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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-11

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Alan Harper rips 'non-American businesses' - State Rep. Alan Harper is on self-described “personal crusade” to encourage residents to shop at American-owned stores.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the Northport Republican said owners of tobacco and convenience stores, particularly those “with the lights around the windows and doors are not owned by God fearing Christians.”
“In large part,” the post continued, “these stores are owned by folk that send their profits back to their homeland and then in turn use these funds against our country to create turmoil, fear and in some cases death and destruction.”
And for anyone unsure if the owner is American or not, Harper said in a reply to a comment: “Look behind the cash register.”
Harper, a former Democrat who switched parties in 2012, represents District 61 in the state House of Representatives. This district includes parts of Tuscaloosa, Northport, Coker, Buhl and other areas in West Alabama.
When contacted by The Tuscaloosa News to further explain the meaning and intent behind his Facebook post, Harper said only that he hoped Alabamians would “buy locally and buy American.”
“God bless America!,” he said.
Harper declined additional comment because he was at a doctor's office for tests, he said.
However, he did not back down from the comments that he admitted were “paint(ed) with a broad brush,” as he wrote on Facebook.
“Please join me in making the extra effort to never support these stores/shops!,” Harper wrote. “I am trying to do my part and I know you will to.”
His post generated discussion among his Facebook followers. Some agreed with his sentiments while others said they would not “share such hatred.”
Store owners in his district took issue with such a broad characterization based solely on their appearance and the color of their skin.
“I don't understand that,” said Ali Gewani, 31, who has been operating the Texaco at the intersection of Alabama Highway 69 and Union Chapel Road for about six months.
Gewani said he was born in India and that his parents emigrated to the United States about 20 years ago. They are now U.S. citizens.
Gewani said he has been here about five years and is still going through the process to become a U.S. citizen.
He confessed that he lacked the ability to express fully what Harper's comments meant to him outside of his native language, but he did say that he found Harper's post offensive.
There was no such language barrier for Jay Patel, the 45-year-old owner of C Mart Spirits on U.S. Highway 82 in Northport, across from Mr. Bill's Family Dining.
Patel, now a U.S. citizen, also came here from India and has been living on U.S. soil for the past 25 years or so.
“We get that a lot,” Patel said after reading Harper's Facebook post. Often, he said, customers ask if he and his family are Arabs, or from the Middle East. But he's not let that stop him from running his business or contributing back to his community.
Before relocating to Northport, Patel operated a RaceWay in Tuscaloosa and, before each school year, he would donate school supplies to the local district, he said.
“We believe in putting back into the community right here,” he said.
And while Patel said that he agreed with Harper's concerns over American money being used to attack or harm U.S. citizens and forces, he said that such an indiscriminate approach could harm his livelihood.
“At the same time,” Patel said, “we get cooked.”
Patel's son, 21-year-old Roshan Patel, is a graduate from American Christian Academy. He agreed with his father that Harper's comments were offensive.
“He's basically just profiling us all into the same community,” Roshan Patel said, before extending an invitation to Harper, a former Northport City Council member, to visit his family's business to see who operates it and how.
At the Jet-Pep on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard South, located just before the Hugh Thomas Bridge, Brijesh Darji said he found it confusing that an elected official would be so blatant in his condemnation of business owners who looked like him.
Darji, 36, said he has been dealing with prejudice his whole life, so that aspect of Harper's comments did not bother him as much as the selective representation of those living and working in Alabama.
“It's not something he should've said,” said Darji, who came to the U.S. in 1987 at the age of 8. “As a state representative, he should be looking out for the benefit of the state.
“It just raises so many questions in my head.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 30th, 2015
Police question suspect in kidnapping, rape - A man wanted in connection with a suspected kidnapping and rape has turned himself in at the Tuscaloosa Police Department, authorities said Monday.
Cedrick Lamar Collins, 17, was in custody and being questioned at the offices of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit as of 1 p.m., said Capt. Gary Hood, unit commander.
Collins, who authorities described as potentially armed and dangerous, had been sought since Friday when a woman said she was kidnapped from the University Mall parking lot amidst the Black Friday shopping crowds and later raped.
The victim, 19, told officers that a man approached her car at 7:30 a.m. and asked to use her cellphone. She agreed and the man got into her vehicle.
Once inside, the man told the victim that he had a gun and forced her to drive to an ATM and withdraw money, authorities have said.
The man then forced the woman to drive to an abandoned property off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard where he sexually assaulted her, investigators said.
Collins was later developed as a suspect and investigators obtained warrants to charge him with first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa environmental services director takes Florida job - The director of Tuscaloosa's Environmental Services Department has announced that he will be leaving for a new job in Florida.
Shane Daugherty, 45, said he is moving on after 27 years with the city to take over waste management department of the city of Panama City Beach, Fla.
“Ever since I was a little boy, it was a dream to one day have a job along the beach or at least the Gulf Coast,” Daugherty said. “I had my time in with the city (of Tuscaloosa) and the dream came true.”
Daugherty's departure, expected for January, comes after the retirement announcements in the past six weeks from City Engineer David Griffin and City Clerk Tracy Croom.
Also, John McConnell, director of the city's Department of Planning and Development Services, resigned to take a similar job in Westminster, Colo. His last day was Wednesday.
As for Daugherty, his career path is the model of starting from the bottom and ending up on top.
Daugherty went to work for the city's sanitation department in 1988 after graduating from Hillcrest High School.
His first job, secured with the aid of his father, then-city personnel director Mike Daugherty, had him repairing garbage carts.
While working full-time, Daugherty attended Shelton State Community College and earned an associate's degree in business in 1994, two years after being promoted to a supervisor within the city's garbage department.
He completed his education in 2003, earning bachelor's degree with a major in management through night courses from the University of Alabama.
In 1996, Daugherty was named as associate director of the Environmental Services Department and in 2005 became Mayor Walter Maddox's first department head hire when he was selected to run the department.
“Shane has been a difference-maker for the city,” Maddox said. “His rise through the city from cart repairer to Environmental Services director is the quintessential American dream of working you way to success. From recycling to post-tornado cleanup, Shane has played an instrumental role in transforming our city. We will miss him greatly.”
During his 27 years with the city, Daugherty has watched, implemented or overseen dozens of changes with how the Environmental Services Department operates.
When he began, residents could use a city-issued cart or up to three of their own, personal 30-gallon garbage containers.
The use of personal containers, however, was phased out in order to ensure safety for the crews. Now that residents use a standard cart that can be unloaded mechanically by the truck, the total number of workman's compensation claims has fallen.
When he became associate director, he began efforts to implement recycling within the city. Now, it's picked up weekly from the curb of each Tuscaloosa residential customer and the department partners with the county and other entities to provide the service outside the city limit, too.
But Daugherty's most difficult challenge came after the tornado of April 27, 2011, that damaged or destroyed 12 percent of the city, including the facility that once housed the Environmental Services Department.
Within minutes, about 90 percent of the department's fleet was damaged or destroyed — including all of the recycling fleet — and Daugherty himself barely escaped with his life.
He had brought his family to the former Richard A. Curry Municipal Services Facility at the northwestern corner of Kauloosa Avenue and 35th Street to take shelter from the storm.
And just moments before the 345,000-square-foot building took a direct hit from the EF-4 tornado, Daugherty said he'd moved them to the basement, something he'd never done before.
“A feeling came over me, and it was God. It said 'You need to get down to the basement,'” Daugherty said. “We wouldn't be here today if we hadn't gone down there.”
The destruction kick-started the department's five-year plan to phase in citywide recycling and move to once-a-week collection of garbage, trash and recycling. Within a year of the storm, the new system was almost entirely in place, even if the department's new home would not be finished until 2014.
Now, city officials must replace him.
Upon his departure, Stacy Vaughn, associate director of the city's Environmental Services Department, likely will take over as interim director.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 30th, 2015
Strong against the storm: New windows installed at DCH - New 2-inch-thick windows installed at DCH Regional Medical Center are designed to resist tornado wind speeds of 250 mph.
The windows are designed to resist tornado wind speeds of 250 mph. DCH received a $1.3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant in spring 2013 to strengthen the storm-readiness of some of its windows.
Workers installed the windows on Wednesday.
November 30th, 2015
Genealogical society sifts through historic records, books at courthouse - The major historical events that shaped Tuscaloosa are fairly well known, or at least easily researched, by those who are interested.
European settlers moved to the area in the early 1800s. The population boomed when the city was the state capital between 1826 and 1846. The University of Alabama was established here in 1831, and most of the campus and some of the city was burned by Union troops in 1865.
But it’s the small stories of average people that reveal what life was like here during the 19th century. For decades, the public records of those everyday life events sat untouched, in danger of rot, mold and decay, on the top floor of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse.
About eight years ago, members of the Tuscaloosa Genealogical Society started an ambitious project to save those records. They have since removed 513 of the jewel-toned leather bound books and intend to restore, photograph and
index the pages so they’ll be accessible to anyone using the Internet.
Volunteer John Boyd has been working with the group since April and has indexed 10 books.
He’s read thousand of pages of court clerks’ old-fashioned cursive script and picked out dates, names, locations and other terms someone might want to research.
“Most of these aren’t very interesting, but every couple hundred pages or so you run into a really good story,” he said.
Last week, Boyd was reading a document, full of questionable spelling and non-existent punctuation, filed by a man named Henry Hicks.
