone to flooding.
Maddox also described what he considered a lack of federal aid compared to what other states had received in the past when struck by natural disasters.
Louisiana, for example, received about $5 billion in federal assistance after it was struck by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In contrast, Alabama initially offered about $97 million — Tuscaloosa received $16.6 million in that first round — after the 2011 tornadoes that ripped across the state.
“Maybe it was timing, maybe it was political influences,” Maddox said, “but the promised pledges of funding and the actual receiving of that funding have been two completely different things.”
Since then, the city of Tuscaloosa has been awarded a total of $60.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but that’s not close to the amount of remaining unmet needs that city officials claim are still out there.
Robin Edgeworth, director of the city’s Recovery Operations, said there is about $521 million in outstanding housing, infrastructure, economic revitalization and environmental degradation needs that the city still faces.
To combat this, the city is participating in HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition for CDBG funds ranging from $1 million to $500 million. The national competition was open to just 67 state and local governments that were part of presidentially-declared major disasters in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Edgeworth said the application for the first phase of the competition has been submitted and that she expects Tuscaloosa to easily make it to the second phase. An announcement on the results of this final phase could be known by December.
But of the $60.5 million in federal aid that’s already been awarded, Edgeworth warned that the two-year time constraints placed on the spending of the money will mean that multiple projects could be going on at once. This could lead to traffic delays and road closures, and she asked for patience in the months and years to come.
“The projects are just going to continue to increase over the next year to two years,” she said. “I hope we can all look forward to what’s coming, but it is the price that we have to pay to get the end results that we’re going for.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
April 25th, 2015
NeedtoBreathe begins amphitheater's fifth season - NeedtoBreathe kicked off the fifth season of the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater as the band also kicked off its Tour de Compadres along with Ben Rector, Colony House, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.
While a steady rain fell during the day, Thursday night was dry with a slight chill in the air for the show.
The concert had an enthusiastic crowd, which includedUniversity of Alabama student Claire Forman.
“I went for NeedtoBreathe,” said Forman, who added that she's been to a handful of shows in past amphitheater seasons, with the last show she attended being the Lumineers in 2013. “If I had to pick an act of the whole year, this would be the show because I love NeedtoBreathe.”
Nashville band Colony House opened the concert with a five-song set as audience members began to settle into their seats.
Next up was Drew Holcomb, who took the stage wearing a blue suede suit and a cowboy hat. Holcomb quickly caught the attention of the audience, making them shout as he started plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar.
“So many great friends and good bands,” Holcomb said about his fellow touring artists.
Ben Rector received a warm welcome and thunderous applause from the audience, as he sat in front of a piano. With the spotlight on him, Rector opened with single “White Dress”, inviting the crowd to sing the chorus with him.
Switching to guitar, the singer-songwriter sang “When I Am With You” before returning to his piano to belt out some of his other hits.
Rector debuted a new song “The Men Who Drive Me Places,” a song he said was inspired by a cab driver named Danny he met on the way to an airport. When Rector announced that he would be singing the final song of set, the audience begged for more. The singer-songwriter cheered the crowd by reminding them that the closing act was just minutes away.
House lights illuminated the stage as the curtain slowly fell to the ground, revealing several strobe light fixtures, and NeedtoBreathe entered the stage to open with “State I'm In.”
“Alabama, ya'll ready?” lead vocalist “Bear” Rinehart screamed to the crowd.
After a rendition of “Oh, Carolina”, Rinehart, with guitar in hand, left the stage into the back section of the amphitheater, perching on one of the platforms.
“We never played for a venue this size before and you guys are making it pretty fun,” Rinehart said before playing a solo rendition “Difference Maker.”
Closing with the song “Keep Your Eyes Open,” the band made a swift exit from the stage, but quickly returned for an encore with Rector, Colony Hill and Holcomb and the Neighbors jammed together in one giant collaborative musical number.
The show closed with one last song by NeedtoBreathe.
“I'm thankful it didn't rain,” Rinehart said before closing the show. “But if it did, we would've played this song earlier.”
NeedtoBreathe closed with an acoustic four-man- harmony of “Washed by the Water.”
April 24th, 2015
Suspect sought in Temerson Square shooting - Authorities say the man accused of shooting a rifle in Tuscaloosa’s downtown entertainment district should be considered armed and dangerous.
Investigators have warrants to arrest Sterling Bradford Rowe, 27, on charges of attempted murder and second-degree assault. He is accused of firing shots early Thursday morning and striking a woman as she was walking down the sidewalk along Greensboro Avenue at Temerson Square.
The woman, 22, was struck in the arm and has been treated for her injury, which wasn’t life-threatening.
The shooting happened after an argument turned physical at Kennedy’s Bar on Fourth Street just as the bars were closing at 2 a.m. One of the men involved in the fight, Alex Kenyon Henderson, was arrested Thursday, said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander Lt. Kip Hart.
Henderson, 26, is charged with third-degree assault.
