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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-10

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Popular costumes this year for furry friends - More than one in 10 Halloween celebrants — 12.9 percent — planned to dress their pets in costumes this year, according to the National Retail Federation, the trade association for retailers.
The federation’s 2015 Top Costumes Survey found that 80 percent of pet owners surveyed who will dress up a pet will choose a pumpkin for their furry friend’s costume.
It said people celebrating Halloween plan to spend an estimated $350 million on fashionable and fun costumes for their pets.
According to the federation’s survey, top pet costumes this year are:
1. Pumpkin
2. Hot dog
3. “Batman” character
4. Devil
5. Bumblebee
6. Dog
7. Cat
8. “Star Wars” character
9. Bowties/bandanas/fancy collar
10. Shark
11. Princess
12. Minion
October 31st, 2015
Network of area churches join together to assist those in need, fight homelessness - A new effort to eradicate homelessness has swept Tuscaloosa.
During an event called Homeless Connect, the homeless can receive medical, dental, vision and legal assistance, among other things, for free.
Homeless Connect is a national project with a mission to end homelessness by eliminating the barriers homeless people face and connecting them with organizations in the community that can provide needed services.
Love in the Name of Christ (Love INC) is a network of churches in Tuscaloosa County that works with local schools and service organizations to address needs of local residents, fill gaps and help people who are struggling financially, emotionally or spiritually. It held the first Homeless Connect in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and helped more than 200 homeless people.
Cathy Vanderford, executive director of Love INC, said she heard there were more than 300 children in Tuscaloosa City Schools alone who are homeless. She said she knows there are bound to be many more in Tuscaloosa County, and she wanted to launch this project here.
"We have a 10-year plan to end homelessness," she said.
More than 35 local agencies offered services, including physical exams, HIV screenings, flu vaccinations, haircuts, warm meals, eye glasses, dental assistance, legal assistance related to municipal court proceedings, medications and more.
Those who received services Saturday were also given the contact information for each agency so they could get follow-up services.
Homeless people were transported to Central High School where their names were entered into a database so Love INC could follow up with them after the event.
Then each person was guided through the gymnasium to receive services before receiving a hot meal, prayer and a backpack of essential items.
Regina Stewart was one who went through the process, but she participated as a volunteer as well.
"I've seen a lot of people homeless, and I didn't think Tuscaloosa had that many homeless people. I've seen people who need medical help and people who just needed personal hygiene," Stewart said. "You see those people, and your heart goes out to them, and you feel blessed."
But Stewart said it's not just about receiving services. She said the event was also about showing love through greetings, smiles and even hugs.
"This experience has taught me a lot — that no matter who a person is or what a person does, there's a place in someone's heart for them," she said. "It makes a great impact on a person — both the volunteers and the homeless person."
October 31st, 2015
Grant will help students adjust in group that aids those with intellectual disabilities - The University of Alabama's CrossingPoints program for students with intellectual disabilities plans to expand its size and scope using a five-year, $2.5-million federal grant awarded earlier this month.
The grant will allow the program to expand its existing transition program for intellectually disabled students ages 18 to 21 years old in the Tuscaloosa area by increasing the spots available for students and adding additional support staff. The grant also will allow the university to start a new summer bridge program in 2016 that will help prepare students for college.
"I can't think of a place where the university could better spend money than these kids who are so often forgotten," said Frank Larkin.
Larkin's daughter, Heather, who has Down syndrome, is a graduate of the transition program that helps students with significant intellectual disabilities prepare for adult life, including employment, living as independently as possible and social skills.
"It helps them to be more independent and to have confidence in being independent," Larkin said.
The Larkins' story is similar to those of other families in the program who have seen their children grow in the three-year transition program.
Yvonne Giles of Tuscaloosa has watched her daughter Jamaica, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, grow more independent. The 20-year-old, who attended Oak Hill School before being accepted into CrossingPoints, now has a network of friends and acquaintances other than her family who take her on outings.
"She feels like she is 20. She feels like she is a regular person. They don't make us feel like she isn't a regular person," Giles said.
The skillset for adulthood can often only be learned through experience and contest, said Kagendo Mutua, a professor in the department of special education and multiple abilities and the program's director.
"That is one of the things that CrossingPoints does really beautifully," Mutua said.
UA's College of Education was awarded the $2.5 million grant at the end of September from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education.
This semester, CrossingPoints will focus on hiring new personnel and preparing to take on new students for the spring semester, Mutua said.
The partnership between the university and the city and county school systems, which currently serves 18-20 Tuscaloosa-area students in its transition program, will add as many as 10 spots, Mutua said.
The students get access to university facilities and spend time with peers in academic, social, recreational and workplace settings.
"A lot of our kids don't have opportunities outside of what they are provided in school," said Bruce Prescott, director of special education for Tuscaloosa City Schools.
Lenetta Tubbs, moved from Perry County to Tuscaloosa in search of services for her son, Cameron, who has a mild case of Down syndrome.
"Here, he doesn't feel like he is a number. He feels included. He is more involved. As a matter of fact, he is involved as much as possible," Tubbs said.
The program has helped her son, whose affectionate nature makes him prone to share hugs with nearly everyone he meets, improve his social skills.
"I have just seen a world of difference in him," she said.
CrossingPoints will add four fully-funded graduate assistantships and hire undergraduate students part time as mentors for CrossingPoint students, Mutua said.
The program's benefits are twofold, Prescott said. The CrossingPoints students are prepared for life after school while the college students, especially the graduate assistants, gain experience working firsthand with children like those they will serve as future educators.
Mutua envisions the graduate assistantships for doctoral students, but said the part-time mentorships would be open to all disciplines. The mentors help CrossingPoints students experience life on campus outside the scripts of classes and academics.
Mutua hopes the inclusive experience with the CrossingPoints students will foster future advocacy as the mentors graduate and later move into leadership roles in their communities.
"These are disability advocates who we are growing right here on campus," Mutua said.
The program will also be able to better use an existing on-campus apartment to teach independent living skills such as cooking.
The summer bridge program will be for students with mild to moderate disabilities. Students will spend the summer semester living on campus learning the skills necessary to pursue higher education.
"At the time, it's the soft requirements of college that might be problematic for them," Mutua said. "It is the things that no one sits you down to teach you."
The students would focus on skills such as using a computers, contacting advisors and registering for classes.
The program would include specific CrossingPoints classes and introductory courses meant to acclimate students to college courses, Mutua said.
The students would also receive follow-up support which they could contact remotely to help them navigate problems.
Mutua hopes to have a part of the program in place by May 2016 to allow students to explore introductory level classes next summer.
The admissions process would be similar to the existing selection process for the transition program, Mutua said. An admission committee would review applications, select applicants for interviews, and then make a decision on admission. The eligibility requirements are still being developed, she said, though generally the program would be for students with intellectual disabilities who are 18 years or older.
The long-term goal is to have CrossingPoints become an accredited program, allowing students to be eligible for federal financial aid like other college students, Mutua said.
Unlike the existing transition program, the bridge program would not be limited to students from city and county schools, she said, noting students from area private schools and systems in neighboring counties have been excluded under the existing partnership.
"We wanted to be able to reach out to a broader base than just our immediate neighbors, again in recognition of the fact that there are families of children with disabilities right here in this city that we have never been able to serve," Mutua said.
While the summer bridge program's goal is to generally prepare students for college, Mutua believes it will be a natural pipeline to UA.
"When you think about it, higher education has all kinds of pipeline programs," she said, noting programs for military veterans, first-generation students and others. "There are pipelines for many marginalized or unique populations. Today I don't know of any pipeline program for the intellectually disabled. They constitute a unique population whose needs relative to attending college are still virtually unknown."
Mutua sees the inclusion of the intellectually disabled as a logical step in higher education's embrace of diversity.
Currently, there are limited options for students with intellectual disabilities and their families when it comes to college educations. The university will simultaneously collect data from the programs to study what students need from institutions to be successful.
"The University of Alabama is right there in developing that. This really very exciting and scary," Mutua said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
October 31st, 2015
LEND A HAND: Annual Mismatched Ball brings message of acceptance - All assume fashion rules and faux pas will be ignored at the second annual Mismatched Ball, organized by Unity Tuscaloosa.
The ball will begin at 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 at the Tuscaloosa River Market, 1900 Jack Warner Parkway. All guests are encouraged to wear their craziest, most mismatched outfits.
George Stewart, a member of Unity Tuscaloosa, created the event last year. He said sometimes people feel there is a gap between people of different races. Sometimes, people feel uncomfortable interacting with one another if they have not grown up together and experienced the similar things.
Unity member Tina Jones said Stewart’s idea of mismatched clothing helps to drop the barrier among people. If everyone is dressed funny, she said, it serves as an icebreaker.
“Part of Unity’s mission is to move people past the acceptance phase and into the embracement stage of a relationship,” Jones said. “We feel like love is what changes people, we just have to get past the awkwardness.”
More than 250 people attended last year’s ball. This year, guests will enjoy activities, prizes, speakers and food from Five restaurant and beverages from Buffalo Rock Tuscaloosa.
Unity Tuscaloosa strives to build and foster unity among members of the Tuscaloosa community.
Last year, leaders in the community made an appearance dressed up as opposites of one another. Then-University of Alabama President Judy Bonner wore Stillman College attire while Stillman President Peter Millet arrived sporting Crimson Tide gear.
The ball provides an opportunity for people of different backgrounds to socialize.
“Unity comes from love, understanding and friendship,” Jones said.
For more information, visit www.unitytuscaloosa.com or Unity Tuscaloosa’s Facebook page.
October 31st, 2015
Similarities between LSU, Alabama are everywhere - In fact, it's just a football game between two great football teams. But it might as well be a mutual admiration society.
One, as the other, is built in the other's image. Physical and though with an abundance of talent and desire to own the line of scrimmage, Alabama and LSU have nothing but respect for the other.
“They're similar to us,” senior safety Geno Matias-Smith said. “They're tough. They like to run the ball, and they have a really good defense. So I feel like we're playing ourselves, basically.”
The view is the same from Baton Rouge.
“They're definitely better than most teams,” LSU junior left tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “It's their strength, just like us up front. I believe that's the strength of their team.
“They're physical. Plus they don't quit. When they rush, they keep coming. Most guys probably die off after two or three combos. But these guys just keep going. They focus on that and have a motor.”
Alabama and LSU ranks first and second in rush defense, respectively. Both average allowing less than 100 yards per game.
The similarities this year extend to the running backs, two of the best in the SEC and the country. LSU's Leonard Fournette is the all the talk in the Heisman Trophy talk and Derrick Henry has been the heart and soul of the Alabama offense.
But UA coach Nick Saban, who dislikes comparisons about as much as any coach could, said each back has his own style.
“It's not really fair to compare players,” Saban said. “Both players in their own way are exceptionally good players and have been very, very good players this year.
Leonard is fast, quick, very competitive the way he runs the ball, plays with a lot of toughness.
“Derrick is a taller, longer version of a lot of the same things, in terms of his competitive spirit. He's hard to tackle and does a nice job of executing not only when he has the ball but when he has to block and do other things. Both guys are outstanding players in their own way.”
Saban said Henry's growth was two years in the making.
“I just think he's had more opportunities and he has more confidence,” Henry said. “He was always splitting time with somebody else. I think Derrick's the kind of guy that he gets in a rhythm and the more he carries the ball, the better he gets. I think that's helped him a lot.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
October 31st, 2015
Alabama appeals court rules that Grandparents Visitation Act is unconstitutional - MONTGOMERY | An Alabama appeals court has struck down a law granting legal rights to grandparents who want to visit their grandchildren.
The Court of Civil Appeals used an Autauga County case to rule that the Grandparents Visitation Act is unconstitutional because it violates the rights of parents to decide things for their children.
The law is an amended version of a previous law that was struck down as unconstitutional on similar grounds in 2011.
The law allows grandparents to go to court to seek visitation with grandchildren even if the parents don’t approve.
In the case before the appeals court, a grandmother went to court seeking visitation with two of her grandchildren despite objections of the children’s mother.
A lower court upheld the law, but the Civil Appeals judges disagreed.
October 31st, 2015
Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama official named to state post - Donny Jones, chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, has been appointed to the Alabama Workforce Council by Gov. Robert Bentley.
The council, formed in July 2014, is a blue-ribbon panel of business executives, educators and legislators who advise and support the state board of education, two-year colleges and state four-year colleges and universities on issues relating to developing the state’s work force.
The council reviews potential policies, recommends structure and alignment, develops innovative workforce programming and discusses issues critical to workforce development needs in Alabama.
“I am honored to be asked to serve on the Alabama Workforce Council,” Jones said in a statement. “The state of Alabama must be prepared to face future workforce challenges by readying a new generation of skilled workers. The AWC is uniquely positioned to positively impact both workforce and economic development for the entire state of Alabama.”
Jones serves as a workforce development leader as director of West Alabama Works, formed in partnership with the Region 3 Workforce Development Council, which serves a seven-county area.
He has been with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama since 1998 and as its CEO, he handles the organization’s internal operations, including resource development, financial management and information technology.
Norman Crow, chairman of the Tuscaloosa-based chamber’s board of directors and also a member of the AWC, said the state council is working to create a more positive environment for businesses.
“The actions we’ve taken as a council have accomplished a great deal to allow businesses to grow and thrive in our state,” he said. “The changes we’ve made have also allowed businesses to provide better opportunities for Alabamians looking for good jobs.”
Jim Page, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said Jones will be an excellent addition to the council.
“His passion, creativity and outstanding work ethic are major reasons why we’ve experienced so much workforce development success in Region 3 over the past 18 months,” Page said. “Donny is a true servant leader and will continue to be an invaluable asset to our state’s emerging efforts to put Alabamians to work.”
October 31st, 2015
The Links at Tuscaloosa will host annual tournament to benefit Toys for Tots - The Links at Tuscaloosa Golf and Country Club on Dec. 5 will host its third annual two-person scramble golf tournament to benefit Toys for Tots.
The shotgun start will be at 9 a.m.
The cost to enter the tournament for members of The Links will be $15 and a new toy. Non-members are welcome to participate for a fee of $30 and a new toy. Lunch will be served after the golf tournament.
For more information call Rusty Stephens, The Links pro at 205-247-9990, or Peggy Herren at 205-393-5430.
October 31st, 2015
Fifth Street Vintage Market is Sunday in Northport - The Fifth Street Vintage Market will be open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday at 4150 Fifth St. in Northport.
The market features dozens of merchants who specialize in vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, housewares, artwork, collectibles, furnishings, handmade items and vinyl records. Concessions will be available.
Visit the website at www.5thstreetvintagemarket.com or call 205-345-4763.
October 31st, 2015
Few tickets remain for 'To Kill a Mockingbird' performance - Tickets have sold out for Sunday’s performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Bean-Brown Theatre at Shelton State Community College.
However, a few tickets remain for Saturday's 2 p.m. matinee of Theatre Tuscaloosa’s stage adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel.
Tickets cost $17 for general admission, $15 for seniors and military, and $12 for students and children. Call 205-391-2277 or go online at www.theatretusc.com.
October 31st, 2015
13-foot-tall marker unveiled on 100th anniversary of Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway - Guests at a 100th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway on Friday saw the unveiling of a 13-foot-tall commemorative marker at navigation mile 339, site of the former Lock No. 1.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mobile District hosted the celebration at the Riverwalk recreational trail adjacent to the Corps of Engineers' local offices at 101 21st Ave.
The Corps started building the initial three locks and dams on the Black Warrior River in 1875. In the early 1900s, 17 more locks and dams were created for shipping coal.
October 31st, 2015
First US Bank opens downtown Tuscaloosa branch - First US Bank has opened a new branch office in downtown Tuscaloosa at 2619 University Blvd.
The two-story branch bank is the Thomasville-based bank’s 20th office in Alabama and its second location in the Tuscaloosa market.
The bank is a full-service branch with an ATM and two drive-through lanes. Its second floor houses its commercial lending staff.
“We are pleased to add an office in downtown Tuscaloosa as our 20th location,” said a statement from James F. House, US Bank’s president and CEO. “Our commercial team, previously conducting business from the Taylorville office, will make the University Boulevard location their new home.
“We are committed to exceeding the expectations of our customers and believe our new office will significantly increase our level of service to both our consumer and commercial customers.”
Stephanie Stephens will serve as the branch manager at the new location, and the branch staff will provide retail and commercial deposit services, as well as meet small business and consumer lending needs, the bank said.
The commercial lending team includes Phil Maughan, executive vice president commercial division/senior lender; Sam Parks, senior vice president/commercial lending officer; and loan assistants Jenny Howton and Lynette Clark,
First US Bank has been serving the Tuscaloosa area since 2005 from its Taylorville location at 8710 Alabama Highway 69 S.
First US Bank was started in 1952 and now has more than $550 million in assets. In addition to its Tuscaloosa branches, it has banking offices in Brent, Butler, Calera, Centreville, Coffeeville, Columbiana, Fulton, Gilbertown, Grove Hill, Harpersville, Jackson, McCalla, Thomasville and Woodstock.
October 31st, 2015
The late Ruth McAbee will be honored at DCH ball - Ruth McAbee attended nearly every DCH Foundation ball since they began in 1978. Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, she and her husband, Leroy McAbee Sr., built McAbee Construction and raised three children, who were all born at DCH.
Ruth McAbee, who died last year, will be honored for her contributions to DCH at the 38th Annual Lucy Jordan Ball at NorthRiver Yacht Club from 6 p.m. to midnight on Nov. 13.
Casey Johnson, DCH director of development, said the DCH Foundation doesn't honor a community leader every year, but because McAbee loved the ball, it seemed fitting to honor her this year.
“The “Heart and Soul” ball theme represents two areas that were very important to Mrs. McAbee — the health of our hearts and our babies,” Johnson said. “This year's ball proceeds will support the DCH Heart Fund and The Finn & Quinley Infant and Children's Fund for important equipment purchases in our cardiac area and our neonatal intensive care unit.”
Money raised will purchase Giraffe Omnibed Shuttles that will allow premature babies to be transported to the neonatal intensive care unit. Johnson said DCH already has Giraffe Omnibeds in the unit but needs shuttles to safely transport the babies.
“Because the first minutes of life are the most crucial to a premature infant's survival, the Giraffe Shuttles will provide the ability to deliver uninterrupted support and help reduce stress during those golden minutes,” she said. “This instant stable atmosphere from birth will continue while transporting premature infants from one care area to another.”
The money will also help purchase CarePoint equipment that will allow emergency management personnel to forward electrocardiograms directly from the patient's home to the hospital.
“This will allow the hospital staff to analyze the data and know what to expect before the patient even arrives,” Molly Ingram, vice president of development for the DCH Foundation, said in a statement.
Ingram said more than $3 million has been raised since the annual ball began. This year's ball will feature a 38-year history of the various contributions made to the DCH Health System.
During those years, money raised through the ball had paid for advanced technology, facilities, and state-of-the-art equipment for patients, Johnson said.
“Honoring Mrs. McAbee gives us a chance to reflect on all the ball has done to make a difference in the lives of our patients,” Ingram said.
For more information about the ball, go to www.thedchfoundation.org.
October 31st, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council supports superintendent's strategic plan for city schools - In a rare move, the Tuscaloosa City Council on Friday publicly asked the city's Board of Education to adopt the restructuring plan put forth by Superintendent Paul McKendrick and work through disagreements about the plan's contents.
"The plan that's been presented is dynamic. It certainly crosses every geographical and legal boundary of this city. If fully implemented, it has the ability to be transformative," Mayor Walter Maddox said, with almost every member of the City Council standing behind him, during a news conference Friday morning. "We certainly understand better than most that not every individual nor every neighborhood nor every council district will be pleased with every aspect of the plan.
"But we feel certain that, in the days and weeks ahead, if the board will recommit itself to this effort, that we can pass something that should truly make a difference in the lives of our children."
On Oct. 20, the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education — with a 4-4 vote — failed to pass McKendrick's recommended integrated curriculum, facilities and demographic strategic plan.
The 43-page strategic plan outlined goals of increased investment in teachers and staff, altering school zones and curriculum, renovating certain schools, building new ones and closing and combining others.
It called for an overall investment of more than $168.9 million, about three years of construction and implementation and additional board votes that would be needed to approve various details of specific components of the plan.
Developed in conjunction with DeJong-Richter, an education facility planning firm, the plan cost $388,403 and took 18 months to develop through multiple revisions based on feedback and input from the public and school system leaders that came from a series of public meetings along with research from the consultants.
"The study has been done — an extensive study — now its time to implement this plan," said Council President Harrison Taylor, a six-term veteran of the City Council. "The part of it that's not agreed upon, set it aside. The basic plan should be voted upon and let's move on as a city."
Differences of opinion
While much of the plan was agreed on with little or no debate, a few key issues point to the board's hesitation to give it full passage.
These include the suggestions that each school in the Central zone — except Central High School — would become year-round schools, while those in other zones would continue to have school August through May; a lack of focus on creating smaller student-teacher classroom ratios as well as little detail on how tax dollars would be spent or how to improve Eastwood Middle School.