Hicks was a black man born to free parents in New York in the early 1800s, according to the document. He ran away and joined the U.S. Navy before living in Illinois. He was kidnapped around 1817, brought to Tuscaloosa and sold as a slave.
The documents were from Hicks’ petition for freedom filed in 1824, and Judge Richard Ellis ultimately acknowledged that Hicks was free and should never have been enslaved.
Most of the other records are much more inconsequential, with details of land, business or personal disputes. But Boyd said it’s interesting to read about the types of problems people faced nearly 200 years ago.
The books that the volunteers are working on date from 1822 to 1901. Of those, 96 have been filmed, 25 have been indexed and three are available on the Tuscaloosa Genealogical Society website, said coordinator Jan Hutchison.
There are around 15 volunteers who work a few days each week in an office building that Alabama Credit Union has allowed the group to use. The building is being demolished in the spring, Hutchison said. The group is now looking for a community-minded business with space to house the books and volunteers, she said.
Not all of the old records are bound. There are also stacks of loose records dating back to the 1820s with records from the chancery court.
Volunteer Carolyn Wiggins is an attorney who volunteers and was sorting through those records on Monday.
She found records of a dispute between a company that sold stock to build a toll bridge across the Black Warrior River. Tuscaloosa Bridge Company, incorporated in 1833, had a monopoly taking people to and from Tuscaloosa and Northport.
The bridge was declared unsafe in 1855, because of tornado damage sustained in 1842. The company built a new bridge that was used until federal troops burned it on April 5, 1865, during the waning days of the Civil War.
After the bridge was destroyed, the company was authorized to run a ferry from Tuscaloosa to Northport. In 1867, a suit was filed against three operators of a toll ferry, claiming they were in direct competition and asking a judge to force them to cease operations.
Tuscaloosa Genealogical Society member Chuck Gerdau said that the group hopes to complete what they call the 7th Floor Project and have a permanent records facility in time for Alabama’s bicentennial in 2019.
Anyone interested in the project, volunteering or joining the Tuscaloosa Genealogiccal Society is invited to attend the 40th Anniversary program scheduled for Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Rotary Room at the Tuscaloosa Public Library.
Current and former members of both the morning and night groups and anyone interested in genealogy are invited to attend. The speaker will be TGS founder R.L. Guffin.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help restore the old records can contact Emily Deal at emilymdeal@gmail.com.
November 30th, 2015
Police seek kidnapping and rape suspect - A rape suspect who police believe kidnapped a woman from the University Mall parking lot in the middle of Black Friday shopping crowds should be considered armed and dangerous, Tuscaloosa Police said Friday night.
Authorities are searching for the suspect, identified as Cedrick Lamar Collins, 17.
The victim, 19, told officers that a man approached her car at 7:30 a.m. and asked to use her cell phone.
She agreed and he entered her vehicle, said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander Lt. Kip Hart.
The man told the victim that he had a gun, and forced her to drive to an ATM and withdraw money, Hart said.
The suspect then forced the woman to drive to an abandoned property off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard where he sexually assaulted her, Hart said.
Investigators developed Collins as a suspect and obtained warrants to charged him with first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery.
Investigators asked for the public's help Friday night, releasing a driver's license photo and warning that Collins is considered armed and dangerous.
He is described as 6 feet tall, weighs around 160 pounds and has brown eyes, black hair and a medium complexion. Anyone with information should not approach Collins, but contact Tuscaloosa Police at 205-349-2121 or any law enforcement agency.
November 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa high school graduation dates still undecided; ceremonies might move to new locations - Leaders with Tuscaloosa City Schools say they are still working to nail down dates and locations for the class of 2016 high school graduation ceremonies.
For the past two years, graduation ceremonies for the city’s three high schools have been held at Coleman Coliseum on the University of Alabama campus.
But that site could be unavailable this school year on the date the school system prefers.
“We talked with the folks from the university and they are working with us in every way they can,” said Mike Daria, assistant superintendent of general administration for the city schools. “They have been absolutely terrific to us for a long time.
“We tentatively were looking at the 21st of May for graduation and like in years past we wanted to do all three graduations in one day, but that’s not possible at Coleman Coliseum this year. My understanding is that there will be university activities that day and that’s understandable. They’re the University of Alabama and they obviously have to prioritize their events.”
Daria said the city school system has held graduation ceremonies at Coleman Coliseum for the past two years. School officials have considered other possible venues, but considering the number of students participating in the system’s graduation ceremonies and the unpredictability of May weather, Coleman Coliseum is second to none when it comes to ideal locations.
“It made us look back to our football fields, which we may have to consider in the future,” he said. “(UA) did come back to us with some available dates that we can consider. They’re not the days we have done in the past, which is usually a Saturday that we have all three graduations on.
“Right now they’ve offered us the available times they have during the week for us to use the coliseum. They’re holding those dates for us until we do our internal conversation on which days would work best. We’re waiting to confirm those.”
Daria said he should have the graduation dates confirmed by the end of the next week. The information will be sent to schools and parents.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 30th, 2015
Alabama takes down Wichita State - LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. | Alabama didn’t necessarily wish upon a star Friday morning, but the Crimson Tide did change its routine before another noon contest at the AdvoCare Invitational, which is being held in the HP Field House at the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
Playing a day after No. 23-ranked Xavier feasted on Alabama’s dismal shooting performance in the Crimson Tide’s 64-45 loss, head coach Avery Johnson knew a change in plans was in order.
“As I say, with our team on and off the court, everything’s an evaluation,” Johnson said. “So, it all started with this morning. I changed our workout this morning. We allowed them to sleep longer, we had a little bit of a longer walk-through in the ballroom. We ate later. We came over here a little bit later. Our warm-up on the court was different, and our halfcourt warm-up on the court; we went out earlier, and we just changed our routine a little bit. Because these 12 noon games, we haven’t really executed and had the mental and the physical toughness, in the second half especially. And especially offensively.”
The plan apparently worked because Alabama looked sharp throughout the stunning 64-60 win against No. 20-ranked Wichita State in the consolation round. As opposed to Thursday’s contest when Alabama shot 31 percent from the floor (17-55), the Crimson Tide made the same amount of field goals against the Shockers, doing so in just 42 attempts.
Shannon Hale scored a game-high 20 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field ( 2-4 three-pointers) and Rilye Norris added 12 points. Dazon Ingram had 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“You’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit,” Johnson said. “This is what you call a team victory. When we’re in the situation when we get three, four or five guys — a minimum of three guys — in double figures, we’re a much better team. Another terrific defensive effort today, just like yesterday, but the difference was we played a little bit better offense.”
The victory is the first over a ranked opponent since a 68-66 win on Jan. 18, 2011 against Kentucky. It is the first time the Crimson Tide has beaten a top-25 team on a neutral floor since Nov. 29, 2009 when Alabama downed then-No. 15 Michigan in the consolation game of the Old Spice Classic, coincidentally a 68-66 win.
The game was delayed with 3:07 left in the second half when Wichita State forward Anton Grady suffered an upper-body injury. After Wichita State missed a shot, Grady started racing down the floor before falling face-first onto the floor.
Emergency medical personnel placed him on a backboard and took him off on a stretcher. He was transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said Gray is apparently alert, but tournament officials have not released any more details on his condition.
“Anton is alert and awake, talking,” Marshall said during the post-game conference. “Says he can’t move. Has feeling in his extremities but he can’t move. As soon as we’re done here, we’re going to go check on him. They said it was a ‘basketball play;’ I did not see it.”
Johnson said it was obviously tough for the Alabama players and coaching staff to fully appreciate the win because of the injury to Grady.
“Our prayers go out to Anton Grady,” Johnson said. “I’m not exactly sure what happened, but our prayers go out to him and his family. In the midst of winning this game, most of our focus — even through the celebration of this win — is on his health. That could have been any one of my players out there in that situation, it could have been any of our children. So, we’re really praying for him. And we hope whatever his situation is that he would have a speedy recovery.”
After Hale’s three-pointer evened the game at 55-all with 6:05 left in regulation, Norris hit a three following Alabama’s sixth offensive rebound of the game to give the Crimson Tide (3-2) a lead it would not relinquish.
Shockers guard Evan Wessel (9 points) nailed a deep three from the wing with a little over two minutes left to bring Wichita State (2-3) to within two points at 61-59 and Ron Baker followed with one of two free throws, but Hale sank one of two foul shots with 36 seconds left to make it 62-60.
Wichita State forward Bush Wamukota missed a wide open three-pointer from the top of the key on the Shockers’ next possession. Norris then made one of two free throws before Baker’s missed three at the buzzer.
Unlike Thursday’s shooting performance (5-28 on three-pointers) when it took 11 attempts from beyond the arc for the Crimson Tide to make a three-pointer, Retin Obasohan got things started quickly for Alabama, knocking down a deep three for Alabama’s first points of the game. Alabama finished 5 of 20 against Wichita State.
“That’s how we run our offense, pushing the ball, getting easy shots, easy layups, which leads to opening up from the outside,” said Norris, who was 2 of 4 from three-pointers. “I thought we pushed the ball well, Dazon (Ingram), Justin (Coleman) orchestrated the offense really well today and got us the easy shots, and we were able to score more.”