Anyone with information about Rowe is asked to call the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit at 205-464-8690 or CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
April 24th, 2015
Man injured when rear-ending school bus Thursday - A man was injured Thursday when he rear-ended a school bus on Jack Warner Parkway, police said.
The school bus was stopped at the red light at Marr’s Spring and Jack Warner Parkway when the driver of an Isuzu Rodeo hit the bus from behind, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a Tuscaloosa police spokesman.
The Rodeo continued sliding on the pavement and struck a vehicle that was stopped in the in the left lane, he said. All three vehicles were damaged. None of the 21 students were injured. The students boarded another Tuscaloosa City Schools bus.
The Rodeo driver was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center for injuries that weren’t life-threatening.
April 24th, 2015
Beatles piano sells for nearly $100,000 - A Beatles-themed piano signed by the band’s two remaining former members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, was sold on April 16 at auction on www.charitybuzz.com for $98,888.
The money will benefit the East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity Veterans Build in Slidell, La., which will put one veteran and their family into an affordable home.
Members of the organization were transporting the piano through Tuscaloosa in October 2014 to get the piano signed at McCartney’s concert in Louisville, Ky., when their cargo truck experienced some mechanical problems.
Mechanics at Bobby Park Truck & Equipment on Highway 69 were able to fix the truck in time to get them to their destination.
The piano was a restored 1890s Kingsbury upright with each member of The Beatles and names of their songs sprouting from scroll designs painted in a black, white and red color scheme.
April 24th, 2015
"To Kill a Mockingbird" production moving from author Harper Lee's hometown - MONROEVILLE | The Alabama hometown of "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee will no longer host annual plays based on the classic novel.
Monroe County Museum Board officials were told Thursday that there is no agreement between the organization and Dramatic Publishing Co., which licenses the play, to continue operating in the small city of Monroeville, about 100 miles south of Montgomery.
The play features townspeople portraying characters from Lee's classic story of racial injustice in the Deep South.
Board President Tom Lomenick told AL.com that officials from the publishing company told him they would grant the play's rights to a group in Kentucky. Lomenick said the museum will likely lose staff and services along with the money the annual production typically brings to the town.
The production helped fill motels, restaurants and shops in the southwest Alabama town of 6,300.
April 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City and County schools dismissed Friday - Tuscaloosa City and County schools will not hold classes today, a scheduled day off that could have been used in the event that the systems lost a day of classes because of the weather.
Classes will resume in both systems on Monday.
April 24th, 2015
Reese Witherspoon to narrate audio of new Harper Lee book - NEW YORK | Harper Lee's upcoming novel, the year's most talked about literary release, will have some added star power for the audio edition: Reese Witherspoon.
The Oscar-winning actress will narrate Lee's "Go Set a Watchman," HarperCollins announced Thursday. Lee, 88, stunned the world by agreeing to the release of "Go Set a Watchman," scheduled for July and her only published work besides "To Kill a Mockingbird," which came out in 1960. The new book was completed before "Mockingbird," but takes place in the 1950s, 20 years after the setting for her first novel. Both books feature Atticus Finch, Scout and other famous literary characters.
Witherspoon, a Louisiana native, said in a statement that she considered it "an honor and privilege to give voice to the Southern characters" she had loved since childhood.
April 24th, 2015
Lawsuit against Nick Saban's daughter dismissed - BIRMINGHAM | A Tuscaloosa judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the daughter of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, bringing an end to a legal fight between sorority sisters that began after a night of partying in Tuscaloosa.
Attorneys for plaintiff Sarah Grimes and for Kristen Saban would not say whether there had been a settlement of the lawsuit, which was set for trial in early August. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Roberts dismissed the case just after 4 p.m. Thursday, ordering each party to pay their own legal costs.
“We are pleased that this case is over,” said Josh Hayes, a lawyer for the coach’s daughter.
Stephen Strickland, who filed the request on behalf of Grimes, declined to comment.
The one-sentence dismissal motion did not give a reason for the move, but it said each woman should pay her own legal costs.
Grimes sued the coach’s daughter in Tuscaloosa County in 2012 over a fight they had while attending college in 2010. The lawsuit said Grimes suffered lasting injuries during the brawl, which evidence showed began over a Facebook post after a night of drinking.
Arguments during a hearing and court documents showed the two women got into a fight at Kristen Saban’s apartment after Saban posted “No one likes Sarah yayyyyy!” on Facebook.
Grimes banged on Saban’s bedroom door demanding that the post be deleted, and the two were soon in a fight that included pushing and hair pulling.
Grimes portrayed Kristen Saban as the aggressor. Grimes said she suffered serious injuries, including a concussion and nasal problems that required surgery. But a judge in Tuscaloosa cited Alabama’s “stand your ground” law in ruling that Saban only defended herself against Grimes.
Nick Saban and his wife, Terry Saban, were not parties in the lawsuit, which sought an unspecified amount of money.