But across the community, the contention is focused on the gerrymandered zoning lines for downtown school districts along with no plans to alter school zones in order to create true neighborhood schools so students could attend facilities closest to where they live.
This debate has caught fire on social media, with two rival Facebook groups popping up in recent months as a result.
On the public TCS Discussion Page, commenters favor the school choice now offered to certain downtown neighborhoods, such as the historic districts near the University of Alabama, that allow their children to access schools north of the Black Warrior River despite elementary, middle and high schools being closer to their actual homes.
These parents and residents don't want neighborhood children to sent to schools to the south of the Black Warrior River and talk openly of directing their children to private schools if forced to do so.
"Downtown is a wonderful place to live," wrote one parent, "but we sacrifice having many other kids around to play with. I welcome diversity, but taking a handful of children who are already geographically isolated from most of their peers in the same socioeconomic group and removing them from the school with their peers to put them in a school where they are a minority at an under-performing school and would be unlikely to thrive is not going to bring about the desired neighborhood school."
For those on the rival Facebook page, the now-private "TCS Rezoning Plans," they favor a more equalized school districting plan, where school zones are based on population and school proximity rather than the choices of a select few.
"(J)ust like we want to be associated with the best football team in the country, we want to know our child is at the best school," one parent wrote on the Rezoning Plans page. "When the ‘best' school becomes a school in an affluent area that has minimum amount of housing under $200,000 and no government assisted housing in its zone it, by default, limits choice for lower income families. ...
"I wonder how it feels when you live in an area that has to be on the bottom so that some areas in the district can feel like they are on the top. I imagine it feels pretty defeating because it can make you feel as a parent you do not want the ‘best' or are not getting the ‘best' (which has been proven to be true at some schools)."
Focus on the positive
The City Council, which approved almost $3.2 million in special appropriations to the city Board of Education this fiscal year, shied away from commenting directly on this side of the debate and instead focused on the aspects of the plan that stand to benefit most, if not all, of the students, staff and faculty of the system.
Maddox, for example, highlighted the plan's suggested investments in teachers — school employees haven't seen a wage increase in seven years, he said — and the curriculum enhancements that he believes will prepare city school students for the demands of the 21st Century.
"Those are extremely dynamic parts of this plan that I fear, if we continue to have disagreements and cannot get any momentum to move forward, that those aspects of the plan will fall to the wayside," Maddox said. "That certainly, in my opinion, would be a shame, because we stand on the precipice of amazing opportunity in our city. Not only in our school system and the city as a whole, but how we move forward as a community, so much is weighted on how we move forward as a school system."
First-term Councilman Matt Calderone said the effort and time that went into the plan makes it deserving of consideration.
"We stand here today to support the superintendent's recommendation and urge the board to move forward with a decision," he said.
Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry, also in her first term, said her children endured the changes that came with the 2007 redistricting of the city schools. However, she believes the community input into this plan makes it more sound and sensible.
"I was really encouraged this time because they grabbed the community people — parents and other individuals — to be a part of that study when they didn't do that before. So I'm just really trusting that the results of all that will be better than it was last time," McKinstry said. "I just think that, there are so many different things that we really need to address but ... it doesn't need to hinder the progress of the plan.
"So we urge you to lets move forward for the betterment of the city, the betterment of the school system and, most importantly, the betterment of the children."
The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the lecture hall of the Tuscaloosa Career Technology Academy, 2800 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. A preliminary agenda for Tuesday's meeting does not include a discussion of the plan.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
October 31st, 2015
Forest Lake ducks come and go along 15th Street - From time to time, ducks can be found waddling along 15th Street in search of food like a family searching out a restaurant for dinner.
The ducks showed up at Krispy Kreme on McFarland Boulevard about a year ago and stayed for a while, said owner Evan Smith. Then they left, and “a couple big ones showed up about a month ago and had a bunch of babies,” he said.
The business posted a photo of the seven ducklings on Facebook on Sept. 21 when they still had their yellow down. It posted a “duckdate” Wednesday of the now juvenile ducks. Smith said they had tripled in size and had black, gray and white feathers.
The domestic ducks appear to be of the Muscovy species, and according to www.ducks.org, they feed on small fish, crustaceans, insects, millipedes and termites and the roots, stems, leaves and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants.
Apparently, they also eat doughnuts.
“People would walk out the door and throw them a doughnut,” but Smith said he told his employees not to feed them because they need to return home, and food would keep them coming back.
Home for these ducks is Forest Lake.
A creek that runs from Forest Lake, under 15th Street and over to McFarland and beyond was constantly eroding, and the city flumed it during a flood control project in the 1990s, creating a channel. The ducks seem to be traveling up this storm drainage channel to Krispy Kreme in search of food.
But they have been spotted at other restaurants along 15th Street including Panda Express, Wendy's and McDonald's.
“I remember when they were all babies. I was at the McDonald's drive-through on 15th Street, and they were all crossing the street,” Gretchen Rouse posted in a comment on Krispy Kreme's Facebook status. “Everyone stopped their cars to let them cross, and some were taking pictures.”
The ducks are now gone from Krispy Kreme once again.
October 31st, 2015
Eutaw woman killed in highway crash - A Eutaw woman died and three other people were injured Thursday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Loretta Cameron, 57, was a passenger in a 1994 Toyota Corolla that was struck by a 2006 Mitsubishi truck at 5:38 p.m. Thursday on U.S. Highway 11 about four miles north of Eutaw in Greene County.
Cameron was pronounced dead at the scene.
Injured in the crash were the driver of the Toyota, 81-year-old Albert Richardson Demopolis, the driver of the Mitsubishi, 48-year-old Bonny Stephens Minard of Gallion, and 57-year-old Richard Lee Stephens, who was a passenger in the Mitsubishi.
Richardson, Minard and Stephens were taken to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa for treatment.
State troopers are continuing to investigate the crash.
October 30th, 2015
Rain could dampen Halloween Spirits - Trick-or-treating could get tricky Saturday night as rain is expected to settle over Tuscaloosa just when little ghosts and goblins are expected to start knocking on doors.
Meteorologist Jim Westland of the National Weather Service in Birmingham said the current forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain by 7 p.m.
“The rain will probably start moving into the area about 5 to 7 o’clock in the evening — right about the time kids are heading out,” Westland said.
Until then, the odds are about 50-50. But once it arrives, it’s supposed to hang around.
“It’ll come in,” he said. “It’s not an on-and-off sort of thing.”
Tanya Thomas, who attended the Monster Makeover on Thursday at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum, said the threat of rain won’t deter her children from trick-or-treating.
“It’s Halloween. We’re doing it. It’s my favorite holiday,” said Thomas, whose son was dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and whose daughter was dressed as a bride.
Aside from the rain, no serious weather conditions are expected.
Westland said there is a chance of thunderstorms with the rain, but that’s not definite. Still, if there is lightning, he suggested keeping children inside.
Winds are expected to be in the 5 mph to 10 mph range with temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees.
Apart from the poor timing, it’s just normal West Alabama weather for this time of year.
“There’s nothing tropical about it,” Westland said. “It’s just a typical upper air disturbance weak front that’s drawing moisture from the gulf and causing rain.”
With rain expected, safety becomes even more of a concern for parents and children.
Here are some Halloween safety tips from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office website:
- Children 12 and younger should always be accompanied by an adult.
- Parents should ensure that their kids’ costumes fit well, are flame retardant and don’t obscure the child’s vision.
- Trick-or-treaters should wear reflective clothing and carry a light stick or a glow stick.
- Children older than 12 should trick-or-treat in groups, follow an agreed-upon route and watch for cars.
- Check www.tcsoal.org for a list of registered sex offenders living in the area.
- Teach children never to enter a home without you or your permission and tell them only to approach homes that are well lit.
- Remind children to stay in well-lit areas, never take short-cuts and never go into isolated areas.
- Let children know that they should tell an adult if they see anything unusual.
- Tell children to bring treats home before eating them. Eat only factory-wrapped treats, unless you know well the person who gave the treats.
- Teach children to say no and get away from any person or situation that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused. Tell them that it’s OK to yell, kick or use other means of resisting and attracting attention in that case. Tell them to trust their feelings and let a trusted adult know about any uncomfortable situations.
- Consider safe trick-or-treating alternatives, such as parties at home or events organized at schools or communities.
State Farm’s Birmingham office offered these Halloween tips for motorists:
- Be on alert for children running in between parked cars and crossing the street in the middle of the block.
- Avoid tailgating. The car in front of you may be following along with children as they trick-or-treat.
- Use your car’s hazard lights to alert other drivers if you are dropping off children.
- Avoid distractions while driving. Turn the radio off, put away the smart phone and pull over if you need to direct attention to kids in the back seat.
- Remember to slow down, especially in residential areas.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
Staff writer Angel Coker contributed to this story.
October 30th, 2015
No early release for convicted murderer once mistakenly released from prison before serving sentence - The state parole board has denied early release for a convicted baby killer who was once mistakenly released from prison before serving his sentence.
William Schank, 61, is serving a life sentence for beating his girlfriend's year-old girl in 1975. He was convicted of murder and several unrelated burglaries, but was freed in 1982 after serving time for the burglaries.
Officials in Alabama fought for years to have him extradited from Forestville, N.Y., where he had married and worked construction. A New York appeals court eventually ordered his return and he began serving the life sentence in 1997.
Schank beat 12-month-old Dana Louise Smith in 1975, causing a fractured skull, ribs and internal bleeding with between 94 and 112 blows.
The Tuscaloosa County District Attorney's Office has protested his release each time Schank has come up for parole. District Attorney Lyn Head attended a hearing in Montgomery Wednesday, where the Alabama Board of Prisons and Paroles ordered that he remain imprisoned.
“We will continue to fight his parole in this very violent offense committed upon the most vulnerable of victims,” Head said.
Schank will not be eligible for parole for another five years.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa
news.com or 205-722-0210.
October 30th, 2015
Judge to decide if Tuscaloosa's red-light cameras are OK - A Tuscaloosa judge will decide soon whether Tuscaloosa's red-light camera enforcement is constitutional.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England heard arguments from attorneys Thursday during a bench trial held in his chambers. He is expected to rule whether the city's cameras that ticket drivers for running lights at six intersections across the city are legal.
Attorney Stuart Albea filed a suit in August that challenged the Tuscaloosa Red Light Safety Act. His client, Tim Burch of Northport, was ticketed after his vehicle was captured on tape turning left from U.S. Highway 69 South onto Skyland Boulevard on Oct. 24, 2014. His attorneys claim that the city ordinance is unconstitutional because the city isn't required to prove who was driving a vehicle before issuing a ticket.
At issue is whether the city treats the tickets and appeal process as civil or criminal cases. The city's ordinance and attorneys maintain that the tickets are civil in nature.
“No one is being arrested or jailed for this,” said attorney Chris McIlwain, representing the city. “This is just a civil fine; that's all it is.”
If a case is considered civil, there's a reduced burden of proof compared to a criminal case. Tuscaloosa Police wouldn't have to prove that the person ticketed was actually driving the vehicle if it's just considered a civil violation.
Albea said that the city has mischaracterized the cases as civil. Violators are fined and must go through the same processes they would in a criminal matter, he said.
“They're just trying to collect fines from people without showing that they've done anything wrong,” he said. “And trying to say that it promotes public safety.”
The city installed the first of the nine existing cameras in 2012. The process of activating a video monitoring system for intersections where motorists are prone to run red lights began in 2010, when the Alabama Legislature granted Tuscaloosa the authority to install the devices.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
October 30th, 2015
Institute to hold Iron Bowl health fair Nov. 5 - The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Senior Services will host the “It’s Iron Bowl Time” health fair from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 5 at the Northport Civic Center, located at 3500 McFarland Boulevard.
The fair will include special guests Meaghan Thomas, ABC 33/40 meteorologist, and University of Alabama mascot Big Al.
There will be free health screenings, health education, prizes for the best-dressed fan, door prizes and more with more than 25 vendors.
For more information, contact Tabitha Royal at 256-761-3740.
October 30th, 2015
Charter bus trip to Alabama-Mississippi State game - The Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the Alabama Alumni Association is offering a charter bus trip to Starkville, Miss., for the Nov. 14 Alabama-Mississippi State football game.
Cost is $60 per person, which includes gift bags, bottled water and snacks. Game tickets are not included.
Fans can bring food and beverages in their own coolers. The bus will be parked within walking distance of the stadium.
The bus will depart from Coleman Coliseum at a time to be announced, when kickoff time for the game is set. The bus will return immediately after the game.
Deadline for reservations is Nov. 6. For more information, contact Sue Giamo at cherokey7@gmail.com or call 781-856-7722.
October 30th, 2015
Shelton State, Realtors team up for food drive - Shelton State Community College and the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors have teamed up to help stock the Salvation Army food pantry. Donations of canned food may be delivered to Shelton State’s Martin Campus through 5 p.m. Nov. 5.
Using the donated canned items, Shelton State drafting students will design and build a can structure. The design of the structure will remain a mystery until it is unveiled on Nov. 9. The construction will be on display through Nov. 12.
October 30th, 2015
Waterway marker to be dedicated today - Today brings the 100th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway this week hosted by the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony taking place alongside the Riverwalk recreational trail adjacent to the Corps of Engineers’ local offices at 101 21st Ave.
Events begin at 1 p.m., and corps officials will be joined by Mayor Walt Maddox and others at navigation mile 339, site of the former Lock No. 1, to unveil a 13-foot-tall commemorative marker made of salvaged and surplus stainless steel components used in the construction of river navigation lock gates.
October 30th, 2015
Aliceville to hold street fair Saturday - Aliceville’s third annual Fall Street Fair will feature the sweet smell of barbecue and funnel cakes.
The fair will be from 10 a.m-4 p.m. Saturday in downtown Aliceville, about 50 miles west of Tuscaloosa. Admission is free.
Local food and craft vendors will line the streets and there will be live entertainment and games for children.
Pets are welcome at the fair and there will be separate costume contests for children and pets at 11 a.m. A trunk-or-treat will follow.
The event will also feature an automobile cruise-in. Trophies and cash prizes will be awarded. Registration is $25 per vehicle, with proceeds benefitting the Aliceville Museum.
For more information, visit www.thecityofaliceville.com.
October 30th, 2015
Health center to host fall festival Saturday - A fall festival will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Maude Whatley Health Center, 2731 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The theme of the festival, sponsored by MedNet West, is “Fight the Flu with Fun.”
In addition to a carnival games, a bounce house, a slide, popcorn, cotton candy and Halloween candy, flu shots will be provided.
Flu shots are free for those with Medicaid or insurance or $20 for those without insurance.
Everyone who receives a flu shot will be entered into a drawing for up to $200.
October 30th, 2015
Closure to affect Jack Warner Parkway - Jack Warner Parkway between McFarland Boulevard and Hackberry Lane will be closed for about an hour today because of construction on the University of Alabama campus.
The closure is expected to begin at 1 p.m. and end around 2 p.m.
Also, 25th Avenue East between University Boulevard East and Fourth Street East will be closed from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. today.
The closure is needed for substation work by Alabama Power Co. The posted detour route will be 23rd Avenue East.
October 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa inmate wins court review - HOUSTON | Texas’ highest criminal court said a death row inmate’s contention that false or misleading testimony was used at his trial 22 years ago in Houston should be reviewed.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday sent the case of 45-year-old Arthur Brown Jr. of Tuscaloosa back to the Harris County court where Brown in 1993 was condemned for participating in the slayings of four people in Houston.
Brown was identified as part of a ring shuttling drugs from Texas to Alabama.
He’s challenging testimony that two guns recovered in Alabama and tied to him were used in the slayings of 32-year-old Jose Tovar; his wife’s 17-year-old son, Frank Farias; Farias’ 19-year-old girlfriend, Jessica Quinones, who was seven months pregnant; and 21-year-old neighbor Audrey Brown.
Two others who were shot survived.
October 30th, 2015
Holiday shoebox of small gifts can change a child's life - In the orphanage where Yuri Lopez grew up, each child got one pencil and one notebook to last the entire school year. If the items were lost or stolen, the child got in trouble. Girls and boys were divided into groups of 25 to 50 children and had to share a toothbrush.
When Lopez was 6 years old, she received her first shoebox from a group of missionaries who prayed with her and shared the gospel of Jesus before opening her box.
"It was the first Christmas present that I have received. Everything I had in my shoebox was so special," Lopez said to a group of about 175 women involved in the interdenominational Community Bible Study group at host church First Wesleyan Church on Wednesday.
In her box, she found a pack of 10 pencils, a notebook, hygiene items, candy, a teddy bear, a coloring book with crayons and more, plus her own toothbrush and a tube of bubblegum flavored toothpaste that she ate because she didn't know what it was.
It is shoebox season again, and Lopez has been speaking to different organizations to encourage them to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan's Purse that has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories since 1993.
Pam Banks, the West Alabama Operation Christmas Child coordinator, said the West Alabama goal is to pack 34,500 boxes, the national goal is 8.5 million boxes, and the global goal is 11 million boxes.
Boxes donated from the West Alabama region go to Angola, Belize, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Mali, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and other countries, Banks said.
National collection week is Nov. 16-23. Two Tuscaloosa drop-off locations include Circlewood Baptist Church, 2201 Loop Road., and Valley View Baptist Church, 8820 Alabama Highway 69.
To donate, find an old shoebox and paint it or wrap it, select a gender and age group of 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14 years old, and fill the box with gifts before dropping it off.
Suggested gifts include hygiene items with the exception of liquids, hard candy but no chocolate, school supplies, accessories, toys like yo-yos and jump ropes, a WOW item like a small doll or a small soccer ball and a letter.
"I would encourage you to pack shoeboxes because it does make an impact like it did in my life," Lopez said.
Lopez's parents divorced when she and her twin sister were born. She said she and her siblings went through 14 different orphanages before they were separated when she was 2 years old. When she was 13 years old, Lopez said she questioned God about why she was given the life she was living and about his existence.
She said it was the shoebox where she kept the letters and pictures from missionaries over the years and the first letter she ever received in a Christmas shoebox from a little girl in America that read, "Jesus loves you, and I do, too," that made her realize God was with her and made her turn her life over to him.
Lopez later got the opportunity to move to the U.S. and play soccer at the college level. She is now a missionary with fellow Christian athletes and a speaker for Operation Christmas Child.
Kim Sandras, a member of Community Bible Study, was moved to tears by Lopez's story Wednesday.
Sandras said she and her children have packed shoeboxes for years — one for a boy in her son's age group and one for a girl in her daughter's age group — and while they didn't think the gift of a toothbrush was very exciting, it meant a lot to the recipient.
"They never looked at it as ‘Wow, these kids are going to love getting that,' " Sandras said. "That's the miracle of it — to hear the other side of how one toothbrush could mean so much. You give a toothbrush, and God makes that a perfect gift."
Banks said the shoeboxes teach the people who pack them to have compassion for those who are less fortunate while planting a seed in the recipients' lives.
"We minister on both sides of the box," Banks said.
To learn more about how to donate shoeboxes, go to www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child, or contact Pam Banks at 205-394-0216.
October 30th, 2015
1955 Oldsmobile returns to dealership where it was originally purchased - SELMA | A 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday Coupe with a Rocket V8 engine is back at Reliable Cadillac GMC some 60 years after it first drove off the lot.
Jack Lawrence sold the classic car back to Reliable Cadillac GMC owner Bill Porter in mint condition.
"He's had it garaged and kept for years, and he finally decided to sell it. It's in great shape," Porter said. "He started telling me it came from here originally and how clean it was. So I rode out there and looked at it, and I was amazed. It was just like he said — it was showroom worthy."
And the showroom is exactly where the car ended up. Walking into Reliable, the Oldsmobile is hard to miss.
"We've had a lot of people come and look at it. A lot of people tell their stories back when they used to have those cars," Porter said. "We're just going to keep it on the floor. It's so unique."
Porter said while he's sure the car was bought from Reliable, but they are still trying to find paperwork for the original owner.
The Oldsmobile was green but has since been painted red and white — the inside has also been reupholstered. But besides the new red accents, the car is as it was when it was first bought from Reliable.
"Everything else is original. It only has 52,000 miles," Porter said.
Porter said it was possible that his father, Rufus Porter, actually sold the car.
"My father had started the dealership, the business, back in 1946 when they opened Reliable," Porter said. "So he probably was one of the ones that sold that car."
Porter said he believes the car would have been around $1,000 to $1,500 when it was first sold. Now, AllCollectorCars.com has three cars of the same model priced around $38,000 each.
"When he first came in talking about wanting to sell an old car, we had no idea it would be like that," Porter said. "It's amazing. It's just so different from what they are now. I've had people to ask what would we take, but of course we say it's not for sale."
October 30th, 2015
Shelton State Community College hunts to raise money through fundraiser - The coordinator for the first Big Doe Hunt hopes the novelty of the two-month fundraiser will help organizers reach their goal of raising $25,000 for scholarships at Shelton State Community College.
"Because we have an abundance of deer in West Alabama, I thought it was a good fit. It's a fun novel approach to fundraising that engages lots of different people," said Bev Leigh III, coordinator for the fundraiser by the Shelton State Community College Foundation.