Playing without All-American guard Fred VanVleet (strained hamstring) for a second straight day, the Shockers could not shake Alabama despite holding the lead for a majority of the first half. They took an 8-7 advantage on a three-pointer by Markis McDuffie early in the game and did not relinquish it until Arthur Edwards sank two free throws that gave Alabama a 31-30 lead with 1:20 left in the first half.
Jimmie Taylor made one of two free throws just before the end of the half to send Alabama into the locker room with a 32-30 advantage.
The game went back and forth in the second half until Baker’s three-pointer during a 7-2 run put the Shockers up 48-43 with 12 minutes to play. The Crimson Tide fought back with Norris hitting one of his two shots from behind the three-point line during a 9-1 run before McDuffie tied it with a trey and Baker’s deep jumper gave the Shockers a 55-52 advantage with eight minutes remaining.
November 30th, 2015
Mission Tuscaloosa to host prayer gathering - Pastors from all across Tuscaloosa County will gather at Bethel Baptist Church on Monday to pray for the welfare of Tuscaloosa.
William Scroggins, director of the Tuscaloosa Prayer Network, said the prayer gathering is part of an initiative called Mission Tuscaloosa that started several years ago to bring pastors together across racial and denominational lines so that they could collectively call upon the God to bring peace to the city.
“What we’ve done several times a year for a few years is just try to come together to address the problems in our city,” Scroggins said. “We’ve all seen the news. There’s been some horrible, horrible activities, and we just believe as Christians we can come together and pray, and that prayer is the answer.”
Some of the topics they’ve prayed about in the past have been citywide racial harmony, an end to violence, aid for the poor and the welfare of the downtrodden.
At Monday’s prayer meeting, Scroggins said Mayor Walter Maddox will speak as will several pastors. Maddox will talk about his vision for the city and the pastors will speak on one of three topics that those attending will pray about immediately afterwards.
The topics are:
n Unity in the Christian community.
n Concern for the least of these.
n Changing the spiritual climate of our city.
“We’ll break into groups and pray over each particular topic,” he said. “Throughout this, we’ll have worship and singing intermittently. It will be about an hour to an hour and a half. We hope that there will be a good representation of people there. It’s open to all Christians in the city.”
“We as leaders just want to ask for God’s presence, his love and his compassion for people.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 30th, 2015
DCH units get gifts of $100 million from foundation - It's important for home health patients to monitor their blood pressure and weight to help maintain proper treatment, but some patients cannot afford simple things, like blood pressure cuffs and scales.
DCH Home Health, along with 14 other departments within DCH Regional Medical Center and Northport Medical Center recently received more than $100,000 in internal grants from the DCH Foundation to help with such needs.
DCH Home Health received $10,000 of the $100,000 to help purchase equipment for around 300 patients who, with medication, rent, food and bills, cannot afford the simplest equipment for their home care.
“With the grant money, that's going to help us be able to give patients equipment, things they need in their homes for their health,” said DCH Home Health director Marcia Bailey. “(The grant) will benefit our department hugely. If we didn't have (the grant), I don't know how we would fill that need.”
Money for the grants came from the unrestricted donations from the DCH Volunteer Auxiliary, “We Give” Employee Giving Program and community donations.
“These grants help DCH meet its mission by making very specific impacts within departments,” said a statement from Molly Ingram, vice president for development for the DCH Health System.
Other departments to receive internal grants include:
- 6 North at DCH Regional Medical Center received $5,000 to purchase an Intellivue bedside monitor.
- The care management department received $10,000 to provide patient assistance with medications, transportation, home medical equipment and other items.
- The clinical operations department received $10,000 to purchase supplies that help prevent injuries from falls.
- The DCH Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center received $10,000 to provide patient assistance for diabetes education for patients who otherwise would not be able to afford the education.
- DCH Home Health received $10,000 to provide patient assistance for patients who otherwise would not be able to afford essentials like a bathroom scale or a blood pressure cuff.
- DCH Home Medical Equipment received $10,000 to provide patient assistance for patients who otherwise would not be able to afford their home medical equipment and oxygen.
- The morgue received $2,800 to purchase a gurney.
- North Harbor Pavilion received $8,900 to purchase an updated camera monitoring system for areas that are not monitored.
- The outpatient therapy department received $2,500 to purchase bariatric poolside chairs for the aquatic therapy pool.
- The post-anesthesia care unit received $5,000 to purchase 10 replacement stretcher mattresses.
- PAC Committee/6 South received $10,000 to purchase oxygen concentrators for patients who don't have the resources to purchase them.
- The patient liaison department received $3,000 to provide food and accommodations for stranded patients and family members with limited funds.
- Pharmacy received $3,000 to purchase medication planners.
- The prep and discharge department received $5,000 to purchase 10 replacement stretcher mattresses and $1,800 to purchase “fun kits” for children who are having outpatient surgical procedures.
- DCH Rehabilitation Pavilion received $3,000 to purchase equipment for its patient education suite.
November 30th, 2015
Derrick Henry, Adam Griffith carry Alabama past Auburn - AUBURN | There was no late magic this time, no particular play that will be discussed into dust two years from now. There was just the steady beat, the bass-drum thump of Derrick Henry pounding away at Auburn, over and over until a final run into the end zone threw the final shovelful of dirt onto a methodically prepared resting place.
No. 2 Alabama defeated Auburn 29-13, locking up a second straight trip to the SEC Championship Game and a title match with the Florida Gators in Atlanta. Henry carried the offensive load, breaking most of the meaningful Alabama-Auburn game rushing records along the way.
Henry finished with 46 carries (a record) for 279 yards (breaking Bo Jackson's Alabama-Auburn record of 256) and scoring a touchdown with 26 seconds to go, extending his school record to 17 straight game with a rushing touchdown. But it was the relentless imposition of his will in a fourth quarter that saw Henry carry 19 times for 114 yards, including Alabama's final 14 offensive plays, that will go down in history.
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“We really would like somebody else to carry the ball but it's tough to take him out at the end,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “It's especially tough when you don't have another experienced back like Kenyan Drake (out with an injury). And it seems like he just gets stronger.”
Henry's performance and a kicking vindication by Adam Griffith, who scored 17 points on five field goals and two PATs, provided the offensive spark. The UA defense held Auburn to 260 yards, matching the lowest Tiger output of the year.
“This was a tough game today and we expected it to be tough,” Saban said. “Auburn is a good football team. I can't tell you how proud of the way our players responded.”
The first half was a battle of field goals with Griffith, who has emerged from an early-season slump to become a consistent offensive weapon, making four kicks from 26, 44, 40 and 26 yards to two for the Tigers' Daniel Carlson, giving Alabama a 12-6 halftime lead.
UA pushed the advantage to 19-6 in the third quarter as Jake Coker made a remarkable escape from pressure and found ArDarius Stewart for a 34-yard touchdown. The Crimson Tide defense seemed on the verge of shutting down the Tigers and taking control on the ensuing series but, faced with a 3rd-and-12 from its 23, AU connected on a 77-yard strike from Jeremy Johnson to Jason Smith, who tipped the ball to himself and secured it on the dead run to score with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Auburn managed just 11 yards of offense after that point, however. Alabama tacked on a fifth Griffith field goal early in the fourth quarter, then sealed the game with the steady Henry diet.
The loss finished Auburn's regular season at 6-6. The Tigers have lost nine of their last 11 SEC games.
“That's got to be corrected and we'll get it corrected,” said Tiger head coach Gus Malzahn.
Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.
November 30th, 2015
Holidays on the River Starts Dec. 1 at the Amp - The fourth year of the city of Tuscaloosa’s Holidays on the River kicks off Tuesday in a new location with a slate of new offerings.
Scheduled to last until mid-January, this year’s event sees the ice skating rink moved from the lawn outside the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum to its new location at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
Gates open Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
The ice skating rink will be set up inside the lower bowl of the amphitheater atop a platform constructed to level the existing contoured floor. This platform can be removed for concerts when the sloped floor is necessary for sight lines and viewing angles to the stage.
But until then, the rink will be in place below an inflatable screen on the amphitheater’s stage where Christmas and family movies will be shown each Thursday, Friday and Saturday through a partnership with WVUA.
Christy Bobo, manager of the city’s Arts and Entertainment Department, said most films will begin about 6 p.m., but some nights the time may be delayed depending on what other events are taking place.
In addition to the movies — the Christmas-themed films will run through Dec. 25 with the family-based movies occuring thereafter — this year’s Holidays on the River also will feature a live simulcast of the Dec. 7 West Alabama Christmas Parade on the big screen.
Tuesday’s opening night will feature a 6 p.m. performance by The Dance Initiative, which will present their version of the hit Disney movie “Frozen.”
On Dec. 19, the venue will offer a prime viewing point for Christmas Afloat, the Tuscaloosa lighted boat parade that returns this year after a break following the April 2011 tornadoes.
Horse carriage rides will be offered from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 12, 13, 19 and 23.
On certain Saturdays, Home Depot will host a kids craft tent.
And on Dec. 4 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again on Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the University of Alabama Dance Marathon will host a tent where kids can make Christmas cards for children receiving treatment at Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham.
For those wanting a new member of the family for Christmas, Callies Place of Eutaw will be offering pet adoptions from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 5 and Dec. 19.
Another change for this year is a New Year’s Eve celebration is planned for Dec. 31 with music and a special-themed party, Bobo said.
Access to the amphitheater and all of these events are free.
The only charges will come in the form of the $10 tickets to ice skate and any concessions that attendees may want to purchase. And yes, alcohol will be available for sale at the concession stands.