Grimes and Kristen Saban, one-time close friends and members of Phi Mu sorority at Alabama, have both graduated from the university.
April 24th, 2015
Local woman is featured on TLC's 'Bride by Design' finale - A pair of Alabama's designing women meet on tonight's season finale of TLC's “Bride by Design,” creating the perfect gown for Tuscaloosa's Laura Beth Oliver Agee.
The graphic designer and owner of Druid City marketing agency found not just
the custom fit, but a new friend and business associate in Heidi Elnora Baker, a
Birmingham-based boutique-gown designer whose work can be found in London and in 32 stores nationwide.
Baker is at the heart of “Bride by Design.” The show grew from a meeting with a producer in Los Angeles who was intrigued by Baker's nationally renowned studio in Alabama called Heidi Elnora Atelier.
“I told her I wanted to do something that is very positive and light, and showed Alabama as a wonderful place to be,” Baker said. “I hope to shed a positive light, with my company and the show, of the beauty here, the amazingly talented people, whether it be in fashion, food, art or music or whatever.”
A Birmingham native, Baker studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design. After a two-week internship in New York City proved Big Apple life wasn't for her, she moved to Atlanta, designing children's clothing for Carter's and becoming a contestant on the 2005 second season of “Project Runway.”
A car accident brought her back home: She was hit by a drunken driver. Her mother, a nurse, helped her recuperate. Baker began to ponder: “Am I going to be able to chase my dreams in Alabama?”
Being “a fighter; the kind of girl you can't keep down,” she launched the boutique in the Magic City, where she later met the gentleman who became her husband, Jeff Baker.
Agee's story is somewhat similar, though she stayed in the city where she earned her degree in public relations and graphic design, at the University of Alabama, five years ago.
“I found a way to use my creativity and my artwork to sell products,” Agee said. “I found a way to do what I love and make a living at it.”
In January 2014, Agee began looking for a wedding dress and saw something she liked at Heidi Elnora Atelier. The show had just begun shooting; “Bride by Design” premiered last summer.
“They filmed for the pilot; it didn't show for the pilot, but became part of the series,” Agee said.
In each episode, Baker meets with a new bride-to-be; the show follows the full process. Baker makes sketches, shows fabrics, then tries basic fittings. Then it's on to colors, trims, lace, textures, beading, “all those last-minute touches to make it exactly what the bride wants,” Baker said. “Then it's fit, fit, fit, fit, fit until it's perfect.
“Then, hopefully, that's it,” she said, laughing.
Agee's dress became 100 percent silk, in one of Baker's signature silhouettes, with a custom train billowing down the back and a scoop neckline.
“I had an inspiration picture of kind of what I wanted,” Agee said. “It wasn't exactly right, but it was in the realm of what I wanted.
“This was a great experience, and the dress ended up being exactly what I wanted. It was fun to work with her, and develop a relationship with her. Heidi and I have become really good friends, and we've also developed a business relationship. I help her with her marketing materials (designing her custom hang-tags), and I help her with Birmingham Fashion Week. We talk probably twice a week.
“She makes everyone feel special.”
Baker said she's glad the first season concludes with her new friend.
“I love Laura Beth; she is awesome. I'm a big supporter of her because she became an entrepreneur in Tuscaloosa,” Baker said. “And she's so stinkin' funny; I'm glad we're finishing the season with her.”
Innisfree will host a viewing party for Agee's episode tonight, from 8-10 p.m., but Baker will be working a trunk show in Baton Rouge, so won't be able to attend.
“We'll probably be texting each other during the show,” Baker said, laughing. “That's what we usually do.
“I'm excited for her to have her big debut.”
April 24th, 2015
Historical figures come alive during tour at University of Alabama - The University of Alabama’s first Living History Festival will give visitors the opportunity to “meet” several important figures in the history of the state and the university on Saturday during afternoon tours on campus.
Tours will run every 30 minutes from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $4, and tickets can be purchased Saturday at Smith Hall.
The tour begins at Smith Hall, where participants will meet actors portraying Eugene Allen Smith, the hall’s namesake and a former UA professor and state geologist; Sylacauga resident Ann Elizabeth Hodges who was struck by a meteorite while sleeping on her sofa: William Bartram, an 18th-century naturalist who explored and cataloged flora and fauna in the Southeast; Michael Tuomey, Alabama’s first state geologist; Winnie McGlamery, a 20th-century paleontologist and a key figure in the state’s oil and gas exploration; and Walter B. Jones, a state geologist and the founder of the Jones Museum at Moundville Archaeological Park.
The tour also includes stops at the Gorgas House Museum, Morgan Hall, Tuomey Hall, the ROTC Building, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, Round House, Clark Hall, Manly Hall, Garland Hall and
Oliver-Barnard Hall.
At the Gorgas House, participants will meet Josiah Gorgas, UA’s seventh president; his wife, Amelia Gorgas, UA’s first woman librarian; and their son, Gen. William Crawford Gorgas, a sanitary expert who worked on the construction of the Panama Canal and helped eradicate yellow fever globally after World War I.