Shelton State was looking for a unique event as it tried to reinvigorate its fundraising through the foundation, said Byron Abston, associate dean of advancement.
"It seemed like a perfect match at the time," Abston said.
The contest began with the start of bow hunting season on Oct. 15 and concludes on Dec. 16. Conventional firearms season for the state begins Nov. 21. Prizes will be awarded for the hunters who take the largest doe, coyote and bobcat. For deer, the grand prize is $1,000 and $500 for second place. The largest coyote wins $200. The largest bobcat wins $200.
Only free-range animals taken with a legal method approved by the Alabama Department of Conservation are eligible, and entries must be weighed at one of eight approved weighing stations across West Alabama.
The fee is $100 per entry with multiple entries possible. Winners will be announced at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17 during a celebration in the atrium of the Martin campus main building.
The hunt replicates similar successful fundraisers by churches and other private organizations in rural West Alabama, Leigh said.
The organizers decided to expand the field to include coyotes and bobcats after hearing from hunters during the planning stages, Leigh said.
"Predator control has gotten to be an interesting topic in West Alabama. Nobody is trapping for pelts or furs anymore. Many of the hunters we polled said ‘Why don't you expand it a bit and give us a change to harvest a coyote or bobcat?' " Leigh said.
The contest also launched an online auction on Oct. 15 featuring products donated by area businesses ranging from outdoor gear to gift certificates. The campaign is also accepting financial donations in addition to the money raised through the hunting contest, Leigh said.
"It's certainly not exclusive. We want to open our arms to anyone who aspires to help us support Shelton State Community College," Leigh said.
While the novelty of the hunt is meant to add seasonal fun into the effort, Leigh said, by design, the fundraiser is heavily weighted toward donations.
"Obviously, we are not going to achieve (the $25,000 goal) just on hunters. We are going to achieve that by businesses and individuals who feel strongly about what we are doing and feel strongly about educating young people," Leigh said.
The fundraiser has 12 sponsors so far, in addition to other businesses who donated products for the auction, a sign that leads Leigh to be optimistic about the chances for the first-year event to reach its goal.
"We are pretty pleased with ourselves right out the gate. If it continues to go as it is on track, we fully expect it could become an annual event," Leigh said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
October 30th, 2015
Mayoral task force's first meeting centers on downtown parking problems - The first meeting of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox's downtown parking task force on Thursday highlighted issues downtown business owners, residents and employees have when vehicles park too long.
This 19-member board was formed in August to examine parking issues downtown, "review, analyze and make recommendations regarding downtown parking," and seek out "potential partnerships to improve communications, expand pedestrian and bicycle access opportunities and enhance public safety in the central business district."
It's expected to meet regularly until May, when a final report is due to the mayor.
The next session is planned for Dec. 2.
The Thursday meeting, focused more on the potential problems than solutions.
Not that ideas on how to correct matters — such as slow turnover for spaces relied upon by restaurants or how to overcome fears with nighttime use of the downtown parking deck — weren't discussed. Rather, the task force will need much more information before those conclusions are drawn.
Downtown merchant Charles Spurlin, owner of The Shirt Shop and a longtime downtown investor, began the day's discussion by asking fellow task force members to help stop First Baptist Church from converting its downtown, 170-space lot into a paid parking facility.
"I think everybody in this room and everybody who loves downtown should be opposed to that," he said. "I want this downtown to be user-friendly — to be welcoming."
Paid parking, and whether it should be implemented in certain areas, is expected to be one aspect that the task force explores.
Co-chair Tera Tubbs, director of the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation, said how the city manages parking downtown is something she wants the task force to discuss.
Now, the city limits public parking on downtown streets to two hours Monday through Friday. But this allows for some exploitation.
For example, a motorist can occupy a space in front of a downtown business just after 3 p.m. and not be required to move until the next morning.
And on weekends there is no time limit, meaning that on Alabama home football weekends, some businesses don't open at all because customers won't be able to easily access their businesses.
"Two-thirty (p.m.) games are death for downtown," said David Milis, owner of the Makers Market on 22nd Avenue. "People are coming here eating, drinking and sleeping. They're not shopping."
He and others appeared to support extending the two-hour parking limit to 8 p.m. as well as imposing parking limits during weekends — particularly Saturdays.
Some said downtown parking during football weekends wasn't a major concern until the city began encouraging game day use of downtown parking and its $12.5 million, 449-space parking deck that opened in September 2009.
As for the parking deck, much was made over its use or apparent lack thereof.
Use of the deck is spotty, with concerts and football games filling it up. But average use varies depending on the time of day and whether locals and visitors are aware it's there.
City officials are moving toward the installation of two lighted, exterior signs to better highlight the parking facility. And plans are in place to replace the facility's incan- descent lights with high- efficiency LED bulbs to provide better visibility at night.
But that doesn't cut down on the perception that the deck, particularly at night, is unsafe, and more than one task force member commented on how unwilling women — especially if alone — want to walk down an enclosed staircase after dark.
Perception, however, isn't always reality, and the group was surprised when Capt. Heath Clark, head of the Tuscaloosa Police Department's Downtown Precinct, said it's been more than four years since a crime report was taken from an incident inside the deck.
Other aspects discussed as a way to curb parking backlogs included allowing Uber or other ride-sharing services so people would not have to bring their vehicles to town.
"The taxi service in Tuscaloosa is horrendous," said Tripp Rogers, owner of Innisfree Irish Pub on University Boulevard. "Uber would be great."
Ride-sharing company Uber tried to come into Tuscaloosa last fall, but its policies ran afoul of ordinances and regulations regarding inspections, public safety and liability.
After weeks of negotiations between Uber officials and City Hall representatives, the company pulled out of the city.
The talks between the city and Uber have resumed, with a resolution to allow the company to again offer rides is expected in coming weeks.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
October 30th, 2015
Alabama releases 2016 schedule - The University of Alabama football team gets one bye week, a neutral-site contest against a traditional college football power and seven home games in its 2016 schedule, which was released Thursday evening.
The Crimson Tide plays host to Western Kentucky, Kent State, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn.
UA plays two teams coming off a bye and plays road games in consecutive weeks against Arkansas followed by a trip to Knoxville to face Tennessee.
The bye week falls on Oct. 29 the week before a trip to Baton Rouge to square off against LSU. Alabama is traditionally off before facing LSU.
UA closes the regular season Nov. 26 in a home game against rival Auburn.
Sept. 3 Southern California (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 10 Western Kentucky
Sept. 17 at Ole Miss
Sept. 24 Kent State
Oct. 1 Kentucky
Oct. 8 at Arkansas
Oct. 15 at Tennessee
Oct. 22 Texas A&M
Oct. 29 Open Date
Nov. 5 at LSU
Nov. 12 Mississippi State
Nov. 19 Chattanooga
Nov. 26 Auburn
October 29th, 2015
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day set - BamaCarry Tuscaloosa is hosting a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day this weekend at Airport Park.
Planned for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the event is free for all law enforcement agents, officers and badge holders.
Those who aren’t a member of a law enforcement agency can pay $10 for a barbecue plate from Robertson’s BBQ & Catering. This fee includes a drink and all proceeds will go to Crime Stoppers.
The event also will include inflatable bounce houses for children and hay rides — all at no charge — along with a roving magician, pony and horse rides, a BB gun shooting range and live music.
BamaCarry is a gun rights advocacy group that promotes and attempts to educate residents on the firearm rights granted by the state and federal constitutions.
October 29th, 2015
County's deadly roadway - State traffic engineers will be in Tuscaloosa County later this week to study an intersection where at least six people have died in traffic accidents since 2011.
Sam Sutton Road is one of the arteries for drivers traveling between Coker and Northport. The intersection where Sam Sutton intersects with U.S. Highway 82 near Coker has gained a reputation as one of the deadliest in the county, and support is mounting to close the median there after a fatal crash last week.
“There have been too many fatalities at that one intersection,” Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon said. “If it were left up to me, it would be closed down.”
That decision will be up to the Alabama Department of Transportation. Herndon said the state agency is sending engineers from Montgomery to evaluate the intersection on Friday.
ALDOT studied the intersection in 2012, after three young men were killed there in December 2011 and two people were killed in July 2011. No changes were made after the findings were reported. The Tuscaloosa County Engineering Department county did add rumble strips to Sam Sutton Road, to alert drivers to the nearby stop sign.
Engineers will consider the number or accidents, findings from crash investigations and traffic counts. They will likely look at road geometry, line of sight at the intersection and consider whether closing the intersection would put more pressure on intersections that could be more dangerous.
An accident last Thursday claimed the life of Coker resident Jared Thomas Gresham, 18.
Gresham was crossing U.S. Highway 82 from Falls Creek Cutoff to Sam Sutton Road when his SUV was struck by a westbound dump truck hauling asphalt.
“We’re awaiting crash reports and will review that as part of our overall review of that stretch of road before any decisions are made,” said ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris.
Herndon said that he and Coker Mayor Marla Shaw contacted ALDOT’s Tuscaloosa division office and asked that the median be closed.
Northport police officers and firefighters who have worked numerous bad accidents there also want to it closed, Herndon said.
The median seems narrow, he said, which could pressure drivers to turn on to the highway when it’s not yet safe.
“I’ve seen three cars at a time waiting to pull out from the median there,” he said.
He said its also dangerous for drivers making left turns onto the highway, to head east toward Northport from Sam Sutton Road, because they’re crossing two lanes of oncoming, fast-moving traffic.
“I know it’s not the intersection that causes a wreck, it’s what people do when they get to those intersections,” Herndon said. “I know a lot of folks will say that it will be inconvenient and increase their drive times, and I can appreciate that, but I’m more concerned with safety than I am convenience.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at 205-722-0210 or stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
October 29th, 2015
Fourth Avenue closure to be discussed Nov. 10 - Tuscaloosa city officials have scheduled a second community meeting to discuss the temporary — and possibly permanent — closure of Fourth Avenue East.
The meeting will be held from 5 to 5:45 p.m. Nov. 10 in the council chambers of City Hall. It will be hosted by Mayor Walt Maddox and Councilman Matt Calderone, whose district includes Fourth Avenue East.
Fourth Avenue East has been closed at its connection to the westbound lanes of 15th Street since Aug. 27 at the request of some residents of the Cedar Crest neighborhood.
City officials said the residents sought the closing because they say surrounding commercial growth has led to too much traffic in the neighborhood.
But other residents in the area started a petition on the website change.org calling for the intersection and road to be reopened.
These residents are calling for the city to leave the intersection and street open, for the benefit of the residents and to keep Cedar Crest as accessible as possible for emergency vehicles.
In addition to attending the meeting, residents also can submit comments to Tuscaloosa 311 at 205-248-5311 or tuscaloosa311@tuscaloosa.com.
October 29th, 2015
Faurecia to lay off 132 - Faurecia is permanently laying off 132 workers at its Northport plant, which makes automotive interior systems, including instrument panels, consoles and seating.
Tony Sapienza, director of communications for Faurecia North America, said the layoffs are due to market conditions. Demand for the products is down so jobs are being eliminated, he said.
The plant, located at 1401 Industrial Park Drive, now has around 282 employees including temporary workers, Sapienza said. The layoffs will affect regular and temporary workers.
The plant's principal customers are Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volkswagen.
Faurecia also has a plant in Cottondale that makes automotive seating. That facility is not affected by the latest layoffs.
Faurecia is the eighth largest manufacturer in Tuscaloosa County, according to the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. At the beginning of the year, TCIDA listed it with around 400 employees in the county.
Faurecia, which has its world headquarters near Paris, is the world's seventh-largest automotive supplier. In addition to seating and interior systems, it also makes emissions control technology and automotive exteriors.
The company has 330 production plants and research and development centers in 34 countries, according to its website. It had around 99,500 employees worldwide in 2012, the website said. Of those workers, 20,400 workers were in North America.
Patrick Rupinski can be reached at patrick.rupinski@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0213.
October 29th, 2015
Blood drive will be held Friday - The Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors will hold a blood drive on Friday to benefit the American Red Cross.
The blood drive will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors’ office, 2007 Paul W. Bryant Drive. For more information, call 205-345-7323.
October 29th, 2015
Gerald Allen, Chris England appointed to Road Improvement Authority - Two members from Tuscaloosa County’s legislative delegation, Rep. Chris England and Sen. Gerald Allen, were appointed Wednesday to the new Tuscaloosa County Road Improvement Authority.
The authority was created when the Legislature adopted a bill to overhaul Tuscaloosa County’s tax structure, which took effect on June 2.
The bill combined the county’s 2-cent sales tax, which was shared among five local government entities and DCH Regional Medical Center, with a 1-cent temporary sales tax that was dedicated primarily for school construction.
The 1-cent sales tax is now permanent, and the shared allocation of the combined 3-cent tax was altered to include the Tuscaloosa County Road Improvement Authority.
The authority will have the ability to borrow money through the issuance of bonds and use the money to fund road and infrastructure improvements.
The authority is made up of eight members:
- Hardy McCollum, chair of the County Commission
- Walter Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa and Bobby Herndon, the mayor of Northport
- Dara Longgrear, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority
- The director of the Alabama Department of Transportation or their respective designees
- A Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama member who lives in Tuscaloosa County
- Two members of the Alabama legislative delegation who live in Tuscaloosa County, one of whom must be a minority.
October 29th, 2015
Animal shelter advisory committee fills its ranks - Four additional members were chosen to the Metro Animal Shelter’s new advisory committee on Wednesday.
The three current, sitting members — appointed by the Tuscaloosa City Council, the Tuscaloosa County Commission and the Northport City Council — voted to add the four remaining members as laid out in recommendations by the animal shelter task force earlier this year.
Tuscaloosa Councilman Kip Tyner was elected chairman of the now seven-member task force by Northport Councilman Jay Logan and County Commissioner Stan Acker.
Tyner, Logan and Acker previously had been chosen as the three governmental representatives by their respective elected bodies. They served on the initial task force and were the only three of six members who attended the task force’s final meeting at which the recommendations were approved.
The three then voted to create to two veterinary positions, as outlined in the recommendations.
Dr. Allen S. Averette of Averette Veterinary Hospital in Northport was named to an initial two-year term and Dr. C. Guy May of May Veterinary was appointed to an initial three-year term.
Both terms are expected to revert to two-year terms once these initial terms are complete. Acker proposed the staggered terms in order to have overlap among the veterinarian representatives.
Mary Calhoun, a volunteer for the Metro Animal Shelter, was named to the committee as the resident representative.
And Jimbo Woodson, senior associate city attorney for Tuscaloosa, was chosen as the legal representative for the advisory committee.
The group also voted to begin its quarterly meetings in January.
Formed in June 2014, the animal shelter task force grew out of concerns over the number of animals euthanized at the shelter. In 2012 and 2013, some 7,859 of the 12,071 animals received, or 65 percent, were euthanized. Among other things, the task force was asked to explore ways to reduce that percentage.
The three local governments share the annual $742,000 cost to operate the shelter, with the county paying 45.2 percent, the city of Tuscaloosa paying 45.5 percent and Northport paying 9.3 percent of the budget.
The task force submitted its recommendations to the three governments in September and the the three governing bodies approved the recommendations.
One of recommendations was to expand the five-member advisory committee to seven members.
The advisory committee oversees the implementation of the operational contract with the shelter’s management company and ensures its compliance.
In addition to expanding the advisory committee, the task force also recommended the shelter be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays through Saturdays and to be closed to the public on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Additional recommended changes will be reviewed by the new advisory committee to determine how best to implement them.
The suggestions include things such as the addition of an electronically controlled gate, separate areas for grooming and bathing animals and a salary increase for the shelter’s executive director.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
October 29th, 2015
Texas man charged in Alabama drug case - A Texas man is facing federal conspiracy and drug charges after being indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday.
Isacc Pinedo, 22, is charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine in Greene County during May and June. He is also accused of possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of the drug in Greene County on June 24, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham.
The maximum penalty for both the conspiracy and the possession with intent to distribute charge is life in prison and a $10 million fine.
The DEA and the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force investigated the case.
October 29th, 2015
Tuscaloosa man sentenced in child sex case - A Tuscaloosa man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to engage a minor in sexual activity.
Earl Wayne Babin, 49, admitted that he used hidden cameras and provided provocative lingerie for an underage girl, according to a release from United States Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office.
He pleaded guilty to one count of coercion and enticement in July.
Babin sent text messages to the girl, urging her to try on the inappropriate undergarments so he could produce photos, according to the release. The exploitation occurred between July 2012 and March 2014, when the victim was younger than 16.
Babin admitted that he engaged in illegal sexual activity with the child and produced images of child pornography involving her, according to court documents.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins sentenced Babin. As part of a plea agreement, government prosecutors recommended a 10-year prison sentence. Babin, who is already in custody, will be on supervised release for 15 years after he is released, according to the order issued by the judge.
October 29th, 2015
Hazing case trial date set for 5 former University of Alabama fraternity brothers - A December trial date has been set for five former University of Alabama fraternity members accused of hazing.
Tuscaloosa County District Judge Joel Chandler set a trial for all five defendants to take place on Dec. 2.
The former members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity were arrested late last month after fraternity pledges were treated for frostbite at UAB Hospital's burn center in Birmingham.
According to court documents, Hunter Wagner and Richard Markwalter, both 20 and from Huntsville, made pledges stand in a cooler filled with salt and ice for at least 20 minutes on Sept. 14.
University of Alabama Police believe that Colter Anderson and John Patrick Buckley, both 21 and from Texas, were present when the act occurred and did nothing to stop it.
The fifth suspect, Mark Allen Powers, 20, of Huntsville, is accused of pushing a pledge's head into a toilet before flushing it.
All five were kicked out of the fraternity after the allegations surfaced. They were also placed under undisclosed disciplinary sanctions from UA.
If no plea deal is reached, the judge will hear evidence and arguments in each case on Dec. 2 and issue a ruling. The cases, which are all based on misdemeanor charges, will not go before a jury.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
October 29th, 2015
Charles Steele returns to Tuscaloosa to address SCLC convention - Tuscaloosa will serve as host for this year's Alabama State Convention and Regional Voting Rights Summit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Registration for the summit begins at 1 p.m. today with the first event beginning two hours later.
The three-day summit will take place at Bethel Baptist Church at 3003 25th St., the church of SCLC state president the Rev. Schmitt Moore and SCLC national president and CEO the Rev. Charles Steele Jr.
Organizers said a donation of $50 per registrant is requested, but not required for those unable to afford it.
The theme of this year's summit is “We've Come Too Far To Turn Back Now: Voting Rights Act — Then and Now,” and Steele said a focus of the event will be the U.S. Supreme Court's elimination of state preclearance requirements under the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
“To be very blunt, we've gone back to states rights,” said Steele, a Tuscaloosa native who served two terms on the Tuscaloosa City Council in the mid-1980s and early-1990s. “We don't have protections anymore.”
The group is angered over the 2013 decision by the nation's high court to eliminate the requirement for nine, mostly Southern states to obtain federal permission before making significant changes to local election rules.
The change came after the government of Shelby County filed suit against then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claiming that the preclearance requirement was unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld that claim.
Steele said one reason to host the summit in Alabama is because the civil rights movement began in the state — in Selma — in the 1960s and, in his opinion, died here in Shelby County.
“The whole world will be looking at Tuscaloosa this weekend,” Steele said. “The whole world is depending on the SCLC and the civil rights movement to spread freedom throughout the world.
“Freedom isn't free. You have to fight for it everyday.”
October 29th, 2015
Wayne Flynt will reflect on Harper Lee at Thursday night talk - Author and retired Auburn University professor Wayne Flynt will present “What Harper Lee and Small Town Alabama Can Teach the World” in the Shelton State Community College atrium at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Flynt’s talk is tied to Theatre Tuscaloosa’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in Shelton’s Bean-Brown Theatre.
Admission to the lecture is free, but seating is limited and will be done on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets to the play are not required to attend the discussion.The play will begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the play is $17 for adults, $12 for students or children and $15 for seniors, Shelton employees and military.
Flynt spoke Wednesday night at a fundraiser for the Literacy Council of West Alabama.
October 29th, 2015
Intense rivalry between Gordo, Pickens County - The longtime rivalry between Gordo and Pickens County continues tonight at the home of the Greenwave.
In the 14 years that Gordo head coach Ryan Lolley has been involved in the rivalry, he said it’s always been an exciting game.
“There are a lot of memories, some good, some bad, but you always see two teams play extremely hard to represent their communities and their school,” Lolley said.
First-year Pickens County coach James Thompson also understands the importance of the rivalry to both communities.
“It’s just the tradition of it. The schools are close together, and they are right up the road,” Thompson said. “It is one of the longest running rivalries in the state, so we’ve got another tough one.”
In the past decade, Gordo leads the series 6-4. According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society Website, the Greenwave also leads the overall series 48-39-3. Gordo defeated Pickens County 50-7 last year. The Tornadoes last won in 2013, 33-22.