But the decision to make a universal ticket price came from feedback and the results of a focus group the city organized during the off-season.
In years past, prices varied for adults and children. But the study and discussion showed that more parents can bring their children for return trips with the lowered price, Bobo said.
“That was the biggest thing that parents told me,” Bobo said. “They wanted to bring their kids back more than once.”
Tickets are available at the box office or online via TicketMaster.com.
For more information and an updated calendar of events, visit www.holidaysontheriver.com.
November 30th, 2015
University of Alabama's Stuart Bell seeks new heights in strategic plan - This fall, University of Alabama President Stuart Bell has relied on analogies of a climber ascending a mountain and a driver navigating with the aid of GPS as he has pitched his vision for the strategic planning process he initiated last month.
Bell, who began his presidency in July, announced plans in October for a new strategic plan for the campus to be unveiled in spring. He has described the endeavor as a journey as UA tries to continue its growth and momentum of the past decade.
“My expectation is this strategic plan is going to be aggressive, it is going to be exciting,” Bell said.
The plan will be crafted by a committee of administrators, faculty, staff and students led by interim Provost Kevin Whitaker. The group is set to begin meeting in early December.
Bell envisions a document that is expected to address a host of topics including facilities, faculty size, enrollment growth, diversity, research and other elements. But what shape the plan will take has yet to be determined. The priorities and related strategies for the next five years will come from conversations on campus as part of the strategic planning process, Bell said.
The campus conversations have been a recurring theme during Bell’s first months leading the campus. He began a “listening tour” to help develop his strategy soon after his arrival.
“The strategic planning process is, by and large, about having a conversation where we discover together what we need to do,” Bell said.
The conversations begin with a discussion of where is the university now, Bell said, before progressing to where it wants to go and the route and resources needed to get there.
The university is in the early stages of mapping where it is and where it wants to be. The process includes meeting with external consultants and comparing UA to other successful peer institutions.
The plan will also likely consider ways to grow resources — the gifts and endowments, state appropriations, tuition, federal funding and grants — that help support the goals identified in the planning.
Bell argues part of the challenge for the university is finding ways to engage groups who contribute resources and share with them the excitement of the goals.
Bell used the example of the university’s advancement division.
“As an institution we do a pretty good job with advancement; we need to do a great job,” Bell said.
Often donors are ready to contribute, but the university doesn’t always communicate how they can help.
“You’ve never given them a reason or you have not given them the best reason,” Bell said.
Bell envisions the strategic plan’s development and implementation as a dynamic process.
The university could start some of the strategies before the entire plan is complete, Bell said. Strategies could also be discarded if the circumstances change.
“Here is where I think some folks make a mistake,” Bell said. “You do not have to chew on this strategy for years almost frozen because you are afraid you are going to make a mistake.”
Returning to the analogy of a car trip aided by GPS, Bell said there could be detours or re-routings in the face of changing conditions.
Though the initial span of the plan is five years, some strategies — regarding goals such as scholarship, research, discovery and others — could have longer term goals, Bell said.
“We may end up setting some longer term goals. I think there could be some initiatives that could have a longer life than five years,” he said.
The strategic planning will include a look at graduate enrollment and research, key issues for the faculty at the university.
The university has celebrated record growth in its undergraduate enrollment each year for the past decade. Overall enrollment is 37,100 for fall 2015. The growth, past administrators say, has allowed the campus to mitigate tuition increases during the tough economic times of the past seven years and continue to add amenities.
While the university has added clinical faculty and adjuncts to keep up with the growth, it has added less tenure track positions. During the same time, graduate enrollment has been effectively flat.
Bell believes it’s time to begin thinking about what the next phase of enrollment growth will look like.
“I think it has been great growth, but maybe, we have not had enough conversations and discussion about that, certainly not between the undergraduate and graduate level,” he said.
What the university decides to do about tenure-track positions will influence its plans for graduate enrollment and research.
“We need to make sure we are investing in seed-corn faculty, the faculty who are going to develop where we are going to be 10 years from now,” Bell said.
UA will need more tenure positions to not only handle the burden of the teaching load of the graduate students but to increase its research profile.
“I think the groups will discover that is an area that will be a strategy if we are trying to provide greater productivity in these areas that faculty feel are important, research and graduate students,” Bell said.
The strategic planning will also include a look at facilities.
“We still have some building to do to catch up to where we need to be, he said.
Bell noted the university must finish outfitting the Bryce and Partlow properties for use by the university. With the new properties, it also must consider space use around the campus core and possible relocations of auxiliary functions like grounds keeping to the perimeter of campus.
Bell noted the facilities and maintenance operation below Marrs Spring.
“That group doesn’t need to be there. In the long term, that is a much better spot for an academic building or residential hall,” Bell said.
Following talks with students and faculty, Bell announced earlier this month a chief diversity officer and a new diversity plan would be part of the work by the committee.
“I feel like what we are doing in all of our conversations, whether it is with our fraternities and sororities and whether it is with diversity across campus, it needs to be organic. It doesn’t need to take forever though,” Bell said. “I think one of the challenges is that we face is there has been a conversation that has gone on for a while and there is a lot of good things that we are doing here.”
Bell wants the strategy for diversity to support the existing programs on campus and be sustainable.
“We need to encourage those to continue to work and we need to message this in a way that we are being supportive and not detracting away from that process,” he said.
Though Bell wants the strategic planning process to be thoughtful and deliberate, he also said he expects to it to be completed by the spring.
“I am going to be aggressive in making sure they meet a time line,” he said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 30th, 2015
COLLEGE NEWS: Nov. 29 - Thirteen University of Alabama students were recognized as Wells Fargo First Generation Scholars in a recent campus luncheon.
Wells Fargo recently donated $135,000 to the University to be awarded for student scholarships. Since 2008, the company has provided UA $535,000 in scholarship support, benefiting 38 students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Students awarded the scholarships this year include:
-Alabaster: Kiara Perry.
-Anniston: Samone Thompson.
-Ashford: Kenneth Todd.
-Ashville: Mitchell Partlow.
-Bessemer: Elizabeth McGehee.
-Birmingham: Andreshe’A Caldwell.
-Gulf Shores: Destiny Farrow.
-Oak Grove: Luke Stone.
-Tuscaloosa: Marissa Baker, Cortez Burney.
-Perth, Australia: Ryan Morich.
-Orlando, Fla.: Nicholas Lewis.
-Morton, Ill.: Elissa Robinson.
-UA’s board of trustees has named Stephen Thoma, a professor of educational psychology, a university distinguished research professor.
This title recognizes UA faculty who have achieved international accomplishments in their fields and who have been given extensive peer recognition for their scholarly contributions and noteworthy academic service.
Thoma is known for his research in moral psychology. He’s particularly known for creating and validating different measurement strategies in the social/moral domain and showing how they can best be used. He joined the UA faculty in 1986 shortly after he received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. He served as an assistant professor in the department of human development and family studies for three years until being named an associate professor in the department in 1990.
He became professor and chair of the department in 1998 and served in that role until 2006, when he began his current role of coordinator of the Educational Psychology Program. Thoma is also a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Education Research Association.
- Kevin Windham, history instructor at Shelton State Community College, was selected from among nearly 3,000 chapter advisors to serve as one of 30 Phi Theta Kappa’s 2016/17 faculty scholars.
The 30 faculty scholars will attend the annual Faculty Scholar Conference at Phi Theta Kappa’s Center for Excellence in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 27-30, where they will study the 2016/2017 honors study topic and prepare to serve as discussion facilitators for the 2016 Honors Institute at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The group will also serve as faculty scholars for the 2017 Honors Institute.
November 30th, 2015
SCHOOL NEWS: Nov. 29 - Teachers at Hillcrest High School were recently awarded grants from the school’s PTSO. Individual teachers wrote grant proposals and were then selected by the PTSO. were math instructors Karla Moore and Jill England, who each received $350 to attend a Texas Instruments Conference. Brent Jones, theatre instructor, received $500 for props to use in the upcoming musical production, “Shrek, The Musical!” Mark Garner, agriscience and BTE instructor, received $1,300 for an agriscience school beautification project.
Hillcrest High School recently inaugurated a Teacher of the Quarter Award. Teachers were nominated their colleagues. Jennifer Drawhorn, history instructor, received the first award.
American Education Week was celebrated Nov. 16-20. It celebrates public education and honors individuals who ensure children receive a quality education. This year’s theme was “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility” which was reflected each day in the week’s celebration. Verner’s Adopt a School partner, the Bank of Tuscaloosa delivered 60 goody bags to the faculty and staff in observance of the week.
Tuscaloosa City Schools will host its fourth annual Apple Awards on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy. The ceremony recognizes school nominees and systemwide winners selected for the Alabama Teacher of the Year, Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame and support personnel. The awards are presented to teachers and support personnel who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and dedication to providing the best possible education and learning environments for students in the school system.