April 24th, 2015
Federal officials call on Alabama One Credit Union - Government regulators met Thursday with officials at Alabama One Credit Union at the Tuscaloosa-based credit union’s headquarters.
At least two representatives from the National Credit Union Administration’s Atlanta office, and Sarah Moore, head of the Alabama Credit Union Administration, were present.
NCUA representatives declined to say why they were there and referred a Tuscaloosa News reporter to the federal agency’s Office of Public and Congressional Affairs for comment. That office could not be reached Thursday evening.
When asked about the meeting, John Dee Carruth, Alabama One’s CEO and manager, said in an email that the “credit union routinely meets with its regulators from time to time. These meetings are always scheduled in advance. No one arrived unannounced.”
Alabama One is one of the state’s largest credit unions with more than $600 million in assets and 60,000 members. It has been in the spotlight for the last few years in part because of loans made to former Tuscaloosa businessman Danny Ray Butler, who is in federal prison for check kiting and defrauding lenders out of more than $3 million. Butler and credit union officers also have been named in several civil suits brought by credit union members who alleged they lost money in deals set up by some officials at Alabama One.
Butler filed for bankruptcy late last year, and according to documents in his bankruptcy file, he owed Alabama One almost $25 million for loans in 2012. That debt has since been reduced.
In a related development, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Jennifer Henderson, who is hearing Butler’s bankruptcy case, ruled Thursday that Alabama One could foreclose on two Butler properties. The foreclosure proceeding could start in 14 days.
Alabama One holds the mortgages on both properties.
The properties include a 108-acre gated estate at 14404 Holly Springs Road in Fosters that includes a lake-house ranch, a saloon and large cabin that can be rented for weddings, parties and events held by fraternities and sororities. Bankruptcy filings indicate Butler owes more than $4 million to Alabama One on that property.
The other property, known as Woodhaven, is 5 acres off U.S. Highway 11.
Butler’s fiancee, Paige Howard, who has his power of attorney while he is in prison, issued a statement after the bankruptcy hearing saying, in part:
“As a representative of Mr. Butler, I would say the bankruptcy court ruling today was disappointing but not unexpected. When a person is serving time in prison, like Danny Butler is, there is only a limited amount of ‘property management’ that person can do. So I can understand how Judge Henderson came to her decision, at least based on the facts she had before her today.
“But the real story of how Danny Butler ended up in a federal penitentiary has not yet been told. While there’s no doubt he made some poor choices, there’s also no doubt that a lot of people took actions, made decisions and advised Danny Butler about what to do and how to do it. When all the facts come out, I predict there will be a lot of surprises and a lot of surprised people.”
Reach Patrick Rupinski at patrick.rupinski@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0213.
April 24th, 2015
Hillcrest baseball battles back to force decisive game with Chilton County - The Hillcrest High School baseball team battled back in Game 2 of its doubleheader against Chilton County to stay alive in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs. The teams will play the third and deciding game today with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.
Hillcrest dropped the first game 4-0, and won Game 2, 3-1, in eight innings.
Patriots closer Cole Frederick turned a big double play in the bottom of the eighth in Game 2. Chilton County had no outs and two runners on base when Frederick stepped in to relieve Chad Hunter Wyatt. He made a diving catch on a bunt, and gunned it to second base in time to catch the leadoff runner, who was already headed down the third base line.
“I was running after it, and it kept on going and I felt like it was just going to stay in the air,” Frederick said. “I just dove for it hoping I'd get it, and I got it somehow. Everybody was screaming, too, so I threw it back to second and got the other guy.”
Frederick struck out the next batter to retire the inning and pick up the save. Wyatt pitched seven innings, struck out 10 batters, and gave up one run and four hits for the win.
“That was huge. That was a great play,” Hillcrest coach Mark Garner said. “We expected the bunt right there, but you've still got to make an out and make a play, and him making the pitches first of all, and getting it to two strikes — and then him bouncing off of the mound to make plays — he's an athlete and he made an athletic play.”
Hillcrest trailed 1-0 heading into the sixth inning, and tied things up off of an RBI double by Brad Shaw.
Hunter Kamplain led off the eighth inning with a double, and after Franklin laid a bunt down the third base line, Kamplain scored off of a throwing error to give Hillcrest the lead. Shaw hit an RBI single to send Franklin home and give the Patriots a 3-1 advantage.
“That was big. It was a great at-bat for Hunter and it was a great hit,” Garner said. “He did a great job, and that really put us where we needed with some guys on bases, and again, we were getting our guys a few opportunities, and knew at some point someone had to step up and get that to happen. It had to happen, especially him getting that extra base hit.”
Chilton County scored all four of its runs in Game 1 in the top of the seventh. Tolliver Gilliland picked up the win in seven innings pitched. He gave up four hits and struck out three batters. Justin Smith picked up the loss.