“They’ve had some great football teams, and we’ve had some great football teams. It always makes for a great game,” Lolley said. “You usually throw the records out. Both teams play extremely hard. This county is strong in football, and we are looking forward to it.”
Class 3A, No. 2-ranked Gordo (9-0, 6-0) won a Class 3A, Region 4 championship last week with a 49-13 victory over Hale County. Pickens County (7-2, 5-1) finished second in the Class 2A, Region 4 standings after falling to Fayetteville last week, 16-14.
“Coach Thompson is doing a great job instilling a strong work ethic in his guys and getting them to believe in what he is doing,” Lolley said. “They will be very well prepared for tomorrow night.”
If the Greenwave come out on top, it will mark the first time in school history that the program has pulled off back-to-back undefeated seasons.
“I think it would be something very special for our players to accomplish something that has never been done in Gordo High School history before,” Lolley said. “Our goal this season was to be region champs, and after we clinched that, the next goal was an undefeated season. Going back-to-back undefeated regular seasons would be something special for our kids if we can accomplish it on Thursday night.”
Reach Joey Chandler at joey.chandler@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.
October 28th, 2015
Judge blocks Alabama from ending Planned Parenthood funding - MONTGOMERY | A federal judge has blocked Alabama's effort to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Wednesday issued an order directing the state to restore funding to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood Southeast took Alabama to federal court, arguing the state didn't have a legal reason to end the Medicaid provider agreements with the two clinics in the state.
The ruling was the latest victory for Planned Parenthood in recent clashes with Republicans over funding.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in August that he was terminating Medicaid agreements with the clinics. Bentley cited the hidden camera footage shot by anti-abortion activists that implied some clinics were selling fetal tissue to researchers.
Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, called the decision a victory for women.
October 28th, 2015
Three pounds of drugs seized in raid - Drug agents say they recovered more than three pounds of potent methamphetamine along with marijuana and prescription pills as part of an ongoing investigation.
West Alabama Narcotics Task Force agents and members the Hale County Sheriff's Office arrested Fairhope resident William L. Padgett, 33, at a location in the 1400 block of Hargrove Road at 9 a.m. Saturday.
They recovered 3.2 pounds of ice, marijuana, hydrocodone pills and drug paraphernalia during the investigation, said Lt. Teena Richardson, a Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman .
Further arrests are expected, she said.
Padgett was charged with trafficking illegal drugs, possession of a controlled substance, first-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Wednesday with bond set at $221,000.
October 28th, 2015
Alabama basketball teams put on a show at Tide Tipoff - A lot of people and more energy filled Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night for the first Tide Tipoff for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
There was a 3-point contest, a dance off, a scrimmage, a dunk contest and a rap show. Welcome to the Avery Johnson era of Alabama basketball. Buckle up.
Johnson made sure to include women’s head coach Kristy Curry and her team in the festivities, singling her out several times and encouraging fans to fill Foster Auditorium for games this season, too.
But this night was the up-close introduction for the fans to get to know Johnson, the first-year Crimson Tide’s men’s basketball coach.
“Tonight was a celebration of our men’s and women’s basketball teams,” Johnson said. “You saw a lot of us here at the university pulling in the same direction.”
More than 8,000 fans, by UA’s estimate, were in attendance and Johnson asked for their support, telling them to recruit friends to come back throughout the season.
“We don’t want to see a single empty seat in Coleman Coliseum,” Johnson said.
Tuscaloosa’s WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland, ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann and UA national champion women’s golfer Emma Talley served as celebrity judges for the dunk contest.
Walk-on freshman Lawson Shaffer won the men’s 3-point contest with 17 points while Avery Johnson Jr. and Riley Norris tied for second with 12 points.
Khadijah Carter won the women’s contest.
The night kicked off with videotaped message from UA football coach Nick Saban, who couldn’t be in attendance but wanted to show his support and encourage fans to support the men’s and women’s programs.
After both teams scrimmaged, Johnson addressed the crowd, telling them how important they were in the building of both programs.
“We’re on the verge of build something amazing,” Johnson said. “We need you to help us. Bring people to games this season.
“You want to see some 3-pointers this year? You want to see some slam dunks. Come to Coleman Coliseum.”
Curry thanked Johnson for the energy level he’s brought to both programs in the short time he’s been in Tuscaloosa.
“Thanks to coach Avery for just embracing us and giving us an opportunity to make sure we can put both programs on a platform to be successful,” Curry said. “It means so much from the bottom of my heart.
“I’m so fired up and eager and excited about the future of both programs.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
October 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council allocates $640,000 for patrol cars, other equipment for law enforcement - More than $640,000 was approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council on Tuesday for the purchase of new vehicles and equipment for the Tuscaloosa Police Department.
The money will pay for six new, fully-equipped patrol cars, valued at $52,717 each, seven investigator vehicles, valued at $27,147 each and a new $25,839 police motorcycle.
Additional equipment valued at $107,600 also will be bought. That equipment will include $25,600 for additional patrol car equipment and $82,000 for data storage.
Each vehicle will replace an existing one that has between 145,000 and 230,000 miles on it, and the replacement motorcycle will replace one with 57,000 miles on it, according to information provided by City Hall.
Capt. Mike Kearney, who manages finances for the Police Department, said the data storage purchase is needed to ensure the Police Department can maintain at least six months of video data captured from the patrol vehicle dash cameras and body-mounted cameras worn by most of the department's patrol officers.
“Our idea is to increase the storage space rather than try to reduce the (time of) retention,” Kearney said.
Carly Standridge, internal auditor for the city of Tuscaloosa and a member of the capital asset purchase committee, which approved and recommended the purchases, presented the list of vehicles and equipment to the City Council's finance committee.
She said the recommendations came at the request of Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson and Kearney.
The requests then were vetted by the capital asset purchase committee, which was formed during this year's budgetary process in order to develop a comprehensive spending plan on equipment purchases citywide.
Previously, city department heads would make a 10-to-15-minute pitch on what equipment their respective departments needed and approval would depend on what money was available.
“That just does not lend itself toward a very in-depth conversation,” Standridge said.
With the capital asset purchase committee, whose members besides Standridge, include city Finance Director Mike Wright, Associate Finance Director Susan Snowden and Internal Auditor Katy Metcalfe, the city now has the ability to analyze each request and plan future purchases based on a multi-year plan.
“I think we've all been really proud of how far we can stretch a dollar,” Standridge said. “And I think that whole comprehensive way of thinking about things has really been excellent.”
It was expected that the committee would return to the City Council in November with a comprehensive list of equipment purchases for all city departments.
The police department's requests were expedited to ensure it can acquire
the vehicles during the current fiscal year from a limited supply of inventory offered by automobile manufacturers under state bid guidelines.
Requests for the remaining city departments are expected to come before the City Council next month.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
October 28th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council Action: Oct. 27 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:
-Authorized change order No. 6 for Fire Station No. 4 (TP.01); deductive total $9,295.99.
-Authorized change order No. 1 for Hillard Drive road repair; deductive total $20,326.34.
-Authorized change order No. 1 for Rice Mine Road 2014 Improvements; deductive total $37,022.52.
-Authorized payment to Luvada A. Harrison in settlement of claim; total $26.59.
-Authorized payment to Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp.; total $7,064.20.
-Authorized the filing of a lien at 2145 Idlewood Drive pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of -Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $394.50.
-Authorized the filing of a lien at 2408 Fifth Place E. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of -Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $204.50.
-Authorized the filing of a lien at 2722 Oak St. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $204.50.
-Authorized the filing of a lien at 3425 29th Street pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $204.50.
-Authorized execution of requisition No. 556 for payment from the Series 2007A Warrant Issue; total $8,489.70.
-Authorized utility account credits; total $8,058.93.
-Approved request and agreement for water service to UA Peter Bryce Boulevard and North Campus Way relocation; total: $381,759.48.
-Granted permit for the University of Alabama to construct water lines for UA Peter Bryce Boulevard and North Campus Way relocation.
-Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1335 to amend the text of the zoning ordinance pertaining to Section 24-137(5)(a) pertaining to design, construction and maintenance of signs.
-Approved the ABC application of Dolmen LLC for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at 15th Street Exxon, 1819 Veterans Memorial Parkway.
-Authorized payment of the 2015 ad valorem taxes of property purchased by the city in furtherance of the Lift Station 21 improvements project upper section; total $91.67.
-Authorized approval of a small business revitalization loan application for Ollie W. Cooper and Mark E. Cooper dba Tender Loving Educare Inc.; total $50,000.00.
-Authorized the approval of a small business revitalization loan application for Grady Christopher Miller dba Trinity Properties LLC; total $20,000.
-Authorized the approval of a commercial revolving loan application for Grady Christopher Miller dba Trinity Properties LLC; total $200,000.
-Authorized budget and program changes to the 2014 program year homeless management information system grant.
-Authorized the Office of Federal Programs to advertise amendments to the 2015 action plans of the city’s five-year consolidated plan for community planning and development grograms for program years
-Authorized budget and program changes to the 2015 program year community planning and development programs.
-Authorized a second amendment to the city’s agreement and authorized the mayor to execute the amendment agreement with the Salvation Army under the city’s 2014 emergency solutions grant program; total $121,000.
-Authorized the execution of agency contract agreements for the city’s 2015 Home Investment Partnership Program, total $179,118.20 (Tuscaloosa Housing Authority); total: $14,065.80 (Community Service Programs of West Alabama)
-Adopted amendment No. 3 to the resolution establishing a budget for the public safety capital fund.
-Adopted amendment No. 2 for the fiscal 2016 general fund budget.
-Amended Section 19-12(3)(c) of the Code of Tuscaloosa pertaining to the return to work policy.
October 28th, 2015
City Council had no bills to pay on Tuesday - For the first time in more than a decade, the Tuscaloosa City Council had no bills to approve during its regular meeting.
The final vote of each Tuesday’s regular meeting is typically the “auditing accounts” line item, during which the council can approve anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars in payments.
These payments can include anything from outside lawyer’s fees to refunds or reimbursements for businesses or entities that were overcharged or paid more than the required amounts of water bills or sales taxes.
But on Tuesday, there was no dollar amount connected to the auditing accounts line item.
Mayor Walt Maddox said it was the first time in his 14 years as either a councilman or mayor that there had been no bills to pay.
October 28th, 2015
Better mobile data access coming to Amp - City offficials on Tuesday recommended the approval of an agreement with AT&T that will enhance data connection at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater during performances.
Senior Associate City Attorney Tom Bobitt said complaints had been lodged over the drop in cellular phone connections at the venue during performances.
To address this, an agreement with AT&T was brought before the council’s public projects committee, which approved AT&T as the provider for MicroCell service at the amphitheater.
According to the company’s website, MicroCell equipment acts like a mini cellular tower, boosting cellular performance for homes and businesses.
October 28th, 2015
West Alabama State Fair will reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday after being closed Tuesday - Rain led the West Alabama State Fair to cancel Tuesday’s activities at Sokol Park.
The fair will reopen at 5 p.m. today, according to the fair’s Facebook page. The fair is scheduled to close at 10 p.m.
The fair will be open from 5-10 p.m. Thursday, 5-midnight Friday and noon to midnight on Saturday.
Admission is $5 and proceeds benefit United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama.
October 28th, 2015
Freaky Friday 8K race benefits Alabama State Troopers Association - Cliff Hembree holds on to one end of a shoestring while his running partner holds to the other. They are never more than a foot apart as she calls out obstacles in his path.
Hembree, a former Tuscaloosa County deputy, was injured in the line of duty.
On Nov. 29, 2003, he was struck by a car on the side of Old Cottondale Road while providing backup for a Tuscaloosa city police officer during a traffic stop. Hembree received significant brain injury and was not expected to survive. The result was permanent sight impairment and other physical and neurological impairments.
But he continues to run.
"He didn't let what happened to him that night keep him from living life," said Sgt. David Steward with the Alabama State Troopers Association. "He was a runner before, and he's still a runner."
Hembree will run in the eighth annual Freaky Friday 8K race beginning at 9 p.m. Friday in the Dreamland Bar-B-Que parking lot, 101 Bridge Ave. in Northport. It is a nighttime Halloween-themed race, and participants are encouraged to wear costumes and light-up gear.
To join Hembree, register for the race online at www.active.com. Online registration deadline is Thursday at noon, but participants can register the night of the event at 7:30 p.m. A post-race event will take place at Dreamland.
The cost to register is $30, and all money raised will benefit the Alabama State Troopers Association.
Steward, who is also the race director, said money raised helps purchase trooper teddy bears to stock patrol cars so troopers can have them on hand in the event a child is involved in a car accident. Troopers in uniform also take the bears to hospitalized children around Christmas.
He said money also helps pay for members' life insurance and some is set aside for members in need.
Hembree said the organization helped him when he was injured.
Hembree said he was injured about nine months after transferring to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. He and his wife met at UA, and they returned to his home state of Louisiana after graduation where he became a Louisiana state trooper. They returned to Tuscaloosa in search of a safer police environment, he said.
He spent weeks in the hospital in critical condition, underwent surgeries, spent time in a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again.
"Due to my injuries, I'm supposed to be a vegetable or dead," Hembree said. "(Running) is challenging with my traumatic brain injury – life in general, it's tough."
But his running partner and guide, Fran Oneal, said Hembree doesn't use a cane or a guide dog. He went to the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta to take back his independence, but he needs her to guide his path during their runs.
Oneal will join Hembree Friday night.
"It's really helpful to him to be a part of something everyone else does. It just helps him to overcome barriers and limits," Oneal said.
October 28th, 2015
National champion marksman, retired state trooper dies - Jim Collins was a national champion marksman who set records that stood for decades before being matched. But those who knew him well said he always put the care and safety of others first.
Collins, a retired state trooper who headed the Tuscaloosa State Trooper post for many years, died Tuesday.
"He was one of the best shooters ever," said Buford Boone III, a retired FBI agent and a friend of 37 years. "He was a man of the highest character. He was one of the best shooters whoever lived.
"He was a soldier, a trooper, a husband, a shootist, a Christian, a patriot, a friend and a mentor," Boone said.
"He was an all-around good man, and as a state trooper, he saved lives."
Boone recalled a 1985 incident when a Mississippi prison escapee being held at Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility took a woman employee hostage, holding her and another Taylor Hardin inmate in a bathroom.
Collins, who at the time was the two-time national police combat pistol shooting champion, was brought in to help end the crisis and save the hostages.
A Tuscaloosa News story of the stand-off reported "the trooper fired the gun through a window slot in the barricaded steel door of the bathroom."
The shot mortally wounded the prison escapee and saved the lives of the woman and a Taylor Hardin inmate who police described as an unwilling participant in the crisis.
Collins became a state trooper in 1963. He was transferred to the Tuscaloosa post in 1969 and was transferred to Evergreen two years later after being promoted to sergeant. He came back to Tuscaloosa in 1972, where he finished his trooper career around 1990. In 1987, he was elected by his fellow troopers as president of the Alabama State Troopers Association.
He was a two-time national outdoor pistol champion, a two-time national champion of a police pistol competition and the holder of many state shooting titles.
Collins also helped train many in law enforcement in marksmanship, something he continued to do in retirement.
"He was the first person to shoot a perfect PPC (Police Pistol Competition) 1500 course, and it was 30 years before anyone was able to match that record," recalled Capt. Joe Pearson of the Tuscaloosa Police Department.
Pearson, who headed the TPD's shooting range when he first met Collins, said the trooper helped him to be a better marksman and aided many officers in perfecting their skills.
"Jim was larger than life. He was a legend in law enforcement circles," Pearson said.
Collins also was a founder of the Tuscaloosa Gun Club, whose members include competitive and recreational target shooters.
"For those of us in competitive and recreational shooting, Jim Collins was the one person we all admired and respected," said Barry Fikes, another long-time friend.
"Although the records he set and championships he won will be long-standing testaments of his excellence in marksmanship, his eagerness to help anybody to improve their skills may be the quality that will be most remembered by those of us who were his friends."
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency posted a memorial to Collins on its website late Tuesday afternoon. It said:
"State trooper Sgt. Jim Collins distinguished himself — and brought honor to the department — by winning the National Police Combat Pistol Championship two successive years, scoring a perfect 1500 in match competition. Collins, edged out of the championship a third year, donated many of his awards and trophies to the department, where they are enjoyed by visitors to the department museum."
Collins is survived by his wife, Kay. Funeral arrangements are pending.
October 28th, 2015
University of Alabama names Wichita State administrator as new dean of libraries - A Wichita State University administrator has been named the next libraries dean at the University of Alabama.
Donald L. Gilstrap, dean and professor of University Libraries at Wichita State University, was announced on Tuesday as the successor for Louis A. Pitschmann, UA's dean of University Libraries who is retiring after serving in the post since 2001. Gilstrap will begin Jan. 4, according to the announcement from UA.
Gilstrap has served various executive roles in the libraries department at Wichita State since 2011 as well as a professor of educational leadership.
Gilstrap has previously worked in the libraries at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Connecticut, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the Connecticut Community College System.
Gilstrap earned undergraduate degrees in French and history and master's degrees in library science and history from Emporia State University in Kansas. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Oklahoma.
Gilstrap will oversee the Angelo Bruno Business Library, the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, the McLure Education Library and the Eric and Sarah Rodgers Library for Science and Engineering, as well as the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, the Alabama Digital Humanities Center and the Sanford Media Center.
October 28th, 2015
Exchange Club of Tuscaloosa to donate money to three local organizations - The Exchange Club of Tuscaloosa on Thursday will donate $45,000 to three local organizations at its weekly meeting.
Hospice of West Alabama will receive $20,000 to use for general purposes.
Easter Seals will receive $20,000 toward its capital campaign to raise money for a new 56,000-square-foot facility that will also be home to the Tuscaloosa office of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.
The Miracle League of Tuscaloosa will receive $5,000 to help build a sculpture in a memorial garden to honor those who were part of the league who are now deceased. The league provides disabled children with the opportunity to play baseball on a specially designed field.
The club accepted applications to determine which area organizations should be awarded.
Money for the donations was accumulated from the last five years of the club’s annual chili cook-off. The cook-off is held every year on the second Saturday in February.
October 28th, 2015
Historian Wayne Flynt to discuss Harper Lee during fundraiser - Historian Wayne Flynt will offer his personal insights into the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” during a fundraiser tonight for the Literacy Council of West Alabama.
“Reflections on Harper Lee: A Conversation with Wayne Flynt,” will be from 6-8 p.m. today at the home of Cathy Randall, 1001 Wellesley Green.
Flynt has been a friend of Lee’s for about 15 years. Flynt is a Pulitzer-nominated historian and author of almost a dozen books about the South, most centering on Alabama. He is one of the foremost experts on Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Admission is $50. The event will include an open bar and hors d’oeuvres based on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Books by Flynt will also be available for purchase.
Tickets are available through the Literacy Council’s website, www.literacywa.org, from any Literacy Council member or by calling 205-391-2612.
October 28th, 2015
Monster Makeover moved to Thursday - The sixth annual Monster Makeover, originally slated for Tuesday night, will move to Thursday because of inclement weather.
The event will be 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum, with the art exhibit and silent auction indoors, for a $1 charge, and all other events outdoors, all free.
For the sixth Monster Makeover, 52 local artists were paired with 52 second-graders from the Alberta School of Performing Arts, who drew monsters and offered elaborate descriptions. The adults then took the students’ monsters and stories, and created differing interpretations, in drawings, paintings, sculptures, fabric art and more.
Proceeds will go to benefit arts programs in area schools. Last year’s event drew about 1,000 participants, and raised about $3,800 for the schools. Parking will be available at the museum and the adjacent Tuscaloosa Public Library.
Patrons can bid on the adults’ and children’s art, and winners will be announced toward the end of the night. “Best of Show” awards will be given to selected artists, as chosen by judges Kip Tyner of the Tuscaloosa City Council, Druid City Brewing Co. co-owner Bo Hicks and Becky Booker, public relations and marketing manager for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.
Ingram Farms will provide pumpkins, hay bales and other holiday decorations to set the scene for the family friendly event, and the TPL will use bookmobiles and decorations to create a walk-through haunted-house. Trunk-or-treat spots, sponsored by area groups and businesses, will be giving out candy. Some will have turquoise pumpkins, indicating where non-food related items will be. Stickers and other prizes will be available as safe alternatives for children with allergies.
There will also be coloring and other education-based activities, along with an inflatable bounce house and a newly built fortune-teller booth. Live Halloween-themed music will be performed by the Resident Evils.
The annual Monster Makeover event is created by The Tuscaloosa News, the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum and the Tuscaloosa Public Library.
October 27th, 2015
Ex-police chief Robert Green files federal lawsuit against Northport - Northport’s former police chief has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and city administrator, claiming racial discrimination and retaliation for a separate discrimination suit he filed in 2011.
In a suit filed last week, Robert Green claims that the city commissioned an operations study of the Northport Police Department and made the results public in an attempt to discredit him after he filed the 2011 discrimination suit.