Alabama Teacher of the Year school winners are: Sharetta Watkins, Arcadia Elementary; Jacqueline G. Dennis, Central Elementary; Tenesia Smith, Central High; Tracy Rice, Eastwood Middle; Julia Felicia Sanders, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Rene Bailey, Northington Elementary; Lakesha S. Tillman, Northridge High; Tiffany S. Craig, Oakdale Elementary; Eva Gartman, Oak Hill; Donmonique Morgan, Paul W. Bryant High; Mikki Powell, Rock Quarry Elementary; Anna Doig Daly, Rock Quarry Middle; Monique Stewart, Skyland Elementary; Ayesha al-Shabazz, Southview Elementary; Albert D. Fowler Jr., Southview Middle; Joseph Matthew Freeman Sr., Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy; Mary L. Schellhammer, Alberta School of Performing Arts; Kathryn Busby, Tuscaloosa Magnet-Elementary; Lee Hayslip, Tuscaloosa Magnet-Middle; Joy Eddings, University Place Elementary; William Thomas Flowers, University Place Middle; Jeffery Walker, Verner Elementary; Teyah Powell, Westlawn Middle; and Whitney Javine, Woodland Forrest Elementary.
Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame school winners are: Stacy Stone, Arcadia Elementary; Sherita L. Williams Central Elementary; Tyneka Turner, Central High; Tyease Jones, Eastwood Middle; Stanjuarnia Tiwan Lucious, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; LaKetia Allen, Northington Elementary; William Carter Hill, Northridge High; Tracey Sanders, Oakdale Elementary; Mackhary Williams, Oak Hill; Erica Lauderdale, Paul W. Bryant High; Andrea Ziegler, Rock Quarry Elementary; Blake Wilson, Rock Quarry Middle; Guiqnol Knox Hester, Skyland Elementary; Elena Hodgson Southview Elementary; Albert D. Fowler Jr., Southview Middle; Willie James Glass, Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy; Juerrette R. Thomas, Alberta School of Performing Arts; Alex Nysewander McCain, Tuscaloosa Magnet-Elementary; Stephanie Thomas, Tuscaloosa Magnet-Middle; Deanna Crocker, University Place Elementary; William Thomas Flowers, University Place Middle; Jeffery Walker, Verner Elementary; Gregory G. Jackson, Westlawn Middle; Natalie Sanders Bass, Woodland Forrest Elementary.
TCS Support Employee of the Year school winners are: Tracie Sims, Arcadia Elementary; Wendy Spencer, Central Elementary; Jacquline Harris, Central High; Austin Branch, Eastwood Middle; Priscilla Ann Jones, Martin Luther King Jr., Elementary; Danielle Eppes, Northington Elementary; Janis Drane, Northridge High; LaKeedria Cotton-Kennedy, Oakdale Elementary; Rita Pate, Oak Hill; Kimberly Shipman, Paul W. Bryant High; Lasonda Gordon, Rock Quarry Elementary; Yolanda Brown, Rock Quarry Middle; Tanzania Rodriguez-Mahmoud, Skyland Elementary; Teresa May, Southview Elementary; James Black, Southview Middle; Demetrius McKinney, Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy; Christine Williams, Alberta School of Performing Arts; Tawana Taylor, Tuscaloosa Magnet School-Elementary; David Albright, Tuscaloosa Magnet-Middle; Kenneth Lee, University Place Elementary; Michael Davis, University Place Middle; Brittany Tunnell, Verner Elementary; Kendrick Marks, Westlawn Middle; Natalie Annie Peoples, Woodland Forrest Elementary. Connie Ikner, Central Office; and DeAndre Woods, Transportation Department.
Madison Powell, a Northside Middle School cheerleader, was chosen this summer to become a UCA All-American Cheerleader, one of the highest individual awards in cheerleading. Each year at UCA camps has thousands of cheerleaders and dancers from all over the country try out for All-American, and less than ten percent are chosen.
Powell preformed on Thanksgiving Day Tour at Disney World Resort in the opening of the Magic Kingdom Park Main Street USA parade. She is the daughter of Jason and Susan Powell.
Central High JROTC participated in Venture Challenge at Camp Horne on Nov. 19. Cadets competed in physical fitness, marksmanship, orienteering, cross country relay, and tug-of-war. Falcon team number one won the tug-of-war event while team two placed third. Team members for team one: Ronnie Washington, Alexis Hardaway, Rayford Brown, Arkaja Denton, Daquan Williams, Tangee Thurmon, Joshua Crispin and Destenee Hatchett. Team two members are: Tyreek Arso, Ebony Jackson, Cordez Richard, Kayla Jackson, Markel Carter, Vimetria Curry, JyKeius Lewis and Tenia Joiner.
Central High School JROTC participated in the Gordo Veterans Day program on Nov. 11. The cadets provided the color guard for the ceremony and also assisted in recognizing the fallen veterans from the Gordo community. The cadets also engaged in two service learning projects by gathering veteran data in West Alabama for their continuous project and the participation in a Veterans program. Each Cadet will write an essay about their perspective on the program as part of a requirement for college credits.
Central High School JROTC held its semi-annual promotion board on Nov. 10. The following cadets were recommended for promotion: Erskine Simmons to second lieutenant; DePaul Carter to Sergeant; Jeryl Brown and Kentara Sanders to corporal.
November 30th, 2015
'Tis the season: Plan ahead with calendar of holiday events - Even Grinches have to admit that, with Thanksgiving passed, it's now OK to start singing festive songs, hanging holly, decorating trees and making general merriment.
Here's a schedule of holiday-related events in and around Tuscaloosa for the next several weeks:
Today-Jan. 1
Fayette Art Museum's 9th Annual Festival of Trees: 1:30-3 p.m. opening reception, free, Fayette Art Museum, 530 Temple Ave. N., Fayette. There will be trees decorated with handmade ornaments, folk art paintings, turned wood ornaments and more; the exhibit will be open through New Year's Day. The Museum is open and free to the public 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. 205-932-8727.
Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker: 3 p.m., tickets $28, $48, and $68, Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N., Birmingham. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.
Dickens Downtown: 4:30-8 p.m., free, Downtown Northport. Annual Victorian event will feature live music inside and outside shops, arts and crafts demonstrations at Kentuck, Father Christmas, Queen Victoria, horse-drawn carriage rides, snow machines and more.
City of Birmingham Holiday Lights: 5 p.m., free, Vulcan Park and Museum, 1701 Valley View Drive, Birmingham. The annual City of Birmingham Holiday Lights moves to Vulcan Park for the first time, for a family-friendly evening of music, arts and crafts, giveaways and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. 205-254-2391. www.facebook.com/birming hamparkandrecreationboard.
Tuesday-Jan. 18
Holidays on the River: Ice-skating rink and other events, 4:30 p.m., $10 for 90-minute skate session, Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. In previous years, the rink has been located at Queen City Park on Jack Warner Parkway. The rink will be set up in the pit area of the Amphitheater and the venue's seats will provide a good viewing area to watch skaters.
On opening night, Tuesday Dec. 1, the Dance Initiative will perform scenes from "Frozen," at 6 p.m. Holiday-themed movies will be shown at 6 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Santa Claus will make appearances Dec. 12-13 and 19-20, and free horse-carriage rides will be given Dec. 12-13 and 19-23. Music and other events will be held throughout. For a full schedule, see www.holidays ontheriver.com.
Demopolis' Christmas on the River: Various locations in and around downtown Demopolis, starting with the tree-lighting ceremony Wednesday, and concluding with a full day of events Saturday, including the nautical parade. www.demopolischamber.com/christmas-on-the-river.
"Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny": Presented live, and riffed-on, by RiffTrax (featuring some of the guys behind "MST3K"), 7 p.m., $12.50, Cobb Hollywood 16.
Thursday- Saturday
"Scrooge! The Musical": 7:30 p.m., $25, The Library Theatre, 200 Municipal Drive, Hoover. 205-444-7888. www.thelibrarytheatre.com.
Thursday-Dec. 6
Tuscaloosa Community Dancers' "The Nutcracker": 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Dec. 6, Bama Theatre. Tickets $21 general, $17 seniors, $12 students and children. 205-752-4220. www.bamatheatre.org.
Friday, Dec. 6
"Hilaritas": UA's annual concert of holiday music, arranged for jazz, chorus and more, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Dec. 6, Moody Concert Hall, tickets $5 and $7 for students, $10 and $15 general. www.uamusic.tix.com. 205-348-7111.
Third Annual Toys for Tots Golf Tournament: 9 a.m., $15 members, $30 non-members, The Links at Tuscaloosa Golf and Country Club, 1800 Links Blvd. #7501. Must bring a new toy to donate. 205-247-9990.
Saturday, Dec. 11-13
"A Christmas Carol": Performed by Demopolis' Canebrake Players, 2 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Dec. 11-12, 2 p.m. Dec. 13, $10 adults, $7 students, Old School Theatre on Main Demopolis. A retelling of Charles Dickens' classic. www.canebrakeplayers.com.
Dec. 6
5th Street Vintage Market, Holiday Edition: 11 a.m., 4150 Fifth Street, Northport. Featuring vintage clothes, furnishings, vinyl records and handmade items. 2 05-345-4763. www.5thstreetvintagemarket.com.
13th Annual Holiday Singalong: Caroling in the park, minus the door-to-door, returns to Capitol Park for 2015 at 1 p.m. Presented free by The Tuscaloosa News. Lyric sheets, accompaniment, song leaders, hot dogs and drinks are provided, all free. All ages welcome. 205-310-5287.
Christmas Tour of Homes: 2-5 p.m., with entertainment and light refreshments at tour loactions; Father Christmas will be visiting the Old Tavern. Stops include Battle Friedman Home and Gardens, Old Tavern, Jemison Van de Graaff Mansion, Murphy African American Museum, Capitol School. Tickets $5. 205-758-2238. Email mlm9298@gmail.com. www.historictuscaloosa.org.