“It was a great way to battle through,” Garner said. “It was one of those nights where both of their pitchers were doing a great job. The guys were hitting balls and getting on base. We just couldn't come up with a clutch hit when we needed it. Inning after inning, we had guys in scoring position, but we never came up with that hit.”
Reach Joey Chandler at joey.chandler@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.
April 24th, 2015
Hillcrest High School honors fourth-grader recovering from dog attack - Ten-year-old Titus Wilkerson stood on the pitcher’s mound.
He pulled his arm back as far as he could.
He launched forward, sending a ball as big as his hand flying toward Hunter Kamplain, a sophomore catcher for the Hillcrest High School Patriots baseball team.
The team chose to honor Titus by selecting him to throw the first pitch in the Patriots’ Thursday night playoff game against Chilton County High School.
That first pitch also symbolized another small step in Titus’ long road to recovery.
Titus was recently released from Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham. On April 1, he was attacked by a neighbor’s 2-year-old pit bull as he was walking home from his bus stop after school.
According to a lawsuit filed against the dog owner, Titus suffered cuts and puncture wounds to his face, head, abdomen and legs. He will have severe, permanent scarring and will require extensive medical treatment, Titus’ lawyer, Paul Patterson, told The Tuscaloosa News.
Capt. Gary Hood of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit told The News that Titus has already undergone one surgery.
“We actually wanted to go see him in the hospital,” said Mark Garner, Hillcrest’s varsity baseball coach. “We had a plan to go take a bus up there and visit him one afternoon, but they weren’t taking visitors.”
Garner said one of his players, Hunter, 16, had the idea to have Titus throw the first pitch Thursday night.
“Hopefully, this will lift his spirits after coming home from the hospital,” Garner said.
Titus, a fourth-grader at Englewood Elementary School, attended the game with his mother and two brothers. One brother attends Hillcrest Middle and the other brother attends Hillcrest High.
The family declined to comment.
The team gave Titus a Hillcrest T-shirt, a cap and a baseball signed by its members.
Hunter said the team’s goal this year is to become more involved in the community, and letting Titus, who plays on the Taylorville Little League baseball team, pitch was part of that initiative.
“It shows that somebody actually cares for him to be able to do this, and everybody comes out and supports him,” Hunter said. “It’s just a chance to show the community that we’re involved and we care about other people.”
April 23rd, 2015
Judge dismisses lawsuit involving Saban's daughter - BIRMINGHAM | A Tuscaloosa judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the daughter of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, bringing an end to a legal fight between sorority sisters that began after a night of partying in Tuscaloosa.
Attorneys for plaintiff Sarah Grimes and for Kristen Saban would not say whether there had been a settlement of the lawsuit, which was set for trial in early August. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Roberts dismissed the case just after 4 p.m. Thursday, ordering each party to pay their own legal costs.
“We are pleased that this case is over,” said Josh Hayes, a lawyer for the coach’s daughter.
Stephen Strickland, who filed the request on behalf of Grimes, declined to comment.
The one-sentence dismissal motion did not give a reason for the move, but it said each woman should pay her own legal costs.
Grimes sued the coach’s daughter in Tuscaloosa County in 2012 over a fight they had while attending college in 2010. The lawsuit said Grimes suffered lasting injuries during the brawl, which evidence showed began over a Facebook post after a night of drinking.
Arguments during a hearing and court documents showed the two women got into a fight at Kristen Saban’s apartment after Saban posted “No one likes Sarah yayyyyy!” on Facebook.
Grimes banged on Saban’s bedroom door demanding that the post be deleted and the two were soon in a fight that included pushing and hair pulling.
Grimes portrayed Kristen Saban as the aggressor. Grimes said she suffered serious injuries, including a concussion and nasal problems that required surgery. But a judge in Tuscaloosa cited Alabama’s “stand your ground” law in ruling that Saban only defended herself against Grimes.
Nick Saban and his wife, Terry Saban, were not parties in the lawsuit, which sought an unspecified amount of money.
Grimes and Kristen Saban, one-time close friends and members of Phi Mu sorority at Alabama, have both graduated from the university.
April 23rd, 2015
Temerson Square brawl leads to shooting - A woman was shot early Thursday morning as a bar fight spilled out into the streets of the crowded Temerson Square area in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Shots were fired as a crowd of bar patrons left the bars in the area of 23rd Avenue and Fourth Street, said Lt. Kip Hart, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander.
The woman, 22, was struck in the arm and has been treated and released from DCH Regional Medical Center. The shooter has not been apprehended.
An argument between two people inside Kennedy's Bar escalated to a brawl involving several people outside the bar around 2 a.m., Hart said.
Someone with a connection to one of the two people involved in the argument retrieved a gun from a vehicle and began shooting, he said.
"It appears that the female who was shot had no connection to anyone involved in the fight," Hart said.
Numerous shell casings were recovered from the parking lot. Investigators were still interviewing witnesses Thursday morning.
Anyone who was in the area or has any information is asked to call Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit investigators at 464-8690 or CrimeStoppers at 752-STOP (7867).