Results from the study were critical of Green’s leadership, saying that Green used coercion, threats and punishments as “power tools of intimidation” to run the Northport Police Department. His methods led to high turnover and low morale, according to the report by a Colorado firm.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, Green claims that he met with city administrator Scott Collins in May 2012. According to the suit, Green was told to settle the 2011 discrimination lawsuit for what he believed to be a unreasonably low amount, or the unfavorable study would be released and he would be fired.
The suit claims that the study was commissioned as retaliation for the 2011 suit, and that no other studies were conducted within other city departments. Green was the only black department head working for the city at the time.
“The only reason for releasing the study after (Green’s) retirement was to embarrass and humiliate him and to try to get him to settle his claims for an unreasonable amount,” Green’s lawyer wrote in the complaint.
Northport’s city administrator said Monday that he had heard about Green’s current lawsuit.
“I was made aware of the new lawsuit this afternoon,” Collins said Monday. “While I have not read it, I expect it is simply more of the same.
“Robert Green was never discriminated against by the city of Northport,” he said. “He was treated the same as everyone else and ultimately that’s what offended him.
“We look forward to addressing this lawsuit in the same manner we have addressed his previous complaints and we look forward to once again being successful,” Collins said.
In April 2014, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn dismissed Green’s 2011 suit against the city and Collins, ruling that there was not enough evidence to support Green’s claims of retaliation or a hostile work environment.
“Considering all of the incidents of which Green complains, the court finds no reasonable jury could find that Collins’s conduct created an abusive or hostile work environment for Green based on his race,” Blackburn wrote in a memorandum opinion filed in court last year.
October 27th, 2015
Coach says surprises in store for tonight's Tide Tipoff Event - TUSCALOOSA | It's been almost impossible to miss Avery Johnson, the new Alabama men's basketball coach, in his tireless efforts to promote the Crimson Tide.
“He's out there kissing babies and everything,” joked senior guard Retin Obasohan at the Crimson Tide's media opportunity at Coleman Coliseum on Monday.
Johnson said he has some “surprises” planned for tonight's Tide Tipoff Event at Coleman Coliseum, too, hinting that it could be anything — except a guest rap with visiting artists Rae Sremmund, the stars of a post-practice concert.
“I'll leave that to the other Avery,” Johnson said, referring to his son, Avery Jr., a UA point guard who is sitting out this season after transferring from Texas A&M.
Before discussing the event, Johnson had some surprises about the team's ongoing practice — including an expanded offensive role for junior center Jimmie Taylor.
“Right now, we don't have a rotation,” Johnson said. “We don't have a starting lineup. As far as guys who've been standing out for us, Jimmie Taylor has been outstanding on both sides of the floor. He competes at a high level. Jimmie's gotten better at all facets of the game. We're looking for him to have a much better year than averaging five points a game. We're going to lean on him a lot this year.”
Johnson said that he hoped to have two other inside players, junior forwards Michael Kessens and Shannon Hale, available for some work tonight and hoped that both would be “full speed” for the first Crimson Tide scrimmage on Nov. 6 against Trevecca Nazarene.
“I feel great,” said Hale, who had surgery after a foot injury brought a premature end to his 2015 season. “I feel better than I've ever felt. Coach wants me to play at 230 (pounds) and I'm at 233 or 234.
“I think (Johnson's) style of play fits me perfectly, so it's been pretty easy to adjust to. There's going to be a lot of excitement for Alabama basketball ahead.”
Tonight's Tipoff event will begin at 6 p.m. with a 45-minute autograph session featuring both the men's and women's teams and coaches. The teams will then participate in a variety of activities on court including team introductions, a skills competition and a three-point shootout. New to the list of activities is a dunk contest with celebrity judges.
Admission to the event is free for students as well as season ticket-holders for men's and women's basketball, football, volleyball, gymnastics, baseball and softball, and UA faculty and staff. Season ticket-holders and faculty and staff can print up to 10 tickets from an e-mail sent by UA. Hard tickets can also be picked up on the day of the event inside Coleman Coliseum for season ticket holders or faculty and staff members of record only. UA students, admitted one per student ID, will swipe their Action Card similar to a regular men's basketball game at the west entrance of Coleman Coliseum tonight beginning at 6 p.m.
Seating at the event will be first-come, first-serve with general admission seating. UA students will have their first opportunity to sit in the newly designated student section along with special seating on the floor for this event.
Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.
October 27th, 2015
Rain could dampen spooky events this week - Bad weather, or the threat of it, canceled Monday's Sorority Row Trick-or-Treat, but other early Halloween week events, such as the University of Alabama's Athletic Halloween Extravaganza, went on as planned, indoors.
The West Alabama State Fair in Sokol Park relies on its rides' provider to make the weather calls, and the carnival rides and fairway were open Monday night. Patrons should check the fair's Facebook page, or www.westalabamastatefair.com, for updates and schedules throughout the week. The fair runs through Saturday.
Tonight's Sixth Annual Monster Makeover will hold its art exhibit and auction 6-9 p.m. inside the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum, but the trunk-or-treat and other planned outdoor activities will depend on the weather.
If wind and rain should mar the day, as forecast, trunk-or-treat and other carnival-type activities may move to Thursday evening. Stay tuned to The Tuscaloosa News' website, www.tuscaloosanews.com, its Facebook page and Twitter feeds for updates. The decision for outdoor activities should be made 3 p.m.
For the sixth Monster Makeover, 52 local artists were paired with 52 second-graders from the Alberta School of Performing Arts, who drew monsters and offered elaborate descriptions. The adults then took the students' monsters and stories, and created differing interpretations, in drawings, paintings, sculptures, fabric art and more.
The exhibit is on display at the Transportation Museum during its regular hours and 6-9 p.m. tonight. There's a $1 admission charge to the indoor portion of the event. Proceeds from that and the silent auction will go to benefit arts programs in area schools. Last year's event drew about 1,000 participants, and raised about $3,800 for the schools. Parking is available at both the museum and the adjacent Tuscaloosa Public Library.
Patrons can bid on the adults' and children's art, and winners will be announced toward the end of the night. "Best of Show" awards will be given to selected artists, as chosen by judges Kip Tyner of the Tuscaloosa City Council, Druid City Brewing Co. co-owner Bo Hicks and Becky Booker, public relations and marketing manager for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.
Ingram Farms will provide pumpkins, hay bales and other holiday decorations to set the scene for the family friendly event, and the TPL will use bookmobiles and decorations to create a walk-through haunted-house, said Pamela Williamson, director of public services for the library.
Several trunk-or-treat spots, sponsored by area groups and businesses, will be giving out candy. Some will have turquoise pumpkins, indicating where non-food related items will be, Williamson said. Stickers and other prizes will be available as safe alternatives for children with allergies.
There will also be coloring and other education-based activities, along with an inflatable bounce house and a newly built fortune-teller booth. Live Halloween-themed music will be performed by the Resident Evils.
The annual Monster Makeover event is created by The Tuscaloosa News, the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum and the Tuscaloosa Public Library.
Also tonight, A Haunting at the Museum is planned to go on, rain or shine, 6-8 p.m. at the Alabama Museum of Natural History and Gorgas House Museum on the University of Alabama campus, with ghost stories and spooky crafts for kids.
Looking ahead, the forecast calls for dropping chances of precipitation through to Friday, which is picked to be sunny, but with rain chances rising again to 60 percent Saturday, Halloween.
This could affect area outdoor activities including:
- Howl-O-Ween Pet Costume Contest: 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Midtown Village, with dressed-up pups competing for a $500 prize. Trick-or-treat will be held throughout. www.midtownvillage tuscaloosa.com/event/ howl-o-ween-pet-costume- contest.
- "Cape Fear" at Lake Lurleen State Park: The park will transform into "Cape Fear" for Halloween day, with hayrides, trick-or-treating and "haunted" camping specials. Admission is $1 for those 12 and younger and $3 for those older than 12. The hayride is $1 per person. The park is at 13226 Lake Lurleen Road in Coker. www.alapark.com/lake-lurleen-state-park.
- Halloween Fairyland: Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, 12632 Confederate Parkway in McCalla, will host its 24th annual festival Halloween day, with park-sponsored programs during the afternoon and trick-or-treating at more than 200 campsites in the evening. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children 6-11 and free for children younger than 6. Park events include moonwalks, face painting, balloon animals, a bungee jump and train rides (for a small additional charge). www. tannehill.org.
- Bama Zombie Dash: 8-10 a.m. Halloween morning at Griffin Farms Pumpkin Patch, West Blocton. Runners attempt to complete a 5K while avoiding attacks from the zombie horde. Participants can choose to run the Bama Zombie Dash as a runner or dressed as a zombie "walker." Cost is $30 to participate. www.griffin farmsal.com.
- Spooky Spectacular 2015: 6-8 p.m. Halloween event, with trunk-or-treat and hayride at Broughton Park, 13166 Highway 11, Fosters. Hayrides $1 around the track for the smallest trick-or-treaters, with storytellers on the ride and storybook characters around the track. The Soggy Bottom Haunted Trail will start at 6 p.m., a walking trail beside Fosters Community Club and ball field. This will be a scary trail with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, goblins, vampires and zombies. Free hotdogs, chips and drinks, games with prizes, candy for all and decorated trunk contest. All parking will be at the McDaniel Field.
- Family Fun/Law Enforcement Appreciation event: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Airport Park, sponsored by the BamaCarry organization. Includes inflatable bounce houses, pony/horse rides, a roving magician, hayride, BB shooting range and live music. Barbecue plates will be sold for $10 by Robertson's BBQ, as a fundraiser for Crime Stoppers. Meal tickets are available at all Alabama One Credit Union locations.
- Fall Festival: 5-7 p.m. Sunday with Hopewell Baptist Church and Holt Baptist at 3800 University Blvd. E., Tuscaloosa. Food, games, candy and inflatable bounce houses. Call 553-2202 for more.
October 27th, 2015
State flag pulled down at Ole Miss; college says Confederate emblem sends harmful message - OXFORD, Miss. | The University of Mississippi quietly pulled down the state flag on Monday, deciding that the 121-year-old banner's Confederate battle emblem sends a harmful message in this age of diversity.
Acting under the order of Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks, three campus police officers furled the flag before most students were awake, taking it down from a circle of honor between the white-columned administration building and a marble statue of a saluting Confederate soldier.
A group of university leaders met Sunday night and agreed to take it down, days after the student and faculty senates urged its removal from the Oxford campus, a bastion for Southern elites since its founding in 1848.
"Because the flag remains Mississippi's official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued," Stocks' statement said.
The banner will be put on display in the university's archives, Stocks said.
The flag had flown for years in the Lyceum circle, where deadly white riots broke out in 1962, when James Meredith enrolled as the university's first black student, under a federal court order and with the protection of U.S. marshals.
A half-century later, federal forces were again keeping close watch on the Ku Klux Klan as a civil rights group's Oct. 16 remove-the-flag rally proved to be the catalyst for change.
Two Klan members who protested Thursday's faculty senate vote were arrested on weapons charges after campus police found shotguns and a "Black Lives Don't Matter" sign in their pickup truck, according to an FBI agent's request to prosecute both men on federal weapons charges.
Students forced this issue as the governor and most state lawmakers seek re-election on Nov. 3, and many politicians have avoided staking positions. Not so for Chris McDaniel, a state senator who lost a Republican primary to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014. McDaniel insisted that "Ole Miss should fly it, as long as they remain a publicly funded university."
"Universities are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, not cocoons designed for coddling the feelings of the perpetually offended," he posted Monday on his Facebook page.
There was no sign of protest on campus Monday.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said months ago that it's time to change the flag, but his fellow Republican, Gov. Phil Bryant, declined to call a special legislative session to debate it and said Mississippians themselves should decide the flag's future.
Since 1894, the Mississippi flag has had the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner. State voters decided in 2001 to keep it there, the last state flag in the nation to incorporate the divisive symbol.
"I think college students react a lot emotionally," the governor said after the student senate vote.
He held his ground on Monday.
"Mississippians overwhelmingly voted in 2001 to adopt the current Mississippi state flag. I believe publicly funded institutions should respect the law as it is written today. It clearly states 'The state flag shall receive all the respect and ceremonious etiquette given the American flag,' " Bryant said in a statement.
The law Bryant cited makes displaying the flag optional at public buildings.
The University of Mississippi has struggled with Old South symbolism for decades. Sports teams remain the Rebels, but the Colonel Rebel mascot was retired.
Chancellor Dan Jones, who sought to make the campus more racially inclusive, was ousted in March, and many of his supporters suspected he was too liberal on race for the trustees, who are appointed by the governor. Trustees insisted that he had to go because he resisted financial changes.
The flag came down ahead of Thursday's campus visit by the board's choice to replace Jones — University of Kansas Provost Jeffrey Vitter — who told the AP in an interview last week that he is committed to diversity, but offered no opinion on the flag.
Athletic director Ross Bjork, who has said the flag makes recruiting more difficult, was among those who met with the interim chancellor during the weekend. "I'm just proud our university can take a stand like this. It's the right thing to do. It helps move us forward," Bjork said.
October 27th, 2015
Continuously running water pumps disturb some west Tuscaloosa residents - The price of progress has irked some west Tuscaloosa residents, but Council President Harrison Taylor wants them to know the annoyances are necessary.
“Do we want a couple months of inconvenience for an improved quality of life for years and years to come?,” the six-term councilman said Monday.
The cause for the concern is the ongoing, $2.56 million project to improve the sewer network near Lift Station 21, located off 29th Street near the Cherrystone neighborhood.
Tuscaloosa-based John Plott Co. was awarded the contract to perform the work in June and has 180 days to finish the job.
Taylor said he has tried to explain to residents that the work is necessary.
“If we don’t do it, there’s going to be raw sewage backing up (into houses and property),” Taylor said. “It’s got to be done.”
But the high water table in the area has made the re-routing of an existing sewer line difficult, said city Wastewater Engineer Daniel Price.
The plan calls for replacing the existing, aged line with about 4,800 to 5,000 feet of new, larger line that will extend around the neighborhood’s perimeter.
To complete the work, a series of pumps have been running non-stop to keep the groundwater level low enough to dig out the earth and replace the line.
“We’ve had some folks that were not happy about having to run those pumps at night and on the weekend,” Price said.
Without pumping, the removed earth would have the quality of soup, making its removal difficult.
And should the earth be dug out under these conditions, the groundwater would fill in the hole to resemble a swimming pool, Price said.
It was unknown just how much longer the pumps will be needed. The contractor has until December to complete the work, but Price said he expects it to be finished before then — possibly by Thanksgiving — in order to get done before winter weather makes the work even harder.
“The groundwater table rises in the wintertime,” Price said, “and it gets even worse than it is right now.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosa
news.com or 205-722-0200.
October 27th, 2015
Attorney and equal justice advocate to give Realizing the Dream lecture - Attorney and equal justice advocate Bryan Stevenson will give the 2015-16 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture today, the first of the annual series of events celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The Distinguished Lecture Series is an integral part of the Realizing the Dream committee's efforts to raise awareness for equality, education and social justice," said Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of the University of Alabama's Division of Community Affairs. "Stevenson's work serves as an example of what Dr. King stood for and of the work we aim to highlight every year in our Realizing the Dream programming."
Stevenson's lecture titled "American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity and Making a Difference" will be at 7 p.m. today at the Embassy Suites hotel, 2410 University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa. Seating is first-come, first-served. Stevenson will be available for a book signing afterward.
The lecture series is jointly sponsored by the Tuscaloosa Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Shelton State Community College, Stillman College and UA. This year's theme is "Realizing the Dream Through the Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person."
Stevenson is founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery and a professor of law at New York University. The nonprofit provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been unjustly treated in the legal system.
Stevenson was originally scheduled to be part of 2014-15 Realizing the Dream events but had to cancel because of a schedule conflict, said Carol Agomo, director of community and administrative affairs in UA's Division of Community Affairs.
"He was called into a case and could not join us. It just so happened thematically he was a good fit for the what the committee was after this year, focusing on social justice issues, particularly helping the disadvantaged really," Agomo said.
Stevenson's lecture will be followed in January with the Realizing the Dream concert featuring gospel singer Jonathan Butler, a singer and songwriter who grew up in apartheid South Africa, and the legacy banquet featuring Birmingham attorney G. Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney who led the team that prosecuted the cold case against two former Ku Klux Klansmen in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
The legacy banquet will be at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 at the Embassy Suites hotel. The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Moody Music building on the UA campus.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
October 27th, 2015
Suspect in attempted murder is arrested - Investigators have arrested a man accused of shooting another man in the head earlier this month.
Tavaris Deon Brown, 24, has been wanted for attempted murder since the Oct. 18 shooting on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The victim, 45, told officers that Brown fired several shots at him during an argument. He was struck once in the back of the head.
Investigators arrested Brown around 2 p.m. Monday, said Lt. Kip Hart, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander.
October 27th, 2015
Portion of U.S. 82 to be closed next week - The threat of inclement weather this week has led to the delay of bridge rail repairs in Coker.
The westbound lane of U.S. Highway 82 near Sam Sutton Road will be closed Nov. 2-6, instead of this week.
Drivers should expect delays and are encouraged to consider an alternate route.
The road will be closed at mile post 40.3, near the site of a fatal crash that occurred Oct. 22.
Jared Thomas Gresham, 18, of Coker was driving across U.S. Highway 82 when he collided with a dump truck hauling asphalt. His SUV caught fire, and the asphalt truck rolled on its side, with both vehicles coming to rest on a bridge that crosses Big Creek.
October 27th, 2015
Suspects sought in attempted robbery - Police on Monday released surveillance photos of two masked, armed men who tried to rob a Dollar General store Thursday night.
The men entered the store in the 6500 block of Hargrove Road East at 9:45 p.m. Thursday, said Lt. Teena Richardson, Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman.
One thief grabbed the cashier and ordered her to open the safe while the other searched the store for other employees. Both men fled the store after unsuccessful attempts to open the safe, Richardson said.
Nothing was reported stolen.
One suspect is around 6 feet, 2 inches tall with a slim build. He was wearing all black clothing, a mask with a bandana over it and was carrying a silver handgun. The second suspect is around 5 feet, 7 inches tall and was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt under a black short-sleeved shirt, gray pants and a dark bandana over his face. He was carrying a silver handgun.
Anyone who can identify the suspects is asked to contact Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
October 27th, 2015
Arrest made in Oct. 16 UWA robbery - A 25-year-old Birmingham man has been arrested on robbery charges in connection with an armed robbery reported Oct. 16 on the University of West Alabama campus.
Remardo Le Bradley, 25, of Birmingham, was arrested on Monday on charges of first-degree robbery at a residence in Emelle by UWA Police and members of the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, according to the UWA Police Department. Bradley is not a student, according to the information released by the university. Bradley’s bond has been set at $30,000.
On Oct. 16 at about 2 a.m., police responded to a report of an armed robbery at a campus parking lot. No injuries were reported. The suspect fled in a light blue Chrysler PT Cruiser.
October 27th, 2015
Trick-or-treat event canceled - The University of Alabama Panhellenic Association has canceled Monday night's trick-or-treat event on Sorority Row because of the threat of rain.
The event will not be rescheduled.
October 26th, 2015
Father charged with manslaughter - A father charged with manslaughter in the death of his 11-year-old daughter was under the influence at the time of the fatal traffic accident, investigators said Monday.
Bradley Shane Jones, 35, was charged Friday in the death of Emma Kate Jones, who died after the Aug. 22 accident.
Jones was driving a 1994 Mitsubishi 3000 GT that crashed into a fence near Sokol Park at 2:20 a.m. that morning. Emma Kate's five-year-old sister survived the crash. Shane Jones was charged with possession of a controlled substance shortly after the crash.
Investigators with the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit charged him with manslaughter on Friday.
“Investigators developed probable cause to believe that Bradley Jones was under the influence at the time of the collision,” unit assistant commander Lt. Kip Hart said Monday.
Emma Kate was a Hillcrest Middle School student.
Further information will be released at a press conference scheduled for this morning.
October 26th, 2015
Parks and Recreation Authority prepares to open Van de Graaff Arboretum & Historic Bridge Park - Marcy Koontz, a board member of Friends of Historic Northport, toured a park through the lens of the camera on her smartphone. At every stop, she excitedly took pictures of piers, bridges and water to post on social media.
“We could’ve never done this with Friends,” Koontz said. “The magnitude of this project was bigger than Friends. This is phenomenal.”
Friends of Historic Northport took a tour of the Van de Graaff Arboretum & Historic Bridge Park on Thursday to see the developments Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority have made to the park, which is located off Robert Cardinal Airport Road.
Friends leased the 141-acre property to PARA for $1 a year for 99 years in August 2014 under the stipulation that PARA would be responsible for developing and maintaining the land for recreational and educational purposes, said PARA Public Relations Manager Becky Booker.
She said PARA has dedicated $100,000 to get the park open.
PARA has made developments on the property, but a few more must be made before the park can open.
“There are not a lot of amenities ... but there’s a lot of labor we’ve done here,” said PARA Executive Director Gary Minor.
He said PARA spent $30,000 and thousands of hours on trash removal alone.
Recent improvements include three piers and a boat ramp for hand-carried and non-gas motor boats, porch-style swings overlooking water, two gravel roads, a half-mile walking trail, benches, garbage cans and primitive campsites that are being developed.