Stillman College Choir Candlelight Concert: 6 p.m., free, new toy donations accepted, Birthright Hall, Stillman campus. www.stillman.edu.
Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Lauren Daigle, "Adore Christmas Tour": 7 p.m., $20-$75 through www.ticketmaster.com, Alabama Theatre, 1817 Third Ave. N., Birmingham, www.alabamatheatre.com.
Dec. 7
West Alabama Christmas Parade and tree- lighting ceremony: 5:15 p.m. for tree-lighting, Tuscaloosa County Courthouse; parade begins at 6:30 on 11th Street and Greensboro Avenue. The route will travel north on Greensboro. and turn east to University Boulevard., ending at 19th Avenue, a block before Queen City.
Dec. 10-11
Annual SantaCon charity toy-drive and pub crawl: Pre-show launch party Dec. 10 at Druid City Brewing Company. Bring an unopened toy and get a $1 sample. All donations will go to Toys For Minors, families of laid-off miners in District 20 in Brookwood.
The pub crawl launches at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Downtown Pub. Stops will include Grey Lady, Icon, Alcove, Black Warrior Brewing, Top Shelf, Green Bar and Egan's. A Twitter account will keep track of the Santas locations.
Dec. 11-12
Alabama Choir School winter concerts: 7 p.m. each night, $12, Moody Concert Hall. www.alachoirschool.org.
Dec. 11-13
The Dance Initiative's production of "Frozen": 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 p.m. Dec. 13, $18 adults, $12 children, Central High School auditorium. Visit www.thedanceinitiative.com, the danceinitiativetusc@gmail.com or 205-292-6133.
Dec. 11-14
The Actor's Charitable Theatre production of "A Christmas Story — The Musical": 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 p.m. Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, $14-$20, Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Ave.
Dec. 11-20
Theatre Tuscaloosa performing "Nuncrackers — The Nunsense Christmas Musical": 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11-12, 17-18, with 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 13, 16, 19-20, $22 general, $18 seniors and military, $14 students and children, Bean-Brown Theatre, 9500 Old Greensboro Road. 205-391-2277. www.theatre tusc.com.
Holiday movies at the Alabama Theatre: Birmingham's movie palace will show favorites including "White Christmas," "The Polar Express," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," "Christmas Vacation," "Home Alone," "Elf" and "A Christmas Story," from Dec. 11 through 20, various times. www.alabamatheatre.com.
Dec. 11-13, 18-20
Alabama Ballet performing George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker:" Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center, Samford University, Homewood. Tickets $25 to $55. Performances at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11-12, 18-19, with 2:30 p.m. matinees Dec. 12-13, 19-20. www.alabamaballet.org/per formances.
Dec. 12
Pink Box Burlesque presents "Home for the Holidays": 8 p.m., $10, 21 and up, Green Bar.
Dec. 12-13:
Humane Society of West Alabama presents Christmas Critter Bazaar: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 12, noon-4 p.m. Dec. 13, Pet Supplies Plus, 2600 McFarland Blvd. Come shop for your loyal four-legged companion.
Birmingham Ballet's "The Nutcracker": 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 2 p.m. Dec. 13, BJCC Concert Hall, Birmingham. Tickets from $23.25 to $48.25 through Ticketmaster. www.bjcc.org.
Dec. 14
"A TSO Christmas": Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra with Prentice Concert Chorale, Alabama Choir School, 7 p.m., $10 to $40, Moody Concert Hall, UA cam pus. www.tsoonline.org/2015-2016-season.
Dec. 15
Holiday Acoustic Night with The Mulligan Brothers: 7:30 p.m., $15, Bama Theatre's Greensboro Room. www.brownpaper tickets.com.
Dec. 17
$5 Foreign Films from 5 presents "Joyeux Noel": 7:30 p.m., $5, free students with ID, Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Ave. 205-758-5195. www.bamatheatre.org.
Dec. 18-19
"Rat Pack Christmas": Actors performing the holiday songs, and more, of Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey, 8 p.m. Dec. 18, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 19, BJCC Concert Hall, Birmingham. Tickets from $38 to $73, through Ticketmaster. www.bjcc.org.
Dec. 19
Christmas Afloat: Lighted boat parade returns for 2015; 5 p.m., Black Warrior River. Route will start at the Riverview boat landing, just upriver from Woolsey Finnell Bridge (on McFarland Boulevard), and proceed down the river along the north bank. The flotilla will turn around near the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, site of Holidays on the River ice skating and other events, then return upriver closer to the south shore.
Dec. 25
"All Things Acoustic" holiday show: 8 p.m., Alabama Public Radio.
November 30th, 2015
Poinsettias on sale at the Bryce Hospital greenhouse - The Horticulture Therapy Program begins selling poinsettias at the Bryce Hospital greenhouse today.
Orders can be placed by calling 205-507-8395.
Poinsettias are available in 6-inch or 8-inch pots. Poinsettias in 6-inch pots are $8 unwrapped or $10 if wrapped with foil and a bow. The eight-inch pots are $16 unwrapped or $20 if wrapped with foil and a bow.
The poinsettias are available in red, pink, marble and white. The foil wraps come in gold, green, red, silver, pink and white. Bow colors are red, green, white, eggshell and burgundy.
Payment must be cash or check.
All visitors to the greenhouse must sign in at the Bryce Police station located on the circle drive at the end of 1651 Ruby Tyler Parkway off Helen Keller Drive.
November 30th, 2015
Dickens Downtown will take attendees back to 19th century in downtown Northport - If you’ve been to Dickens Downtown in its quarter-century of existence, you probably can guess what Dickens Downtown will be like Tuesday: Strolling carolers, holiday decor, folks in 19th-century finery, aromas of spiced drinks and faux snow drifting overhead.
Like Kentuck and its annual festival that helped revive downtown Northport, Dickens Downtown thrives on tradition, and if the show ain’t broke, no fixin’ is required.
The Victorian-style Christmas celebration, patterned after imagery made famous by Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” will feature live music inside and outside the shops and galleries of downtown Northport, an array of demonstrations at the newly renovated Kentuck center and its courtyard, Father Christmas and Queen Victoria available for photographs, horse-drawn carriage rides, bagpipers, snow machines and more.
Dickens Downtown runs 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, and admission is free to the family-friendly event.
“It’s much the same, a ‘round up the usual suspects’ thing,” said Carl Adams of Adams Antiques on Main Street in Northport, who was in at the creation with the late Kentuck founder Georgine Clarke, “bagpipes, music in the village shops, coffee and cider and music. It’s low key; everybody gets the chance to see everybody they only see once a year.”
It’s been roughly 25 years since Clarke crossed Main to visit Adams and ask if he’d be interested in helping with Dickens Downtown.
“I said ‘Sure, if you tell me what it is,’ ” he said, laughing, “ ‘If you hum a few bars, I can fake it.’ ”
The key to its continuing success — in good weather, Dickens draws several thousand — has been keeping it simple, Adams said, and non-commercial.
“It’s a headless monster; you can’t plan too much,” he said. “It’s a good time for people to get in the spirit of the season.”
Among the performances slated for Tuesday:
- Harpist Mary Beth Cavert will perform at Sue’s Flowers, 5:30-8 p.m.
- Pianist Matt Wiley at The Potager, 6-8 p.m.
- Pianist Hanna Crowley at Faucett’s, 6-8 p.m.
- Guitarist Ben Lucy at Rhubarb’s, 6-8 p.m.
- Randy Smith and an acoustic group from Taylorville Methodist at Gracefully Done, 6-8 p.m.
- Westwood Elementary singers at Kentuck Courtyard of Wonders, 6-6:30 p.m.
Also in Kentuck’s courtyard will be demonstrations of raku pottery, broom-making, lace-making, yarn-spinning, metalsmithing, basket-making and chair-caning and more. Inside the newly renovated center will offer holiday cookies, hot apple cider and hot chocolate, with work on display in the Kentuck Gallery by studio artists Ann Betak, Steve Davis, Kerry Kennedy and Daniel Livingston.
Down at Adams Antiques, Queen Victoria, as embodied by local actor Drew Baker, will hold court from 6-8, offering candy canes, regal advice and always-spectacular costumed bling. This will be her eighth year, roughly, since taking over from previous Victoria actor Dianne Teague.
“I never get tired of it; it’s so much fun,” said Baker, who earlier in November co-starred in “Young Frankenstein” for the University of Alabama, as Frau Blucher, shortly after directing more than 100 children in TCT’s “Wizard of Oz.”
“I love the kids,” she said. “They mainly know what a princess is, so I say, ‘Look, I’m even above a princess, so watch out.’”
New for 2015 will be a Northport Christmas parade, running from Kentuck Park toward downtown, from about 4:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, but it is not part of Dickens Downtown, Adams said. Patrons should be aware of it to avoid further traffic issues.
November 30th, 2015
Demopolis Police search for driver of fatal hit-and-run - Demopolis Police are searching for the driver involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident early Sunday.
William Christopher Reid, 24, was struck by a vehicle while walking on Bell Grayson Road some time between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m., Police Chief Tommie Reese said.
Reid was pronounced dead at the scene.
Anyone with information about the vehicle or driver is asked to contact the Demopolis Police Department at 334-289-3073 or the TIP LINE at 334-289-1475.