More information will be released at a 1 p.m. news conference.
April 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa City BOE fills 2 of 6 vacancies - Two of the six open administrative positions in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system were filled Tuesday by the city’s board of education.
The vacant Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School principal position, open since June 1, was filled by Christi Butler, an assistant principal at Center Point Elementary School in Jefferson County.
The open executive director of human resources position — vacant since June 24 — was filled by Deron Cameron, a director of curriculum and instruction for the Tuscaloosa County School System and former principal of University Place Elementary in the city system.
Superintendent Paul McKendrick said he’s pleased with the hires.
“Deron Cameron left and is coming back,” McKendrick said. “I look for him to do a great job because he knows the system. With Lean Frog (an education consultant company that helps school systems improve efficiency) being involved with human resources, that’s going to be a good combination.
“With (MLK), I think it’s a great hire. She’s a young lady coming out of Jefferson County, Center Point Elementary School. She’s also worked in Opelika. Her references are impeccable. A lot of skills related to reading and elementary principalship. Her principal said she basically runs the building where she’s assistant principal at.”
Butler has been the assistant principal at Center Point Elementary since 2005. Before that, she was a reading coach at Center Point from 2004 to 2005, a reading specialist at Carver Primary School in Opelika from 1998 to 2004, a part-time instructor at Sylvan Learning Center in Auburn from 1999 to 2003 and an electronic data systems business analyst in Montgomery from 1995 to 1998.
She has a master’s degree in elementary education from Auburn University and is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership from Samford University.
Butler said taking the helm at MLK is a great opportunity that she’s looking forward to.
“I have worked in two schools that are very similar to Martin Luther King Jr., and I look forward to a great new beginning there,” she said. “I have read and heard great things about Martin Luther King Elementary. I’m looking forward to working with teachers, parents and stakeholders to provide a quality education for the school’s students.”
Cameron has been director of curriculum and instruction in the county school system since 2013. Before that, he was principal of University Place Elementary from 2006 to 2011, principal of University Place Middle from 2010 to 2011, acting principal of Eastwood Middle from 2005 to 2006, assistant principal of Eastwood Middle from 2002 to 2005 and a fourth-grade teacher at Ella Grant Elementary in Mobile County from 1998 to 2002.
He has a doctorate from the University of Alabama.
“It’s exciting to come back to the Tuscaloosa City Schools system,” he said. “Such a wonderful school system. I’m leaving a fantastic system. I can’t say enough good things about the county system taking a chance on me. All the way from Dr. (Elizabeth) Swinford and the board members, I can’t say enough about them. I’m fortunate for that, but also fortunate to come back to the city school system.
“I want go in and build relationships with principals and teachers. We get the right people in these positions to help students move forward. That’s always been the mission and vision of the city schools.”
The four unfilled administrative positions are assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, director of elementary education, director of secondary education and principal of the Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
April 23rd, 2015
Centreville is hosting rodeo in honor of teen killed in crash - Every year, when Barbara Simpson puts on her jeans for the rodeo, she hooks a black buckle decorated with a bronze, bucking bull and flowers with blue jewels at their center on her belt.
But the buckle isn’t hers.
It was her son’s first championship buckle he won in 2010 before he was killed in a car accident on Father’s Day that year at 19 years old.
Simpson, from Centreville, said the buckle makes her feel closer to her son, and she’ll wear it this weekend to the fifth annual T.J. Mc-
Kinney Memorial Rodeo named in his honor.
“I always wear his belt buckle. To me, it’s like a testimony for him,” Simpson said.
McKinney was a bull rider. He began riding about two years before he died, Simpson said. It was his best friend, Blade Elliott, who rides bareback, who drew McKinney to rodeo.
Elliott said he met McKinney when they were 8 or 9 years old playing Little League baseball.
“I’ve known T.J. throughout my whole childhood,” Elliott said. “Everyone pretty much knew T.J., so it was a big deal for everyone in the community when he passed. To actually have a rodeo in his name is great for the community.”
Elliott, who now rides professionally, said the two had planned to go professional together. He said that for him, it’s not the rodeo in McKinney’s honor that keeps his best friend’s memory alive.
McKinney is with him at every rodeo he attends across the country, Elliott said.
“I think a lot about where I’d be right now if he was still here. I always feel like when I ride, no matter where I am, he’s along with me,” he said.
Every now and then, Simpson said she pulls out the DVDs she has with hundreds of pictures of her son riding bulls in his cowboy garb, but it’s the rodeo where she feels closest to him.
“I feel like a part of him is there,” Simpson said. “For me, the rodeo keeps his memory alive.”
The rodeo takes place every year on the last weekend in April, which falls near McKinney’s birthday on April 28.
The rodeo, located on Belcher Street in Centreville between McDonald’s and the Bibb Medical Center, begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It includes mutton busting, bull riding, barrel racing and more. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Kids ages 5 and younger are admitted free.