Minor said PARA plans to build more swings and a pavilion and add restrooms, more trails, canoe campsites and additional primitive camp sites. It also will remove the lily pads from the multiple bodies of water on the property.
Zach Heard, special projects manager for PARA, said in a few years, he would like to add RV campsites, too.
PARA plans to offer fishing, camping, boating, birding, hiking, educational programs and more activities at this park, which will include a dog-friendly area.
Heard said the park is about one-third water and will need to be connected with bridges.
And a bridge is the holdup on opening the park, Minor said.
One of the main features of the park will be an 1882 bowstring bridge that once spanned the Black Warrior River. The bridge was salvaged from the New Lexington area of Tuscaloosa County in 2008 and was restored.
Minor said PARA wants to have the land beneath the bridge dug out in order to redirect the water flow before the park opens. The county has agreed to do it, but it will be done on their timetable, he said.
Booker said PARA hopes to open the park by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
October 26th, 2015
Gallery: Children travel to Oz for Halloween - 31424
October 26th, 2015
Water bill refund policy under review - Tuscaloosa city leaders are taking a look at what, exactly, constitutes a refund for an excessively high water bill brought about by leaky pipes.
They also are examining who gets such treatment under current policy and whether changes to the existing rules should be made.
The issue was brought to the Tuscaloosa City Council's attention on Oct. 6, when Robert Lake, senior vice-president for acquisition and business development at the Randall-Reilly publishing company, came seeking relief for businesses that get hit with big water bills because of an unknown water leak.
“If we hadn't been paying attention, it could've gone on for several months,” Lake said to the council's administration and policy committee.
When Randall-Reilly reached out for some kind of relief from the city's Water and Sewer Department, the company was told that the city did not make such concessions for businesses or commercial enterprises.
Lake questioned whether that was entirely fair, noting that while Randall-Reilly could afford the bills, some smaller businesses could not.
That point struck home with several council members, including Councilman Kip Tyner, who now is open to examining the city's leak relief policy to see if anymore should be done for residents or businesses caught in similar circumstances.
“I would certainly be willing to look at expanding that to our commercial customers, as well,” Tyner said. “Sometimes, I feel like we think our business community is just loaded — that's not the case. We don't have a lot of Randall-Reilly's and Mercedes.'”
Now, residential customers can earn a water bill refund if a leak pushes the total dollar amount and cubic footage of water consumption as determined by the property's water meter to certain thresholds.
Specifically, the bill must be at least three times the average of the two months just prior. In those situations, the city will refund the difference between the calculate average and the total of the enlarged bill as long as the resident has proof of the leak, such as a receipt for paid repairs from a licensed plumber.
Water and Sewer Department Director Jimmy Junkin presented the City Council with the results of a survey of how six other cities and water authorities across the state handle leak relief for residents and businesses.
“Leak relief is a policy that utilities here and there have picked up to give customers a little relief from unexpected surprises because of something they've neglected on their property or because of something they were unaware of on their property that caused a large water bill,” he said.
These policies are applied whenever a water leak on the customers' side of the water meter occurs. The city already pays for all repairs on the right-of-way side of the property's water meter.
Two water suppliers — the Montgomery Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board and the city of Huntsville — offer no relief for businesses, but do provide some form to residents.
But the cities of Auburn and Northport, as well as the Birmingham Water Works Board and the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System provide relief to all. The parameters for each vary, but they are open to providing such relief for businesses at least once a year or once every 18 months in Auburn.
Each of the surveyed cities and utilities offers some kind of leak relief to residents.
For Birmingham Water Works Board customers, they can receive an adjustment for any amount over the 12-month average of their water bills every 18 months.
The city of Northport requires residents to appeal to a claims committee, which looks at the property's prior 12 months of water usage before deciding whether leak relief — up to two months' worth — is justified.
Last fiscal year, the city refunded about $57,000 in water leak charges for home owners, and Junkin said he is opposed to extending the policy beyond that.
“ I do not want to see an expansion of the current leak relief policy,” Junkin said, “primarily because it places greater financial burden on the (Water and Sewer) Department and because I believe property owners should be responsible for care and maintenance of their private assets unless those assets are damaged by others, who should then make necessary reparations at the time damages occur.”
Council members said they understand that argument, but said there still remains a question of fairness.
“If it's something we can do in a better fashion, then we need to look at it and try to change it,” said District 6 Councilman Eddie Pugh. “It doesn't matter if it's Mr. Jones out here or some industry, we need to try to be fair to everybody.”
District 3 Councilwoman Cynthia Almond, who represents the area where Randall-Reilly is located, agreed.
“You try to balance fairness to the customer with fairness to the taxpayer,” she said. “But I think we can certainly look at ways other communities are reimbursing commercial (customers) to see if makes sense.”
October 25th, 2015
Cuba man dies in Sumter County car crash - A 64-year-old Cuba man died in a Saturday afternoon crash in Sumter County, according to Trooper Reginal King of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
The two-vehicle crash happened at 3 p.m. on Alabama Highway 17, about six miles south of York.
Eddie Charles Graham, 64, was killed after the 2004 Buick
Lesabre he was driving collided with a 2009 Buick Enclave driven by Winzer Jimerson, 66, of New Orleans.
Graham was airlifted to University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 5:51 p.m. Saturday.
Jimerson and a passenger in his car were taken to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa for treatment. Troopers are continuing to investigate the crash.
October 25th, 2015
Part of U.S. 82 to be closed Tuesday - The left westbound lane of U.S. Highway 82 at mile post 40.3 near Sam Sutton Road will be closed from noon Tuesday through late Friday afternoon to repair a damaged bridge rail. The damage occurred during an Oct. 22 crash. Motorists are being advised to expect delays and urged to consider alternate routes.
October 25th, 2015
Part of 25th Avenue East to be closed this week - Alabama Power will close 25th Avenue East between University Boulevard East and Fourth Street East from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily beginning Monday and lasting through Thursday. The closure will allow for substation work. The posted detour route will be along 23rd Avenue East.
October 25th, 2015
Streets to be swept this week in town: Oct. 25 - Tuscaloosa street crews will sweep streets the following areas this week: 15th Street to Hargrove Road (Forest Lake Area), Meador Drive, Highland Oaks Drive, Springbrook, 36th Street East, Heatherbrook, Redbud Lane, El Dorado East, Woodland Forest Drive, Overbrook Road, Orchard Lane, Bryant Circle to Huntland Drive, First Place NE, Summerfield Drive, Green Acres Drive, 46th Avenue East, Lynn Haven, 14th Place East, Redmont Drive, Hillsdale Circle, Brookhill Road, Ridgewood Road, Somerset Place, Firethorn Drive, Hillswood Lane, Woodland Hills Drive, Red Oak Lane, Oak Chase, Waterfall Lane, Brook Highland Drive, Bluegrass Parkway, Sierra Drive, Meretta Lane, Lake Ridge Lane, Grand Arbor Drive, Shamley Drive, Harbor Ridge Way, Yacht Club, Normandy Place, Essex Circle NE.
Residents in these areas are asked not to park on the street.
October 25th, 2015
UA professor studies fossilized fragments of dinosaur eggshells - Researchers, including an associate professor at the University of Alabama, are studying the body temperatures of dinosaurs by analyzing fossilized fragments of eggshells.
"The temperatures we measured suggest that at least some dinosaurs were not fully (warm-blooded) like modern birds," said Robert Eagle, the lead author of a recent paper on the work and a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles' department of earth, planetary and space sciences. "They may have been intermediate — somewhere between modern alligators and crocodiles and modern birds; certainly that's the implication for the oviraptorid theropods."
The paper on the researchers' work appeared in the journal Nature Communications on Oct. 13.
The oviraptorids were one of two Cretaceous Period dinosaurs the team studied. Eagle and the other researchers also studied long-necked titanosaur sauropods based on eggshells found in Argentina. The researchers analyzed oviraptorid shell fragments from Mongolia.
The study found sauropods' body temperatures were warm, similar to humans. The smaller oviraptorids had substantially lower temperatures but still warmer than their Cretaceous environment.
The work of the team included two phases, a chemical analysis of the shell fragments to determine the body temperature of the dinosaurs and an analysis of the state of preservation of the samples themselves to validate process to determine the temperatures.
Researchers, using a mass spectrometer, measured the abundance of carbon-13 and oxygen-18 isotopes in calcium carbonate in the shells. Based on the isotopes, the researchers determined the body temperature of the female dinosaurs at the time of ovulation.
"The abundance is directly related to the temperature," said Alberto Perez-Huerta, associate professor of geological sciences at UA.
Previously, the researchers studying body temperatures used the same technique with dinosaur teeth, Perez-Huerta said. A paper published on those findings stirred controversy, with critics questioning whether the fossils were preserved well enough to use the method.
Historically, the question of dinosaur body temperature has been approached by studying bone growth and structures, Perez-Huerta said.
Whether dinosaurs are cold-blooded or warm-blooded has long been debated. The question fits into the larger mystery of when and where did endothermy, being warm-blooded, evolve.
"How did endothermy evolve? That is the big question," Perez-Huerta said.
The UA researcher was brought onto the team to confirm the validity of the samples when Eagle and the other researchers decided to analyze the eggshells using the same process they used with the teeth.
"In modern birds, specifically chickens, if you measure the temperature of an egg, it reflects the body temperature of the female," Perez-Huerta said.
The team tested eggshells from 13 birds and 9 reptile species with known body temperatures.
"We saw almost a match 1 to 1," Perez-Huerta said.
The potential challenge of using the method to determine dinosaur body temperatures is time and geological processes can alter the crystalline structures and chemistry of the eggshells.
While the team included samples from Mongolia and Argentina, it discarded eggshell fragments from France because of the state of preservation, according to UCLA.
Perez-Huerta's role on the team was to analyze data from the eggshell samples using a field emission scanning electron microscope, part of a technique known as electron backscatter diffraction, to determine whether the crystal structures and chemistry of the eggshell samples remained unaltered.
The crystalline structures of eggshells typical grow outward in fan shapes, forming distinct patterns when viewed with the electron microscope. The growth patterns of crystals in bird eggs are similar to those found in well-preserved dinosaur eggshells, Perez-Huerta said.
Perez-Huerta, an expert in interpreting data from electron backscatter diffraction, looks for the fans as he analyzes samples.
Perez-Huerta, who studies bio-minerals and some geological chemistry, spent about a month and a half preparing and analyzing the samples.
The temperatures found by the authors of the papers using eggshells for analysis were similar to the earlier work on dinosaur body temperatures with teeth.
"It gave us a baseline to say they have a body temperature that is high," Perez-Huerta said.
The research team is considering moving in a couple of directions in the future including getting new eggshells, seeing if a similar process could be developed for analyzing fossilized bones and trying to look at different species from different eras, he said. The interest for future samples includes fossils of early birds.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
October 25th, 2015
Couple marries in Crimson Tide tailgating fashion on the Quad - A tent was their church. Red Alabama lawn chairs were the pews. The bells ringing from Denny Chimes were their music. The guests dressed in Crimson Tide-themed clothing from Alabama T-shirts to houndstooth dresses.
The bride wore a white, lacy sundress with cowboy boots. The groom wore red-and-white-striped seersucker pants with an elephant belt and a white button-up. And the minister wore a red and white pinstripe suit beneath a red and white cleric’s costume.
About 60 guests and even more onlookers watched as Chip Thomas and Karen O’Connor Thomas spoke their vows at a low-key tailgate party on the University of Alabama Quad on Saturday three hours before kickoff at the Alabama-Tennessee game.
“This is my third (child’s wedding), and it’s quite different,” said Fred Thomas, the groom’s father.
The groom said they are the first to have a small ceremony on the Quad on game day as far as they know, and UA interim director of media relations Chris Bryant said, “We’re not aware of any weddings on the Quad,” but people can rent the end zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium for weddings.
“There are so many things with traditional weddings, anyway, that to do something you love — Chip lives and breathes Alabama — and to find somebody who would do something like this with you is great,” said Chris Swann, the officiant and friend of the groom.
Thomas said Alabama football is a big deal to him and his family. He was born in Alabama and is a UA graduate.
He said he and his wife met when they started working together. He is the chief financial officer for an insurance agency, and she is a human resources consultant in Roanake, Va., where they live.
The two started dating about five years ago and were engaged in December 2014.
O’Connor Thomas said when they met, she was only a pro-football fan, but Thomas quickly got her hooked on college football after her first Alabama game against Penn State at Happy Valley.
Thomas said they have attended about 10 games together, and they attend at least one a year in Tuscaloosa.
He said that’s why they chose to do their ceremony on a game day.
“We were looking at a traditional wedding and couldn’t do it in the fall because we didn’t want to (mess) up anybody’s football schedule,” he said. “We said we all go to a game anyway. Let’s just do it at the game.”
Ashley Berkery, owner of Ashley Copeland Inc., a Birmingham-based event-planning company said, as a wedding planner in Alabama during football season, she has to plan a lot around Alabama’s football schedule.
“I definitely think football season affects the planning part,” Berkery said. “We have to plan for a bye-weekend or an away weekend.”
She did not plan the Thomas wedding.
O’Connor-Thomas said if she had done a traditional wedding, she still would have had a crimson and white color palette.
“My blood is crimson red now because I’ve dated him that long,” O’Connor-Thomas said. “I love Alabama. I couldn’t marry this man if I didn’t. I was converted.”
Thomas said being an Alabama fan was a deal-breaker for him.
“I almost broke up with her when she rooted for Cam Newton when he was playing for the (Carolina) Panthers,” he said.
Newton played for Auburn University before he was drafted to the NFL.
“I didn’t realize that Alabama and Auburn was a rivalry,” she said.
She said he also bought her a pair of Alabama running shorts when they first started dating because she wore an orange pair that looked like Tennessee’s color. He made her take the orange pair to the rescue mission, she said.
“I love the Tennessee fans and their passion. They’re good people, but there’s nothing I like better than beating Tennessee,” Thomas said. “If we lose, it’s not going to be a good wedding night.”
October 25th, 2015
Friday celebration will commemorate the taming of Black Warrior with locks, dams - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mobile District will host a 100th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway this week.
Set for Friday at 1 p.m., corps officials will be joined by Mayor Walt Maddox and others to unveil a 13-foot-tall commemorative marker at navigation mile 339, site of the former Lock No. 1.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony taking place alongside the Riverwalk recreational trail adjacent to the Corps of Engineers' local offices at 101 21st Ave.
The Corps of Engineers set up operations in Tuscaloosa in 1875 when it began constructing the initial three locks and dams on the Black Warrior River. The project management office in Tuscaloosa now operates and maintains both the Black Warrior-Tombigbee and the Alabama River Waterways.
Lock No. 1 was one of three locks built on the Black Warrior River to overcome Tuscaloosa Falls, a series of rock rapids falling 25 feet over a distance of about 2 miles, said Danny Hensley, operations project manager of the local corps office.
Locks No. 1 and No. 2 are now under water, but the stone riverbank wall of Lock No. 3 remains visible near the lower terrace of The Park at Manderson Landing.
To facilitate coal shipment, the River and Harbor Acts of 1902 and 1907 authorized various improvements to the Black Warrior and lower Tombigbee rivers. This work created the 17 locks and dams needed to provide navigation from the Port of Mobile to areas near Birmingham.
The completion of Lock No. 17 in 1915 marked the completion of the original Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, and a celebration was hosted in Tuscaloosa to mark the occasion.
Betty Slowe, retired librarian for The Tuscaloosa News, researched this event earlier this year. She wrote the following:
"Steamers came up from Mobile bring(ing) visitors for the opening ceremony. They came with visitors already on board and picked up more along the way, some waiting at Riverview, to be taken to the lock. Many distinguished guests were among the visitors," Slowe wrote. "Promptly at 8:30 in the morning a fleet composed of the John Quill, Myrtle, McCalla, Gold Bug and the Alabama and New Orleans Transportation Company's Barge No. 2, left Riverview for the lock carrying as many as 1,000 people. The address of welcome was made by Judge W.W. Brandon and responded to by Col. Harry Taylor of the U.S. board of engineers.
"The group was addressed by Congressman W.B. Oliver of Tuscaloosa, Hon. William B. Bankhead of Jasper, U.S. Sen. John Hollis Bankhead, Hon. John T. Cochrane of Mobile and U.S. Sen. Oscar W. Underwood. The speakers extolled the virtues of Tuscaloosa and its historical significance, the hospitality of Tuscaloosans, and rejoiced in the anticipated industrial development that the opening of the river would allow."
Hensley said that a modernization project in the mid-1900s reduced the number of locks and dams from the original 17 to six, widened the navigation channel to 200 feet and increased the water's depth to a minimum of 9 feet.
This project today is tied into the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway and is part of one of the nation's busiest inland waterways. Its waters transport approximately 20 million tons of cargo annually while boat ramps, parks and campgrounds offer a variety of recreational opportunities.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
October 25th, 2015
Historian Wayne Flynt to discuss Harper Lee on Oct. 29 - Renowned historian Wayne Flynt will present "What Harper Lee and Small Town Alabama Can Teach the World" in the Shelton State Community College atrium at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29.
It's tied to Theatre Tuscaloosa's ongoing production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," in Shelton's Bean-Brown Theatre.
Admission to the lecture is free, but seating is limited and will be done on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets to the play are not required to attend the discussion.
Flynt is a Pulitzer- nominated historian and author of almost a dozen books about the South, most centering on Alabama. He is one of the foremost experts on Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Flynt grew up moving around the South before attending Auburn University, where he eventually became a faculty member. He has written and co-written 11 books, which focus largely on the historical, economic and social fabric of Alabama. He's widely recognized for his contributions to the field and is recipient of numerous awards including the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Clarence Cason Award in nonfiction, and the Alabama Library Association Award for nonfiction.
October 24th, 2015
Alabama survives scare from Tennessee - For the past few years, those Alabama victory cigars have been little luxuries, like a luscious dessert or a glass of port at the end of a four-star meal.
On Saturday, one wonders if Alabama had the strength left to light those stogies at all.
Tennessee pushed the No. 8 Crimson Tide to the brink on Saturday before a critical touchdown drive and an even more crucial defensive stand sealed Alabama's ninth win in a row over the Volunteers, a 19-14 win that will stand with the classics of a series that had grown slightly stale recently.
This edition had seven years' worth of drama in the last seven minutes alone.
Alabama carried a 10-7 lead into the final period thanks to Adam Griffith's third-quarter field goal, then stretched that lead to 13-7 on a 28-yarder by Griffith with 7:08 to play. But the Crimson Tide looked like a creaking heavyweight who had put his final wind into that drive, which stalled out at the UT 10.
"We looked tired out there," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "We looked dead-legged. We didn't look very quick, or very fast. We didn't have a lot of energy."
As a result, Tennessee raced down the field, covering 75 yards in just four plays to take the lead on a 12-yard Jalen Hurd touchdown run with 5:49 to play.
"They changed some things offensively," Saban said of the drive. "They did a good job with their quarterback.
"But you've got to really respect guys who find a way to win."
Alabama found that way on both sides of the ball. UA took over at its 29 and on its second play of the drive, Jake Coker found ArDarius Stewart, who made a great catch in front of the UT bench for a 28-yard gain. Two plays later, Coker threw to Calvin Ridley at the Tennessee 25.
Derrick Henry did the rest, on three carries. He rushed for six, five and 14 yards, scoring the touchdown on a catch-sweep counter with 2:24 remaining. The two-point try failed, and the defense was called on to seal the win.
After Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) picked up one first down at its own 35, everything went backwards for the UT offense: a five-yard illegal formation penalty, a sack of Dobbs by a bull-rushing Jonathan Allen, and then the decisive play, a fumble-causing sack by Ryan Anderson, the loose ball plucked from mid-air by A'Shawn Robinson. All that was left was three Coker kneel-downs to drain the remaining 78 seconds.
Henry finished with his usual strong numbers: 143 yards and both Crimson Tide touchdowns. Stewart had what may have been his breakout game at receiver with six catches for 114 yards.
"We just found a way to win," Saban said. "We didn't play that great. (But) I don't like to lose. I like to win, however we win."
October 24th, 2015
Davis fights to rejoin Democratic party - MONTGOMERY | For Artur Davis, it hasn’t been an easy path to try to come home again.
The former Democratic congressman made a national political splash when he left Alabama and switched to the GOP, garnering a key speaking role at the 2012 Republican convention. Now, Davis is seeking to run as a Democrat in Alabama again — this time for a Montgomery County Commission race — and has filed a lawsuit after party leaders refused to reinstate him.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Davis discussed his defection to the GOP, his political future and why running as a Democrat again is the best fit for him.
“During the period in 2013, I started to question for myself whether ideologically the Republican Party was the best fit for me. I view myself as a political moderate,” Davis said.
To win as a Republican, he sensed that he would have to campaign as a “Ben Carson, Herman Cain kind of figure, one who was very, very conservative.”
“That didn’t fit my views,” he said.