November 30th, 2015
High security planned for Atlanta's SEC Championship - Football fans can expect to see tightened security measures inside and outside Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for Saturday’s SEC Championship Game, Southeastern Conference officials said.
“The safety and security of our teams, fans and event personnel are a priority in our preparation for SEC Championship Weekend,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a news release. “Considering recent events, we ask our fans to be attentive to their surroundings and to be patient as we implement measures that may provide some inconvenience but ultimately offer an environment of safety for those attending the weekend’s events.”
The game will pit the University of Alabama, the Western Division champion, against the University of Florida, the Eastern Division champion, with the winner claiming the SEC title. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Central time, with CBS televising.
Enhanced security measures will also be in place at the Dr Pepper SEC FanFare on Friday and Saturday in the Georgia World Congress Center.
The main difference for college football fans will be the adoption of the NFL’s clear bag policy, which will be in effect for the SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome and SEC FanFare in the World Congress Center. Bags will be inspected before fans can enter these sites.
SEC officials are encouraging fans not to bring any type of bags to the championship weekend events, but if they do, bags must be clear to be allowed into either the championship game or SEC FanFare. However, small clutch-type bags will be allowed.
Bags will be monitored at a secondary security perimeter set up around the Georgia Dome and World Congress Center and increased law enforcement presence and K-9 patrols will be prevalent.
Gates of the Georgia Dome will open at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time on the day of the championship game, 30 minutes earlier than normal, to accommodate early arriving fans.
Fans not in the gate queue by 3:30 p.m. Atlanta time on game day should not expect to see the game’s kickoff.
“Greater cooperation from our fans will enhance the convenience and safety for everyone in attendance,” Sankey said. “Although we are currently not aware of any specific threats, these measures are important. Some security measures will be very visible and others will be behind the scenes and not evident to the public.”
Bags must satisfy the guidelines below in order to be taken into SEC FanFare and the Georgia Dome:
-Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 18 inches by 6 inches by 18 inches.
-One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar type).
-Small clutch bags, no larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches with or without a handle or strap.
-An exception will be made for medically necessary items after inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.
Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a small clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.
Items that are typically carried in diaper or baby bags must be carried in a clear bag that meets the standards of the bag policy.
For those fans who arrive at the championship game or SEC FanFare with bags that don’t meet standards, bag exchange stations will be outside the Georgia Dome and World Congress Center where fans can leave those bags and in exchange receive a clear bag to use in SEC FanFare and/or the championship game. Fans can retrieve their disallowed bags from the bag exchange station after the game.
Bag exchange stations will be in these locations:
- International Plaza on East end of the Georgia Dome.
-Outside the north entrance of Building C of the World Congress Center.
-Outside South entrance of Building C of the World Congress Center.
-The lobby inside Building B of the World Congress Center.
Strollers will not be permitted inside the Georgia Dome or World Congress Center but they can be left at bag exchange stations for pickup after the game.
Fans can still bring items such as binoculars and cameras, provided they are not in cases, as well as smart phones into SEC FanFare and the Georgia Dome.
Any fan who witnesses suspicious activity at the Georgia Dome or World Congress Center should notify uniformed security personnel, or call 404-223-4911. Also, in the Georgia Dome fans may text “DOME” and a description of the suspicious activity to 69050.
November 30th, 2015
DCH Health System cares for patients' spiritual needs with chaplains - Carolyn Morris was first diagnosed with colon cancer, but after treatment was cured. Then in January 2012, cancer darkened her doorstep again. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma two hours before her husband died from leukemia.
During her first treatment at the Lewis and Faye Manderson Cancer Center at DCH Regional Medical Center, another patient told Morris that the treatment wasn’t helping, and the patient planned to stop treatment and give up.
Surrounded by negative experiences, Morris said she was discouraged, but a chaplain was there.
A chaplain gave her a break from bedside vigil for her husband. A chaplain listened as she expressed her concerns about treatment and the effects of it. A chaplain gave her hope when others made her think there was none.
Eleven pastoral care volunteers recently completed 50 hours of training in basic counseling skills — part lecture, part role play — to become members of DCH’s Stephen Ministries Lay Chaplain Team to provide basic pastoral care to patients at DCH Regional Medical Center and Northport Medical Center.
“DCH feels it is important that we not just treat the body, but we need to take care of the spiritual and emotional care of patients, which directly impacts their health,” said Ron Howard, DCH director of pastoral care. “Lay chaplains serve as an extension of (certified clinical staff chaplains), and they meet a lot of spiritual and emotional needs of patients.”
Morris said chaplains give patients hope that they can survive by providing emotional support. She said she looks for one every time she walks through the doors of the cancer center for follow-up appointments.
“They’re great encouragers. You need the emotional support to make it through this,” she said. “The chaplains are like family members to me. It’s just a very comforting feeling to know they’re there. There’s just something very powerful about knowing someone cares enough to come sit with you and talk with you and hold your hand. They make me feel like everything’s going to be OK.”
There are three full-time clinical staff chaplains, two part-time clinical staff chaplains, 16 chaplain associates (ordained clergy who volunteer), 19 lay chaplains (non-ordained volunteers who have completed a minimum 50 hours training), and a Jehovah’s Witness visitation group with four members in the DCH Health System.
Howard said the clinical staff chaplains are stretched thin with the number of critical patients they offer end-of-life counseling to, which means “we’re not getting adequate coverage as far as non-critical hospital patients.”
Cue the 19 lay chaplains, 11 of whom are new.
Roxanne Harris is one of them.
Harris said she was influenced to become a lay chaplain by experiences she has had with chaplains in the past as a 12-year dialysis patient. She now volunteers as a lay chaplain for dialysis patients at DCH.
“I wanted to help the patients at the hospital, but I had a main interest in helping the dialysis patients because I was a dialysis patient,” Harris said. “I know all the ins and outs of dialysis. So, I felt like I could talk to them when they have issues — not from I read it in a book or I cared for dialysis patients, but I was the one laying in the bed like you are, and I know you can move forward from this point.”
Harris was part of the second class at DCH to train through Stephen Ministries, a national training program for training and organizing lay people to provide one-to-one spiritual care. DCH has been affiliated with Stephen Ministries since 2011.
Lay chaplains are supervised by clinical staff chaplains and can refer patients who have greater needs to them. They continue their training with monthly meetings.
November 30th, 2015
Looking Back: November 30 - Harold Greer, principal of Tuscaloosa High School and a member of the Tuscaloosa Lions Club with a perfect record of attendance for the 15 years he was in the club, was named Lion of the Year.
Alabama quarterback Steve Sloan was named Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference.
Deaths this week included Edward F. Richards, 62, head of the Department of Geology and Geography at the University of Alabama.
A demonstration march by the Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee was conducted quietly in downtown Tuscaloosa. The marchers had acquired a parade permit for the march for equal justice and employment.
The last will and testament of Victor Hugo Friedman, retired Tuscaloosa business and civic leader who died on Nov. 20, bequeathed his home at 1010 Greensboro to the city of Tuscaloosa.
Construction projects going on in Tuscaloosa were a major remodeling and expansion at Druid City Hospital and a new field house at UA.
Rock Cliff, a private home near Cottondale, was nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in 1922 by Gordon Gambetti Reynolds who moved to Tuscaloosa from North Carolina and bought 125 acres on Hurricane Creek which included the 1829 Keene’s Mill. He built Rock Cliff using heart of pine timbers and sandstone that formed the mill.
Tuscaloosa Police were unhappy with their salaries which, in spite of a raise, still left them significantly behind other cities, UA police, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department and Alabama State Troopers.
The Crimson Tide defeated Auburn 16-7 for the team’s first Iron Bowl victory since 1985.
Cresandra Williams, a former award-winning reporter with The Tuscaloosa News was appointed director of public relations at Stillman College.
Johnson Controls moved to a new manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County Industrial Park. The plant employed 73 people and made parts for heating, air conditioning and engine cooling for assembly at Tuscaloosa’s Harrison Radiator plant.
Christmas Parade grand marshals were Mike Spiller, Emmett Dandy, Tim Parker, Barry Mason, Willie Forte and A.D. Christian Jr.
A U.S. district judge found in favor of Patricia Ann Thomas Jackson who had spent 10 years on death row at Tutwiler State Prison after her conviction of capital murder in the stabbing death of Bonnie Walker, by an all-white jury in 1981. The same jury recommended the death sentence that was later imposed by the judge. The capital offense came from her indictment on a murder charge after having been convicted of murder in the second degree within a 20-year period. The new ruling ordered her conviction and death sentence be set aside and that she be retried in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court on a capital murder charge.
A recount of votes in the Bibb County referendum on legal sales of alcoholic beverages showed the measure lost by 59 votes. The original count was 23 votes.
Roger Thompson, UA associate vice president for enrollment management, said no Alabama athletes had diplomas from the controversial University High School where students could quickly improve their grades to gain college eligibility. The school was profiled in a New York Times article.
Attorneys George Rosen and Edward Morgan were given “Pillar of the Bar” awards from the Tuscaloosa County Bar Association.
Fayette County Sheriff Hubert Norris said that Aaron Wilhite was in jail on the day that a wedding announcement said he married Debra Porter.
Perry County residents were pushing for an Enhanced 911 system, which would automatically provide a dispatcher with key information about a caller and his location.