April 23rd, 2015
Needtobreathe to open Tuscaloosa Amphitheater's new season - Like other brother-fronted bands such as Kings of Leon and the Avett Brothers, Needtobreathe came to rock 'n' roll later in life, due in part to a conservative Christian upbringing.
“There's something about being Southern and also being pastor's kids that is a strange occurrence in music today,” said Nathaniel Bryant Rinehart in an interview with The Tuscaloosa News before a 2011 Bama Theatre show.
Needtobreathe kicks off its 2015 summer tour with a show Thursday at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
Rinehart goes by Bo, and his brother has a nickname too: “Me and Bear, we were pretty isolated. We grew up on a campground. For three-fourths of the year, no one was there. We were the rednecks running around with our shirts off until sundown; come home whenever you were hungry or tired. We explored a lot together; we were imaginative together.”
Bo's and Bear's folks ran a church camp in rural South Carolina, and yet, all were big Crimson Tide fans.
“I don't really know how it happened,” Bo Rinehart said. “I just don't know if my parents were running out of names for children, but it's official, we're into it. We've got a younger sister who was going to be Paul, but they just thought Paulina would be wrong.
“We're massive Alabama football fans.”
The Rineharts' dad was a trumpet player for people such as Glen Campbell and Roy Clark, but kept the kids away from rock.
“I think it was the thing to do if you're a preacher, telling people not to listen to certain secular music, the language, the whole sex-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll lifestyle,” Rinehart said. College changed things.
“That's when the gates opened: We started going to concerts, just trying out everything new,” he said.
When the brothers teamed as Needtobreathe, Bear brought rocking influences from Bruce Springsteen to Otis Redding to the Black Crowes, and melded them with Bo's preferred world-music explorers such as Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel.
Atlantic Records signed Needtobreathe in 2005, and “Daylight” came out in early 2006. The band's biggest successes have come on Christian-rock radio, but 2009's “The Outsiders” broke into mainstream Billboard charts, with singles “Hurricane” and the title song rising into alternative-rock charts.
Needtobreathe followed with albums including “The Heat,” “The Reckoning” and last year's “Rivers in the Wasteland,” its title taken from Isaiah 43:19, which went to No. 1 on Bilboard's Christian Rock and Alternative Rock charts. Christian-rock radio made hits of singles off that disc including “The Heart,” “Multiplied,” “Wasteland” and “State I'm In.”
The band's new single “Brother” features Gavin DeGraw. Its video recently premiered on VH1. Other TV appearances supporting the 2014 disc include “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan.” and “CBS This Morning Saturday.”
Opening tonight's first show of the 2015 “Tour de Compadres” will be Ben Rector, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Colony House. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.com and the Amphitheater box office. Prices range from $30 to $65.
April 23rd, 2015
A house in 100 hours: Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa marking milestone - All hands are on deck this week to build one Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa house. Workers and vol-unteers are taking shifts during the workday and evenings from about 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to complete it.
The three-bedroom, two-bath house started as a concrete slab at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and had siding and sheetrock up by 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
It is the 100th house the Tuscaloosa organization is building since its founding in 1987, and the volunteers plan to build it in 100 hours.
“It’s a milestone. It’s like finishing a marathon,” said Kevin Lind, who has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa for about 12 years.
“It’s just an accomplishment reaching that point to know that we’ve had that much success in Tuscaloosa,” he said.
Ellen Potts, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa, said the organization had built 47 houses from 1987 until the April 27, 2011, tornado.
The organization celebrated the building of its 50th house since the tornado earlier this year.
“Prior to the tornado, we were a small organization that built one to two houses a year,” with funding from local corporations, churches, civic organizations and other private donations, Potts said.
After the tornado, donations came from around the country and the world, and when they ran out, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds came through, she said.
Potts said the house, located on Juanita Drive in Alberta in the tornado recovery zone, is the last house that will be funded by that grant.
“Now we’re kind of in a situation where ... because we had the private and the public disaster funding, I think the local population has, to a certain extent, stopped giving,” Potts said.
The organization will have to rely more on private donations now. Potts said she hopes to get more funding from the city when additional disaster recovery funds come in later this year in order to build on the 13 remaining lots on Juanita Drive.
Potts said the tornado turned Juanita Drive around.
Before the tornado about 7 to 8 percent of all crime in Tuscaloosa occurred on Juanita Drive, she said. She said the crime rate was high because the majority of homes on the street were rental properties.
“We have been able to transform this neighborhood because of home ownership. If you own your own home, the population is more stable in the neighborhood. They’re invested in it. They want to keep up their houses,” Potts said pointing out neighboring manicured yards.
“The neighborhood looks nice and you see kids riding their bikes in the afternoon after school. I don’t think that would have happened prior to the tornado. I don’t think this was the kind of neighborhood mamas and daddies would have felt comfortable sending their kids out to play in the yard.”
The organization builds homes and sells them at market value with zero percent interest on a 30-year mortgage in an effort to provide low-income families with a decent place to live.