Davis said he became a Republican after moving to Virginia, believing a political centrist would be a better fit for the Virginia Republican Party. But in Alabama, where the GOP skews farther right, a moderate who supports a minimum wage increase, is more at home among Democrats, he argued.
Davis for years was a rising star in Alabama politics. The Harvard law graduate in 2002 upset an entrenched congressman and party hierarchy in the process. In 2010, he launched a bid to become the first African-American governor in the Deep South. However, he lost the Democratic primary to Ron Sparks, a white candidate, after the state’s black political organizations — with which Davis always had a tense relationship — backed Sparks. He also came under fire from party faithful offended by his vote against the Affordable Care Act.
After losing the race, Davis moved to Virginia and in 2012 announced his alignment with the GOP. He was rewarded with a speaking role at 2012 Republican National Convention, telling a cheering crowd, “Thank you for welcoming me where I belong” before launching into criticisms of President Barack Obama, whom he endorsed four years prior.
Davis shifted direction with a return to his Montgomery hometown to focus on local politics. He ran unsuccessfully in this year’s nonpartisan mayoral race. Vowing a rematch, he also eyed a run for county commission, a partisan race,but the Democratic Party executive board refused to reinstate him, citing the “Radney Rule” that prohibits someone from running as a Democrat if they supported another party within the last four years.
Davis’ lawsuit argued he is being singled out since the party reinstated every other candidate who asked to come back.
His effort to return to the Democratic fold met with opposition from those infuriated by his actions and the party powerbrokers who opposed him in 2010 and other points in his career.
Davis blamed long-simmering tensions with Joe Reed, head of the Alabama Democratic Conference.
“Joe Reed has used the threat of withholding the black vote as a club over Democratic Party for a long period of time and continues to use it as a club today,” Davis said.
Reed scoffed, saying he did vote against a motion to reinstate Davis, but so did 19 of the 20 board members.
“He walked off and denounced the party, denounced the president,” Reed said. “He doesn’t have any inherent right to come back.”
Others have argued that Democrats, who have been obliterated from statewide office in the deeply red state, shouldn’t be so quick to rebuke someone who wants to rejoin their ranks
“Voters ought to decide who is elected to office and not committees,” said Giles Perkins, a former executive director of the state Democratic Party.
Davis said if he loses his fight, he will maintain his focus on the next Montgomery mayoral race. He said he believes he still has contributions to make, if voters, and his former party, will let him try.
“I didn’t commit a crime. I wasn’t in jail for three years. I left a political party and joined another,” Davis said.
October 24th, 2015
School board addresses concerns of strained relationships among members - As the first order of business at Friday's Tuscaloosa City Board of Education retreat, board members expressed their grievances and concerns about how their relationships with each another have become frayed and divisive.
“I suggested that we talk about board relationships because of the direction that I feel we're going as a board,” said Earnestine Tucker, board vice chair. “One of the things that we have to realize is we're here for one purpose and that is to make sure that our children get an education. ... The only way we can do that is to work together as a team.
“This is my 14th year on the board, and I can say that this has been the most challenging year and a half I've been on the board. ... I was personally committed to working with the new board members when they came on, even under the conditions of the 2013 election. I did not allow what went on with the election to affect how I dealt with all of the board.
“However, it has not been the way it should be in terms of us gelling as a board. And I think part of that is because somewhere along the line we lost trust and a degree of a respect for each other. I'm concerned about some of the communications we've been sending out to each other that are not only non-professional, but disrespectful.”
Tucker said she was concerned about what she called the divide-and-conquer politics of some board members. She said board members do not owe each other an explanation on how, but they do owe each other respect.
“Sometimes I think we forget that we're all adults,” she said. “I will not allow myself to be denigrated by anybody. I do not give you all permission to disrespect me because, first of all, I'm not going to degrade and disrespect you. I don't see how we're going to make it as a board if we continue the way that we're going.”
Board chair Lee Garrison bore the brunt of the other board members' complaints. He was accused of using divisive communication that included what was described as the tone and verbiage of his communication with some board members, comments he made on a local talk radio show and his private communications with non-board members regarding city school business.
“Loss of respect is high on this board,” said board member Marvin Lucas. “I'm just going to say this, as the chair, you have to respect everybody on this board. You have to watch everything that you say, everything that you do even more than us because you're the key that's supposed to hold all of us together. The things that you say to other people, how you say it and how you say it to us should always be done with the utmost respect. And the same goes for us in how we need to respect you.
“What happened in the (2013 school board) election happened in the election. Nothing we can do about that. But we're here now, and we need to move forward. We need to do that or get out of here. Didn't I tell ya that?” he said addressing Garrison. “But somewhere along the line, I feel that you've disrespected me. ... Whether it was childish or whatever, we have to work together as a team.”
Lucas said some board members are doing things that other board members don't know about. He said people who are not on the board should not know more about what's going on in the system than other board members do.
“You begin to feel that you can't trust your board members because here's somebody who's not even in the state of Alabama telling me something about 'this and this,' and it just bothers me.”
Tucker said Lee needs to stay off talk radio. His radio appearances are causing grief for other board members, and he's being associated with the opinions of the hosts of the show.
“I got a call on the phone this morning before I could even get out of the shower that the board is going to vote on this (strategic plan) on Nov. 3, and the message that was conveyed was that it was going to pass,” Tucker said. “Where does that come from? When you use these types of media to get messages out all types of interpretations are going to occur.
“Stay off the radio Lee. The thing that bothers me is that if the radio was concerned about unifying this board, the negative things they say about certain board members would not be said. So in their opinion, Lee, when you go along with what they're saying on that radio and you go on for only one purpose, it's misinterpreted as you speaking for all of us. It creates problems. Stay off the radio, Lee. Anytime that they talk about Marvin or they talk about me, they're talking about you, too, because you're a part of this board.”
Board member Clarence Sutton Sr. said when he joined the board, he didn't initially realize that the integrated curriculum, facilities and demographic strategic plan was such a controversial and divisive issue.
“I came in the middle of a quagmire,” he said. “I did not have a clue what I was getting into about the capital campaign. I should have known that it was really serious when the attempts from that radio station tried to keep me off the board. All the tactics they were using and information they had that they shouldn't have had burdened me.
“I realized that this is more serious than I was even thinking. ... I know that there's an agenda, but I still try to keep an open mind on what is best for student achievement.”
Board member Erskine Simmons said the board has lost focus on what's important for the students.
“We use political tactics to create havoc to attempt to strong-arm,” he said. “Strong-arm tactics don't work on me, and people should know that I could really care less about all else that's not what's best for our children.”
Board member Norman Crow said he feels that the board has worked well together until recently.
“I don't really know where the train's gotten off the track with some of this stuff right now, but I agree with Mrs. Tucker that it's important that we try to put it back in the right perspective. That we can honestly talk to each other, that we can honestly work together to do what's best for this city, for our children, and I'm committed to do that.”
Harry Lee said he doesn't believe they really have a problem with each other. They really have a problem with themselves. He said if each board member examines themselves and deals with their own issues, much of the dissension would be resolved.
“If we do ourselves right, if we do the board right, we'll do the purpose that we're here for, and that's the children,” he said. “Beyond that, we don't have to talk.”
Board member Cason Kirby said the board is the face of the school system, and when they appear dysfunctional, they make the whole system look dysfunctional, which isn't fair to the employees working to improve the system. He said board members have to remember that when they speak to each other they should speak positively.
“When one board member says something disrespectful to another board member during a board meeting, even if it's not to me, it's disrespectful to me, and it's disrespectful to this system,” he said. “Our board deserves better, and our staff deserves better, and our students deserve better. We all need to remember proper decorum.”
Tucker and Crow said Garrison has come a long way as chair, but he still needs help and each of the board members need to work with him.
“Lee is not a perfect guy,” Crow said. “None of us are. We need to help him. We need to help him do his job better because if he does his job better, our school system will be better. I think Lee works hard at a very difficult job. We need to help facilitate that.”
Tucker told Lee that she wants him to do well.
“We know your heart is in the right place,” she said. “I know that you're young and you're anxious and you're energetic, but you have to listen and remember if this is going to unify the board or is this going to split us down the middle? ... We want your last few months to be your best, and they can be.”
After listening to all the other board members comments, Garrison said he's been guilty of shooting arrows from behind instead of straight at people and that other board members can do a better job with that as well. He said if that were cut out, it would solve a lot of their issues.
“To be a good leader you have to admit when you're at fault, and I pledge to do that,” he said.
Garrison said when he looks at the job description of what a board chair is supposed to do, two of the things he's tasked with are “to assist the superintendent in seeking public input into the operations and support of the city school system” and “to promote the city school system as authorized by the board.” He said going on the radio is one way he's done that.
He said he understands that some board members may not like the radio station he goes on or they may not want to go on there. He said that's their right. But when he went on the air Friday morning, he said the only thing he said was that he believes God put the eight board members together to get the strategic plan together and that it will be on the agenda Nov. 3.
“I understand that things may get twisted,” he said. “But if you listen to me on the radio, and if you listen to the whole show, we try to inform the public the best we can. ... I look at that role in my job to try and communicate with the public, but unfortunately, it gets twisted that what I'm saying is what the host of that show is saying. It's unfair, but I understand the perception of that.”
Garrison said it's not fair that he was accused of sharing confidential information with non-board members. He said who each of them associate with is nothing the other board members should be concerned with.
“There's some members on here who have relationships with people that maybe some of the other board members might say, 'Oh, I don't think that's a good influence.' But that's up to them to listen to them. It's really up to each one of us to do that. You can't tell me who to talk to, and I can't tell y'all who to talk to and get input from. You can't do this job in a silo.”
After the discussion on board relationships ended, the conversation the board had with each other was noticeably more jovial.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
October 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Board of Education members still divided over plan for schools' future - Members of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education seemed to be at an impasse Friday after spending hours discussing Superintendent Paul McKendrick’s recommended integrated curriculum, facilities and demographic strategic plan.
Board chairman Lee Garrison took a poll on where board members stood on the issue, and two board members said they would still vote no, two said they’re not sure and four said they would support the plan.
On Tuesday, the recommendation for the plan failed to pass in a 4-4 vote. Garrison and board members Norman Crow, Harry Lee and Cason Kirby voted in favor of the plan. Board members Earnestine Tucker, Clarence Sutton Sr., Marvin Lucas and Erskine Simmons voted against it.
At the retreat, Garrison, Crow, Lee and Kirby said they continued to support for the plan. Tucker and Sutton said they remained opposed. Lucas and Simmons said they’re still considering it.
Garrison said the strategic plan will come before the board for another vote on Nov. 3.
On Friday, McKendrick attempted to address issues the board had with the plan. He identified those issues as: extended year/year-round school for schools in the Central Zone; class sizes; enrollment lottery at University Place; rezoning the Country Club neighborhood in the West End to Verner Elementary; middle school initiatives; and rezoning the area from Queen City to McFarland Boulevard north of 15th Street.
He said he believes his idea to implement year-round school for every school in the Central Zone except Central High School is a good one. Everywhere he’s seen year-round school being used it’s made a great impact on student achievement.
Tucker, the board’s vice chair, said the problem with year-round school only in the Central Zone is that it puts a negative stigma on students who attend Central Elementary, Oakdale Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary and Westlawn Middle.
She said if year-round school is going to be implemented, it needs to be for the entire system.
“You will not single out the Central Zone,” she said.
Garrison said he’s received phone calls from parents in the Northridge Zone who said they’d love to have year-round school in the entire system. He agreed with Tucker that if they go in that direction it should be for every school.
McKendrick said he would drop year-round school for the Central Zone from his strategic plan recommendation.
Class sizes
McKendrick said typically the average class size is 16-18 students in pre-K to first grade; 19 students in first through second grades; about 20 in fourth through fifth.
Simmons said average class sizes need to be smaller. He suggested the administration examine the correlation between class size and classroom management.
“Look at the schools where teachers are running away from and there may be some correlation,” he said.
Simmons said only veteran teachers should be allowed to teach larger classes because new teachers can become overwhelmed.
Avis Williams, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said she doesn’t think class sizes play as big a role as people believe. She said she’s seen teachers with only 15 students who couldn’t handle the students and she’s also seen teachers with large classes who did fine. She said what they need is culturally responsive teachers. That can happen with professional development, she said.
Lottery at University Place
No substantial discussion or problems were expressed regarding a lottery at University Place.
Country Club rezoning
Tucker and Sutton said they disagree with McKendrick’s recommendation to eliminate the Verner zone/Central choice for the Country Club neighborhood and make it strictly a Verner school zone. Currently, the Verner zone/Central choice in that neighborhood allows students to choose between Central Elementary or Verner Elementary.
“Currently, the 36 students who go to Central Elementary would then go to Verner,” said Ed LaVigne, chief school financial officer.
LaVigne said there are 126 students in that zone. Ninety of them have chosen to attend Verner, he said.
“This is an opportunity for us to undo something that was done wrong in 2007 (with the rezoning),” Tucker said. “We never should have given people the choice to go where they want to, but we did that in an attempt to try and attract some of the white kids back from the private schools. Wrong reasons. We have an opportunity to make it right.”
Sutton and Tucker said they believe in neighborhood schools and that all school choice zones should be eliminated.
McKendrick said eliminating school choice and rezoning to make every school a neighborhood school — a school that enrolls students from the closest surrounding neighborhoods — would cause too many legal issues with the Office for Civil Rights. He said he can’t make a recommendation that could possibly get the system in legal trouble.
Tucker said system officials obviously didn’t care about that when they gerrymandered the zoning lines in 2007 to rezone predominately white neighborhoods near the Central Zone and downtown to schools North of the River.
“Bring the lawsuit on,” she said.
School board attorney Dave Ryan said there was an Office of Civil Rights complaint filed.
“File another OCR complaint,” Tucker said. “If we get a complaint filed against us, then we get a complaint filed against us. We were not concerned with that complaint when they decided to move those kids to University Place.
“I still think that it’s unfair that we would allow children who live less than a mile away from an elementary school to be bused 81⁄2 miles one way every day. I will go to my grave saying it is not right, it is not fair. ... I will go to jail.”
Kirby said he’s not willing to go to jail.
Middle school initiatives
McKendrick reiterated what was in his original strategic plan recommendation regarding middle school initiatives.
Tucker and Garrison suggested that foreign language be a mandatory class in middle school. Williams said it will be an option for students as part of the “elective wheel” that’s proposed in the recommendation. She said foreign language classes will not be mandatory.
New attendance zone
LaVigne said the zone from Queen City north of McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street is now a University Place Elementary zone/Rock Quarry choice. He said in grades kindergarten through fifth, 16 students from that area go University Place and 16 go to Rock Quarry in each of those grades. Also, six go to Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary.
He said McKendrick’s recommendation is to make the entire zone a Rock Quarry zone.
Again, Tucker and Sutton said there should only be neighborhood schools with no school choice so the students in the Queen City area should only attend University Place.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
October 24th, 2015
Skating on the brain: Chosen artist's mural brings a burst of color to skate park - Vibrant colors now decorate the skate ramp at Palmore Park.
Artist Debbie Lewis, a former University of Alabama basketball player who now lives on a family farm in Big Sandy, was chosen by the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority to paint a mural on the back and sides of the skate ramp in the park, 3701 Fosters Ferry Road.
Lewis calls her mural “Always On My Mind,” which she says gives a fun glimpse into the mind of a skater.
Gary Minor, PARA executive director, said the mural and the bronze statues of two skateboards combine to give the park an artistic touch.
“The art in Palmore Park is not art you have to dress up for. It’s free for everyone to see and creates welcome-ness in our park,” Minor said.
The skate park officially opened in July. In August, PARA asked artists to send in concepts for a mural 10 feet high and 26 feet wide.
Seven artists submitted 17 designs in response to PARA’s request. The selection committee that picked Lewis was comprised of a skateboarder, a graphic designer and local residents.
Lewis, originally from Sylvester, Ga., said she has been illustrating since she was a little girl.
She said her style of art is whimsical and that she tries to draw characters who tell a story at first glance. Lewis said the personality of the characters comes from her experiences raising children and living on a working farm.
The skate park was a $480,000 project designed by Wally Hollyday Skate Parks of Aliso Viejo, Calif.
October 24th, 2015
Wildfire growing in Sipsey Wilderness in northwest Alabama - MOULTON | A large wildfire is getting even bigger in the forests of northwest Alabama.
The U.S. Forest Service says the Big Tree wildfire in the Sipsey Wilderness had grown to 1,518 acres by Friday morning. That’s nearly 400 acres larger than a day before.
Only 15 percent of the fire is contained, and firefighters are trying to establish a boundary to prevent the blaze from growing even more.
Forty firefighters from five Southern states were on the scene.
The fire is named for a 150-foot-tall poplar tree that’s been growing in the Sipsey Wilderness for hundreds of years and is considered the largest tree of its kind in Alabama.
Officials say the fire is nearly a half-mile from the tree, which isn’t in danger right now.
October 24th, 2015
Landfill fire causes smoky smell in metro area - Area firefighters responded Friday to a fire at the landfill operated by Black Warrior Solid Waste Disposal Authority. The Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service said last night that firefighters were called to the fire around 4 p.m. and remained at the scene last night.
The smell of smoke covered much of the metro area. The landfill is along U.S. Highway 82 West and serves Tuscaloosa County, Tuscaloosa, Northport and other municipalities in the county.
No injuries or problems were reported last night related to the fire.
October 24th, 2015
Artur Davis files lawsuit against Democrats - MONTGOMERY | Former Alabama congressman Artur Davis has filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Democratic Party for refusing to let him run for office as a Democrat.
Davis filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Montgomery saying the party is treating him differently
after welcoming back other party-switchers to the Democratic tent.
Davis was elected to Congress as a Democrat, representing the 7th Congressional District, which includes part of Tuscaloosa County. Davis ran for governor as a Democrat in 2010. However, after losing the party primary, he aligned himself with the GOP and spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The Democratic executive board last week refused to reinstate Davis to run for Montgomery County Commission as a Democrat.
The party has reinstated others who temporarily switched to the GOP. That includes former congressman Parker Griffith, who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
October 24th, 2015
Northport police identify driver in fatal wreck in Coker - Northport police have identified the driver in a fatal crash that happened Thursday morning in Coker.
Jared Thomas Gresham, 18, died when his SUV caught fire after colliding with a dump truck hauling asphalt near the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Sam Sutton Road.
Gresham was a 2015 Sipsey Valley High School graduate who lived in Coker. He was crossing Highway 82 from Falls Cutoff Road toward Sam Sutton Road when the crash occurred.
The driver of the asphalt truck, whose name was not released, was able to escape his vehicle and was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center. He was treated and released on Thursday.
October 24th, 2015
University of Alabama professor is a co-author of paper on black hole - Last November, astronomers and researchers scrambled to get telescopes pointed toward a patch of sky where a distant object brightened when a black hole pulled apart a passing star snared in its orbit as part of a process called tidal disruption.
It is the closest tidal disruption to be observed in decades, and researchers, now equipped with better tools, want to gather as much data as possible before it fades.
“This one is important in that it has been 10 years since there was one this close,” said Jimmy Irwin, an associate professor in the University of Alabama's department of physics and astronomy. “A lot of theory has been proposed to explain (tidal disruptions). The problem is getting enough information to test the theories.”
Irwin is among 21 co-authors of a paper — published in the Oct. 22 edition of the journal Nature — that covered their observations of the flow of hot gases pulled from the star by the black hole.
Irwin, whose research involves X-ray emissions from hot gases, tidal disruptions, galaxies and black hole populations, offered input, feedback and discussion with the primary authors.
The article, “Flows of X-ray gas reveal the disruption of a star by a massive black hole,” uses data captured with three orbiting X-ray telescopes, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer, and the European Space Agency/NASA's XMM-Newton. The disruption was discovered during a survey by an optical telescope looking for supernova in November 2014.
The flow of the gases, observed via X-rays emitted as they spiral toward the black hole, offer clues about the environment around black holes and the rate at which they grow, Irwin said.
The destruction of the star during a disruption happens relatively quickly.
“The time scales are very, very short on a chronological scale. We are talking days, weeks, months,” he said.
The tidal disruption in the galaxy named PGC 043234 offers a look at the early stages in the process. The remains of the star form for an accretion disk as it swirls around the center of the black hole.
“This material is spiraling down like water going down a toilet. As it does, it is heated to extremely high temperatures,” Irwin said.
Most of the gases are so hot that their primarily emissions are in the X-ray rather than optical spectrum, Irwin said.
“After a few years, it becomes harder and harder to detect it. You really want to start studying it in the first few months after it happens,” he said.
The researchers will likely continue to observe the black hole for several more years, testing theories as it declines. Irwin estimated the disruption could continue to be observed for about three to five years.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
October 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa breweries will raise a glass to local craft beers next week - The first Tuscaloosa Craft Beer Week begins Sunday, with limited-edition Rising Tide pale ale flowing from noon-4 p.m. at the Avenue Pub, 405 23rd Ave.
Intended to become an annual event celebrating Tuscaloosa's three craft-beer makers — Druid City, Black Warrior, and Band of Brothers — the week will showcase the collaborative project at pubs, shops, restaurants and the breweries from Sunday through Halloween. Each Craft Beer Week event will also feature at least one flavor from each of the trio.
Greene Beverage craft beer manager Mike McWhirter said Rising Tide is “a pale ale, with a little hint of crimson color.” The three companies pitched in ideas, ingredients and manpower to concoct Rising Tide.
Black Warrior Brewing cooked up Rising Tide at its University Boulevard location, in a limited run of 10 barrels, or 310 gallons, which will fill about 60 kegs holding about 5.1 gallons each, or about 40 pints. So after about 2,400 fills, Rising Tide will be gone.
At each location, patrons can pick up punch cards; anyone who visits all three breweries during the week, and four of the retail locations, can trade in the punched card for a commemorative pint glass and T-shirt. Those cards will also be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate from one of the 10 retail spots.
Here's the schedule for the week:
- Sunday: Noon-4 p.m., The Avenue Pub, 405 23rd Ave., 759-4900.
- Monday: 4-10 p.m., Black Warrior Brewing, 2216 University Blvd., 248-7841.
- Tuesday: 4-10 p.m., Druid City Brewing, 607 14th St. (Parkview Plaza), 342-0051.
- Wednesday: 4-10 p.m., Band of Brothers Brewing, 1605 23rd Ave., 266-5137.
- Thursday: 4-7 p.m., Alcove International Tavern, 730 22nd Ave., 469-9110; 6-8 p.m., Mellow Mushroom, 2230 University Blvd., 758-0112; 7-9 p.m., Wilhagan's, 2209 Fourth St., 366-0913; 8-10 p.m., Egan's, 1229 University Blvd., 758-9413.
- Friday: 5-7 p.m., Loosa Brews, 412 20th Ave., 737-7440; 6-8 p.m., Billy's Sports Grille, 430 Main Ave., Northport, 879-2238; 7-9 p.m., Wheelhouse Sports Pub, 2326 Fourth St., 239-3629.
- Saturday/Halloween: 1-3 p.m., Southern Ale House, 1530 McFarland Blvd. N., 248-7500; 6-8 p.m., Downtown Pub, 2427 University Blvd., 750-0008.
Should Tuscaloosa Craft Beer Week cook, the trio of breweries plans to come together again to create a new blend in 2016.
October 24th, 2015
In Tuscaloosa visit, Bentley says he'll push rural health care - Gov. Robert Bentley hinted at priorities that top the agenda of his remaining three years in office during a visit to Tuscaloosa on Friday.
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama breakfast on Friday morning, the governor said that he will unveil a comprehensive plan at his annual State of the State address in February that will aim improve health care in rural areas.
“We need to improve the quality of lives for people, and unless we can improve their health, jobs don't matter. Educations don't matter. Nothing matters if you can't get to a doctor, if you can't take care of the chronic problems that really cause a tremendous amount of problems in this state, such as obesity and lifestyle,” he said. “We're making good plans, concrete plans, and I think it's going to be exciting to all of you.”
A health care improvement task force will soon report to Bentley with recommendations, some of which he anticipates.
“We need to put more primary doctors out there, but they have to be paid,” he said. “You can't go out and make a living unless you're paid.”
Bentley said he wants every child in Alabama to have access to a pre-kindergarten program by the time he leaves office. Right now, 20 percent of the state's children have a program in their area. The state has allocated an additional $10 million to the program each year he's been in office with the aid of federal grants and supplements, Bentley said.
“If you can give a child a foundation like we're doing through our first-class pre-K program, 15 years from now that child's life will be changed,” he said.
Bentley spoke at the Chamber- sponsored breakfast before touring the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Center, where students from the city's high schools spend part of their days in classes such as broadcasting, health, agricultural, building, automotive, fire and electrical sciences, welding, animation and cosmetology.
The types of training offered at the school, he said, is an example of how training high school students early and allowing them to receive college credits as part of dual enrollment programs could help the state's goals of training workers.
“I've not seen anything like this over the rest of the state,” he said of the school. “We are really trying to put a special emphasis on workforce training, and you have to start that on the high school level, maybe even earlier than that, to get them started on certain career paths.”
Bentley noted that Alabama is now second in the country in auto manufacturing, and said that the state economy is the best it's been since 2008. Sales and income taxes are up, he said, which should provide more money for education. Unemployment is at six percent, he said. He repeated his promise to not take a salary until the state reaches “full employment,” which he has defined as 5.2 percent.
“Helping people get jobs is the most important thing we can do,” he said. “People need to be able to advance, to educate their children. If we don't create jobs in this state, then we're failing the people.”
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
October 24th, 2015
University of Alabama honors 2015 gymnastics champs - Six individual 2015 NCAA champions, including women’s track and field athletes Remona Burchell and Quanesha Burks, swimmer Kristian Gkolomeev, the women’s tennis doubles tandem of Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe as well as women’s golfer Emma Talley, and the Crimson Tide’s 2015 gymnastics team were honored on Friday as the newest additions to the displays at the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza.
The plaza is located on the athletics complex adjacent to Coleman Coliseum. All of Alabama’s SEC and national championship teams excluding football, from the 1934 SEC men’s basketball and baseball champions to last year’s gymnastics champions, are commemorated at the plaza. Football’s feats are recognized in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
October 24th, 2015
GAMEDAY: Reggie Ragland more of an athlete than you think - In his heart he’s on the low block, calling for the ball, boxing out for another rebound, going up for a two-handed dunk, pulling up for a 10-foot jump shot.
In his daydreams he’s still turning on fastballs and racing down fly balls in center field.
In reality he’s patrolling the middle of the University of Alabama’s defense, a sneaky-athletic, sure-handed middle linebacker who is just as capable of running down a quarterback as meeting a running back in the hole.
Reggie Ragland is more of an athlete than you know, more than just a big-bodied linebacker everyone long assumed could only play the run.
In middle school he was the top-rated basketball player in the country. No really. He was.
He reached the 6-foot mark by the sixth grade. A couple of years later he was 6-foot-3 weighed 225 pounds and averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds a game playing on the Grissom High School varsity basketball team. As an eighth-grader.
It was assumed Reggie would be the next great family member to reach great heights in basketball. Until he stopped growing.
Ragland’s uncle Rayfield played basketball at Clemson. His brother, Chris White, won Mr. Basketball for the state of Alabama in 2001 at Grissom.
But he didn’t grow any taller, and the competition did, so the kid who grew up with basketball in his blood adjusted on the fly.
“The whole time I’m growing I’m thinking I’m going to be about 6-8,” Ragland said. “I’m about to play basketball in the NBA. Then all of a sudden I’m stuck, and everybody started growing past me.”
He continued playing basketball in high school (alongside former UA forward Levi Randolph at Bob Jones). But eventually he knew his future lie somewhere other than on the hardcourt.
To hear those around him tell it, Ragland was a pretty good baseball player, too. He played in the outfield, mainly in center field, and at first base. He hit third and fourth in the order.
“He was a real good baseball player,” Reggie Ragland Sr. said. “I think he could have made it professionally in baseball if he had stuck with it.”
Baseball took a backseat to football. He gave up the sport to concentrate full time on football in the 10th grade. By that time it was obvious that Ragland was a football specimen.
That decision still gnaws at him, though, even halfway through a senior season that sees him as one of the top interior linebackers in the country.
“If there’s one decision that I regret is the fact that I gave up baseball,” Ragland readily admits. “That’s one decision, yeah, that’s one decision I regret.”
His breakout in college football came last season when he finished second on the team in tackles with 95. Any questions about his athleticism should have been answered during last year’s Texas A&M game. With the Aggies driving deep into Alabama territory, Ragland, alone in the middle of the field, leaped and made a startling interception. He looked like a guy going up to grab a rebound.
“I’m still trying to figure out how I caught it to this day,” Ragland said. “I don’t know what came in my head, but when I came on my little stunt something just told me, ‘Stop, and if he throws it, jump.’
“He threw it and I jumped. I caught it. I wish I could have kept my feet. I probably would have scored. I just did it out of nowhere, just instincts taking over, seeing something and going and get it. Like an alley-oops or a rebound.”
Still, some questioned his athleticism coming into this year, doubting his ability to be anything other than a run-thumper. Could he be versatile enough to stay on the field for every down like his predecessor at linebacker, C.J. Mosley, did in 2013?
The answer has been an emphatic yes.
The prime example came again against Texas A&M when quarterback Kyle Allen tried to run away from the 248-pound Ragland.
On a third-and-10, Ragland was lined up a yard behind defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson. Upon the snap and out of the shotgun, Allen looked downfield and eventually left the pocket, sprinting to his right. Ragland read him the entire way and headed toward the quarterback, downhill and in a hurry. Allen tried to escape, but Ragland tripped him for the sack and a 5-yard loss.
It’s just an example that Ragland’s perception doesn’t match up with the reality that he’s a sneaky good athlete.
“I’m way more athletic than people think I am,” Ragland said. “Some people think I’m not that fast until they see me in person. From my size and the way I’m built, people think I’m not that athletic.”
With a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, he seriously considered leaving Alabama at the end of last season. His father suffered a stroke going into his junior season and his mom has diabetes. Ragland thought long and hard about what that money could do for his family.
The decision came not fraught with emotion but in just knowing the right answer.
“A lot went into it,” Ragland said. “In the back of my mind something just told me, ‘Reggie just stay.’ My conscience kept telling me to stay.
“People were in my ear, ‘Go do it. Go do it,’ but something in the back of my mind told me to stay. Because once football is over with, it’s over with. I know I had to have something to fall back on, have a chance to make money outside of football. I’ve already told myself, I’m going to make more money outside of football than I am playing football.”
Ragland is majoring in consumer finance.
Judging by his play and the feedback among those in the know, Ragland’s decision hasn’t hampered his NFL chances, only enhanced them.
“I think he definitely made the right decision coming back,” an NFL scout told TideSports.com “I think it’s a good group of inside linebackers this year, and he’s got to be in the top three with the UCLA and Notre Dame kid (Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith, respectively). I think it was a great choice for him to come back. I was in Georgia the week after Alabama played him. He’s playing a little bit of nickel (defensive) end now, too. They’re moving him around and doing a lot of good things. He’s kind of showcasing a lot of different things he can do.
“His positives are his physicality, his strength and his instincts. I think all three of those things are probably his biggest positives. I don’t think he’s quite as dynamic of an athlete as C.J. Mosley was coming out, but I certainly think he’s just as instinctive. I think he plays as hard. I think he’s stronger than C.J. was. I think he’s a powerful inside presence. I really like the physicality that he brings.
“I think he’s just a ... good all-around football player.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
October 24th, 2015
Alabama had trouble last season with Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs - Twice, University of Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs was supposed to redshirt. Twice, the starter in front of him sustained an injury, and twice, Dobbs was thrown into a near-unsalvageable situation, his redshirt burned while the Volunteers trailed Alabama.
The first game, in Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2013, Dobbs entered in the third quarter after Worley left the game with an injured thumb. Worley had been unimpressive, throwing 8 of 15 for 120 yards and two interceptions. Dobbs entered with a 35-0 deficit, finished the game with a platable 5 of 12 for 75 yards and no interceptions and rushing for 19 yards on 3 carries.
“I did some good things and needed to improve on some other things,” Dobbs said of his first collegiate action. “It was a learning experience, and obviously I’ve matured a lot since then over the past two years.”
The next year, in Neyland Stadium, Dobbs entered on the third drive, facing a 13-point deficit, though that would balloon to a 27-0 score by the early minutes of the 2nd quarter. Dobbs was much more than palatable in that game, leading a comeback that faltered at 34-20. He went 19-of-32 passing for 192 yards and running 19 times for 75 yards,
“He did a fantastic job against us last year,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He really played an outstanding game. I think he came in like the second series or whatever. We struggled defensively to stop the run and the play action pass.”
Now, Dobbs is Tennessee’s unquestioned starter. This year, his lowest completion percentage in any game is 55.6. He’s run for over 100 yards twice this season, against Florida and Georgia. All told, he’s scored 13 touchdowns and thrown just two picks.
“He’s gotten better,” Saban said. “You can tell he’s got a great understanding of what the expectation is for him and what he needs to do on offense. I think he’s, it looks like he’s a good leader.”
Dobbs has the legs to escape Alabama’s formidable pass rush and the arm and accuracy to test the secondary’s coverage, a formula that has troubled the Crimson Tide in the past.
“You definitely have to be smart with how you rush,” Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “You can’t just run up the field. We’ve played a lot of athletic quarterbacks this year so we feel that has prepared for us this year.”
October 23rd, 2015
Alabama Certain Enforcement Supervision program to expand to Tuscaloosa next year - Tuscaloosa is one of four cities where the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will begin an intensive supervision program for criminal offenders on probation.
A $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will expand the Alabama Certain Enforcement Supervision program to Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Dothan and Andalusia. People on probation who have a moderate to high risk of re-offending will be subject to intensive supervision intended to keep them out of trouble.
Failing drug tests, avoiding probation officers and avoiding court dates are some common infractions by people on probation. Under the ACES rules, probationers would know up front that if they fail a drug test, they’ll spend two days in jail. If someone fails a drug test and they don’t admit that they used drugs, they will have a 15-day jail sentence. Failing to show up for a hearing would mean 30 days in jail.
It’s part of the program’s method of doling out “swift, certain and fair sanctions.”
“People know on the front end, ‘if you do this, this is what’s going to happen to you,’ ” said ACES project manager Jeremy Ledlow. “Not one day in jail, or four days. It’s the same for everyone across the board and doesn’t matter if you’ve failed your first drug test of your 15th drug test.”
The method has been successful elsewhere, Ledlow said.
ACES is based upon Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation and Enforcement program. Within three months of implementation, the HOPE program led to an 83 percent reduction in failed drug tests, 71 percent reduction in missed appointments with probation officers, and a 70 percent reduction in the revocation rate for participating probationers, according to U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
“Programs like ACES that follow the HOPE model have led to lower recidivism rates around the country by not waiting to take action until a probationer becomes a repeat offender,” she said in a press release. “For Alabama to be successful in reducing recidivism and improving public safety, the highest risk ex-offenders within our communities must receive heightened supervision and services so as to improve their likelihood for successful re-entry, and additional ACES sites are a step toward that goal.”
Right now, probation officers may send someone to jail for a failed drug test, where they could wait up to two weeks before seeing a judge. Under ACES, the probation officer would send the person to jail for two days and free space from the often-overcrowded facility. The swift punishment helps people tie the punishment to their actions, Ledlow said, and serve as a deterrent in the future.
Pardons and Paroles has been using the method in Mobile, Greenville, Montgomery and Decatur since receiving a $370,000 grant earlier this year. Ledlow said that so far, 75 percent of participants have had no violations. Some people have come in for drug tests, knowing they would fail but accepting the two-day jail sentence, instead of avoiding the meeting altogether and risking at 30-day jail sentence. That’s a measure of success, Ledlow said, because the person is taking responsibility for their actions rather than absconding and ending up with warrants that must be served by law enforcement.
“We’re reducing the length of time we’re putting people in jail and getting more benefit out of it,” he said.
The grant money pays for some staff, training and drug testing. Probationers right now pay a $40 monthly supervision fee, but also pay $20 to $25 for each drug screen that will now be funded by the grant money.
“This way, we’re not taking the poor and scraping every penny out of their pockets just to be in compliance,” Ledlow said.
The program is expected to begin in Tuscaloosa some time next year, he said.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa
news.com or 205-722-0210.
October 23rd, 2015
Brookwood traffic flow may improve in about a year with project - Residents in the Brookwood area could see better traffic flow between Interstate 20/59 and Highway 216 in about a year’s time.
The Tuscaloosa County Commission voted to move forward with the Brookwood Parkway project Wednesday, allowing engineering firm Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. to open bids for construction.
Bruce Higginbotham, vice president of Burk-Kleinpeter, said the firm is in the process of completing the design phase and will open bids on the project in the next few weeks.
Once the bids are complete, the final cost and how funding will be split among the county, the town of Brookwood and the state can be determined so the project can move forward, said District 2 Commissioner Jerry Tingle.
The project will pick up where the current stretch of Brookwood Parkway ends at George Newell Road. It will connect close to Alabama Highway 216 near Brookwood High School on George Richmond Parkway.
Tingle said the original project began about 15 years ago with construction beginning at Daimler Benz Boulevard near Interstate 20/59 and ending at George Newell Road.
But the project was never completed.
He said adding the 3.3-a mile stretch of two-lane road and bridge will offset some of the traffic on the connecting Covered Bridge Road. The will benefit the school system and commuters and allow for development along the corridor, Tingle said.
“It will open up Brookwood for more development, especially on the interstate side. More importantly it connects all three towns closer together as far as Brookwood, Coaling and Vance,” Tingle said.
He said the current situation causes a lot of overlapping of bus routes.
“It will save the county schools a lot of money on fuel. I think they estimated about $50,000 to $60,000 a year” because “they won’t have to go all the way around the world,” Tingle said.
According to a request the school board made of the County Commission last year, Brookwood Parkway would cut bus commutes from 4 to 25 minutes one way.
When the road is finished, it will be about 6 miles long.
October 23rd, 2015
University of Alabama student becomes Jumbotron sensation - The Dancing Bro, a University of Alabama student gaining fame for his fancy footwork, never meant to become a Jumbotron phenom.
Rony (pronounced Ronnie) Young just wants to keep the Tide party rolling at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
At UA’s last two home games, Young’s dancing was featured repeatedly on the stadium’s video screens, with reaction from the crowd rivaling the ovation from a Crimson Tide touchdown.
“I don’t know who operates the camera, but apparently they like me,” said Young, a senior from Mobile.
Someone on Twitter dubbed him “Dancing Bro,” which his friends picked up on. It beats the second alternate, which was “Famous Guy.”
“I’m definitely not gonna make up a nickname myself,” Young said, laughing. “If that one catches on ... it’s OK, I guess.”
Unlike The Face from a few years back — Jack Blankenship, a UA student who toted a poster-sized photo of his scowling mug to flash at, and presumably intimidate, teams opposing UA — Young wasn’t even hoping to draw attention. Thus far, he hasn’t made national news, nor been invited on late-night TV shows as Blankenship was, but a video of Young’s moves was shown at a recent UA volleyball game, so maybe the wave’s just building.
“It was unintentional; I didn’t expect it to happen,” Young said. Jumbotron love began early this season, at the Sept. 26 University of Louisiana-Monroe game, which the Crimson Tide handled easily 34-0, on the Saturday following the heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss.
“I guess it was the fourth quarter, and we were beating ’em pretty band,” Young said. Just as in the week before, though for different reasons, many fair-weather fans slunk out of the game early.
But not Young and his group of pals, many of them fraternity brothers at Delta Kappa Epsilon. The camera operators, panning a rapidly-emptying student section, found Young and company taking seriously House of Pain’s admonition to “Jump Around.” You know the song: It shouts “Jump around!” three times, then “Jump up, jump up and get down! Jump!” 17 times each, for its first and second choruses. Last chorus it’s 33 times.
“Slowly but surely, they kept panning back to us, and the crowd reacted,” Young said.
He humbly rejects the idea his magic moves are the source of his appeal.
“I guess if I’m dancing, it looks like we’re having fun,” he said.
Crowds outside Bryant-Denny Stadium probably haven’t seen Dancing Bro on broadcasts yet, because Jumbotron camera operators mostly pan crowds during time outs and commercials. And yes, Young and friends can see themselves up on the big screen, and hear the crowd roaring.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking the first time, but after the first 10 or so times, I kind of got used to it. Now it’s a little bit weird,” he said, laughing. “I get performance anxiety. ‘What if they don’t react?’”
His style is “pretty free-form,” though he did take ballroom dance classes when he was a kid.
“That’s my only classical training,” Young said. “But I guess I’ve always been the one to kick up the party. I’m there until the end.
“When fans clear out, it’s not the same energy, so I kind of feel responsible.”
The rumor that women love a man who not only can, but will, dance — in public, no less — has reached his ears, but he’s already got a girlfriend.
“So far the only groupies I’ve had were some old guys walking out of the stadium,” Young said, laughing.
But Young might have more avid fans than just some dudes.
“I originally saw him in a video posted to Facebook,” said McKenna Welman, a UA senior majoring in fashion retail. “I started looking for him at the games and spotted him during the homecoming game against Arkansas. I would love to sit next to him. I’ve got some pretty good dance moves, too, so I think we’d make a great team. His school spirit is very infectious, which is why I think he makes it on the Jumbotron so much.”
While he’s not looking to parlay this 15 minutes of fame into any kind of career, as a fan Young plans to be up and moving to the grooving, for himself and the crowd, at all three remaining home games, and any post-season action he can make.
“Any time the Tide plays, I wanna go,” he said.
Football’s his main love, though he’s been hitting basketball games the past two years, and plans to see some baseball in the new stadium before graduation next year. Young’s in the process of applying to dental schools; he’s majoring in biology.
“The only rule I have, there will be no dancing when the Tide is losing,” he said. “No one feels like dancing when they’re sad.”
Dancing Bro needs wins. No pressure, coach Saban.
October 22nd, 2015
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