The 100th house will be dedicated to the Walker family Monday on the fourth anniversary of the April 27, 2011, tornado.
“I’m honored and blessed to be able to share this with Habitat,” said Tiffany Walker, the new homeowner.
To get the job done in 100 hours, the organization needs more local volunteers to work the evening shift. To volunteer, call office manager Cassie Davis at 205-349-4629 or email cassie@habitattuscaloosa.org. No experience is necessary, but volunteers must be at least 16 years old.
April 22nd, 2015
Greensboro man gets 5 years in fatal mower crash - A Greensboro man who caused a fatal crash with a man on a lawn mower in 2013 was sentenced Wednesday to serve five years in prison.
Anthony Lorenzo Ward, 59, drove a Ford Taurus that struck Billy Ray Davis on May 31, 2013. Davis was driving a John Deere lawn mower in the paved median of Alabama Highway 69 South. Ward fled the scene and was arrested later.
Davis, 70, died from the injuries at DCH Regional Medical Center a week later.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Jim Roberts sentenced Ward to a 20-year sentence, with five years to be served in prison and the next five on probation. He wouldn’t serve the full 20-year sentence unless he violates probation.
“There are no winners in this case,” said attorney Daniel Pruet, who defended Ward. “Mr. Davis’ family lost their father and friend and Mr. Ward’s family is also losing him while he is incarcerated. Mr. Ward is heartbroken over the role that he played in causing Mr. Davis’ tragic and untimely death. Though there is nothing that he can do that will bring Mr. Davis back, Mr. Ward hopes that his accepting responsibility for his actions will serve as a small step in helping those who lost so much begin to heal.”
Ward entered an open-ended guilty plea in December, meaning that he pleaded guilty without making a sentencing agreement with prosecutors.
“Mr. Ward hoped to serve his time in the custody of the Tuscaloosa County Community Corrections Program where he could continue helping others learn from this terrible ordeal, but he understands the court’s position,” Pruet said. “He is terribly sorry for the loss suffered by Mr. Davis’ family.”
A grand jury indicted Ward, a U.S. Army veteran, on a manslaughter charge in November 2013.
“Mr. Davis failed to yield the right of way to Mr. Ward as he attempted to cross the roadway,” an Alabama state trooper wrote in a court document filed in 2013. “Mr. Ward was unable to make a safe stop and struck the lawn mower on its right rear side with its front bumper. Upon striking Mr. Davis on the lawn mower, Mr. Ward fled the scene of the crash.”
Witnesses described Ward’s car to Alabama State Troopers, who located him shortly after the crash on 37th Street East.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
April 22nd, 2015
Stillman College to host free concert, art event - Stillman College will present a spring band performance Thursday and a showcase of art and performances by local high school and college students Sunday.
The Stillman Concert Band’s spring concert begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Wynn Center’s Warner Presentation Room. The program for the free event includes “The Circus Bee” by Henry Fillmore, “Mannin Veen” by Haydn Wood, “Overture for Winds” by Charles Carter, “Chant Rituals” by Elliot Del Borgo and “Armed Forces on Parade” by Andrew Balent.
The Young Artist Showcase begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Wynn Center. The showcase includes students at Central High, Northridge High, Paul Bryant High, Stillman and the University of Alabama.
The showcase includes visual artwork and musical and spoken word performances from the high school students. Stillman’s choir and dancers from UA will also perform. The Actor’s Charitable Theater will present a scene from the play “Dreamgirls.”
The event benefits the Tuscaloosa chapter of The Links’ Vision for Haiti — the Gift of Sight. Those who attend are asked to bring a pair of prescription eyeglasses to donate for the charity, which will be sent to Haiti.
April 22nd, 2015
Alabama state parks director to delay park closures - MONTGOMERY | Alabama parks scheduled to close next month will stay open a little while longer.
Alabama state parks director Greg Lein on Wednesday said that Gov. Robert Bentley has instructed him to delay closing four parks and two golf courses on May 1.
Earlier this month, the park system announced plans to close as many as 15 of the state’s 22 parks due to budget cuts.
The park system is operated by user-generated revenue and by money from the state’s General Fund. A 2016 draft budget would cut around $10.4 million in state funding from the park system.
A statement from Lein said the park system will soon take “extreme measures” if new revenue isn’t passed.
Bentley’s plan to raise $541 million in new tax revenue has received little support from lawmakers. State Auditor Jim Zeigler suggested this week that the state should eliminate the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, privatize state audits and use the department’s $13 million appropriation to fund state parks.
April 22nd, 2015
Attention graduates: Send us your photos for annual graduation section - High school seniors in West Alabama are invited to submit their photos of school activities to be included in The Tuscaloosa News’ annual graduation section, to be published in late May. Send photos by May 8 of dances, classroom activities, school plays, sporting events and other significant high school events to Robert Sutton at robert.sutton@tuscaloosanews.com. Call 205-722-0234.
April 22nd, 2015
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