Alabama defensive coordinator, assistant head coach and linebackers coach, Joe Kines was a finalist for the prestigious Broyles Award, which for the 10th year, would be awarded to the nation’s top assistant football coach.
A new federal prison in Aliceville would become a reality when President George W. Bush signed the bill. The prison, when complete, would employ about 350 people. It would house about 1,200 prisoners and have a $20 million annual operating budget.
The Crimson Tide would face Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.
University of Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans was honored by The Associated Press as the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
The University of Alabama terminated an employee who played unauthorized music over the Bryant-Denny Stadium public address system before the game against Auburn. The song choices, “Take the Money and Run” and “Son of a Preacher Man” were apparently directed at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, whose father, a minister, was embroiled in a recruiting scandal amid reports that he sought payment during his son’s recruitment in violation of NCAA rules.
Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton was cleared to play by the NCAA after the organization ruled that he would not be punished for the payment scheme concocted by his father. Newton led the No. 2-ranked Auburn Tigers into the Southeastern Conference championship game against South Carolina.
Auburn won that game a whopping 56-17 and earned a spot in the BCS national title game.
Replicas of Columbus’ ships, the Nina and the Pinta, tied up next to the chalk bluffs in Demopolis.
Former University of Alabama football coach Gene Stallings and legendary retired football coach Bobby Bowden would coach flag football teams in the Middle East with soldiers as players. The game was known as the Connect to Home Bowl.
The JVC plant in Tuscaloosa cut its permanent work force by about 10 percent, citing declining demand for CDs. JVC also made DVDs.
L.C. Cole was dismissed after two seasons as head football coach at Stillman. Teddy Keaton, a Stillman College graduate, would replace Cole.
Tuscaloosa native Wendy Standeffer Riggs became the director of the new Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
The University of Alabama accepted a bid to play in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando against Michigan State.
After its national title hopes were shattered in the Iron Bowl the year before, the Crimson Tide responded to beat Auburn 55-44 in record-setting fashion at Bryant-Denny Stadium, then turned its attention to Missouri and the SEC title game.
Demolition would begin on the historic viaduct bridge on University Boulevard that leads to Alberta. The bridge was built in the 1940s after World War II, and has been part of the original “Gateway to the University of Alabama.”
Jim McElwain, former offensive coordinator at Alabama and head coach at Colorado State, was named head coach of the Florida Gators.
Nathan Van Wilkins, who pleaded guilty in the 2012 shooting at the Copper Top bar, was sentenced to 30 years for the incident.
Four educators were inducted into the University of Alabama College of Education’s Educator Hall of Fame: Marian Loftin, Joe Morton and posthumously Marcus L. Roberts Jr. and N. Joyce Sellers.
Ben Rose, 9, was awarded the Medal of Merit from the Boy Scouts of America for saving a woman from drowning this summer at Deerlick Creek. Ben was in Cub Scouts Pack 151 and was a fourth-grader at Englewood Elementary School.
November 30th, 2015
Demopolis City Schools Foundation raises $1 million - In 1993, Demopolis City Schools Foundation founder Hugh Lloyd had a goal of one day raising $1 million for an endowment fund that would benefit the city’s schools and students for years to come.
Last week, his goal was met.
The Alabama Power Foundation awarded the Demopolis City Schools Foundation a $25,000 grant during the 20th annual donor appreciation celebration. The grant equaled the amount the foundation needed to hit its longtime “Hallelujah” goal of $1 million.
“Obviously, we’re very excited,” said Amanda Barnes, executive director of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation. “I think it’s a huge goal for a community of our size to reach this. We’re a small school system in the Black Belt of Alabama and I’ve never heard of a school system in this area contributing that much money for education. It just shows how much the people of our community love their education system.”
Barnes said they’ll use the interest from the $1 million endowment to increase the amount of the $50,000 classroom grant they give to teachers in the system each year. The foundation won’t touch the principal balance.
“We will know in the spring to see what the earnings off the endowment are,” she said.
The interest earned will add an estimated $20,000 to the classroom grant, according to a news release.
Mark Crews, vice president of Alabama Power’s western division, said the endowment should be a point of pride for Demopolis.
“The Demopolis community’s commitment to education is evident through the continued success of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation,” he said.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 26th, 2015
A good Samaritan: Retired physician volunteers in Northport - When Earl Glenn retired from being an active physician in 1998, he didn’t retire from doctoring altogether.
The next year, he began doing medical mission trips, going on one to three trips each year in countries like Honduras and Nicaragua. Then a former classmate told him how he could help people in his own community by volunteering at the Good Samaritan Clinic.
“She said, ‘You should go out and work at the Good Samaritan because it’s like going on mission trips, except you do it at home,’” Glenn said.
Glenn has been volunteering as a physician, offering general medical care to patients at the Good Samaritan Clinic in Northport since the early 2000s, donating his time every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
He schedules 12 patients each Tuesday. He said some are no-shows and sometimes he has to work an extra one in, but most of the patients need to return for
He has also served on the clinic’s board of directors for the past three years.
“I just like to help people in need, people who really don’t have any insurance and cannot afford it,” he said. “It helps me fulfill my Christian responsibility to people and help those in need.”
The clinic offers free services to West Alabama residents who can prove they have no insurance and are indigent.
The clinic served a total of 650 patients and had more than 2,000 visits in 2014.
Michael Hunter, the clinic’s executive director, said $3.4 million worth of care was donated to patients in 2014.
“It’s because of people like Dr. Glenn that we’re able to provide this service to the community,” Hunter said.
Glenn is joined by five general practice family medicine doctors, seven specialists, four dentists and administrative volunteers and eight paid staff.
University of Alabama and Auburn University students help at the clinic, too, including dental hygienists in training, nursing, social work and pre-med, pre-dental, and pre-pharmacology students.
Funding comes from community donations, which allows Glenn to freely give spiritual advice in addition to medical help.
“If it weren’t for folks who care and are willing to come out here and donate their time, we wouldn’t be able to provide this deeply needed service for our community,” Hunter said.
November 26th, 2015
UA's Child Development Research program receives more than $93,000 - The University of Alabama’s Child Development Resources has been awarded $93,750 in state grants for community programs to provide assistance and resources to parents.
CDR is housed in the College of Human Environmental Sciences and provides training for professional child care providers, child care resource and referral information, and parenting education and support programming.
The state grants will provide funds for Baby TALK (Teaching Activities for Learning and Knowledge), a program designed to encourage parents to nurture their small children, and Parenting Assistance Line, a statewide toll-free number providing information and support to help callers become more confident parents.
The awards are part of $379,000 in grants from the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention to Tuscaloosa-area organizations for community programs committed to the prevention of child maltreatment.
The other grant recipients include Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama, which is receiving $50,000 for school-based programming; Child Abuse Prevention Services, which is being awarded $40,000 for its Committee for Children’s Second Step program; United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama, which is receiving $22,500 for HEARTS Respite, a program that provides voucher reimbursement for respite care for families of special-needs children in West Alabama; Tuscaloosa’s One Place, which is receiving $173,250 for its No Place Like Home and It Takes Two a Fatherhood Initiative programs.
The state agency will present the organizations with the grant awards on Tuesday at UA’s Child Development Research Center.
November 26th, 2015
Kentuck to host artists on Saturday - The Kentuck Art Center will host a new event, “Hot, Fresh and Local,” from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Courtyard of Wonders in downtown Northport.
The event will showcase local artists and local businesses on Small Business Saturday, which is designed to get people to shop local after Black Friday.
Open houses will be held at the newly renovated Kentuck Gallery and Shop along with Sunheart Metal, the Clay Place and FireHorse Pottery.
Demonstrations in the Courtyard of Wonders will include metal smithing by Steve Davis, Raku firing by the Clay Place and pottery by FireHorse Pottery.
November 26th, 2015
Mayors make wager on Iron Bowl outcome - Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. have made an Iron Bowl wager to benefit local charities.
If the University of Alabama wins Saturday’s game, Ham will make a $100 donation to the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative. If Auburn University wins, Maddox will make a $100 donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County.
Last year, Ham made a $100 donation to the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative after Alabama’s win.
“Over the last 10 years, our wager has grown from barbecue to charitable donations,” Maddox said. “I’m proud that we evolved this friendly bet into something that helps charities close to our hearts.”
November 26th, 2015
Alabama attorney involved in Times v. Sullivan case dies - MONTGOMERY | An Alabama attorney who was involved in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court libel case died Tuesday night in Montgomery.
Merton “Rod” Roland Nachman, died at home at age 91 following a prolonged illness, said his daughter Amy Nachman.
The elder Nachman represented Alabama officials in the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case. The case stemmed from an effort by authorities in Alabama to limit newspaper coverage of civil rights protests.
The newspaper ran a full-page advertisement titled “Heed Their Rising Voices” in 1960 describing the treatment of civil rights demonstrators and appealing for donations to support leaders of the movement. Then Montgomery city police commissioner L.B. Sullivan had argued the ad was libelous and damaged his reputation, despite his name not being included in it.
Sullivan sued in Alabama and won a $500,000 judgment. The case later went before the U.S. Supreme Court and Sullivan lost when the court established a standard for libel cases.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision required public officials to prove actual malice, or that false statements had been published knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth.
The court’s decision was considered a victory for press freedom. The decades-old decision applies today and has been adjusted to account for new publishing platforms, including social media.
Nachman, a Montgomery native, attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School before returning to Montgomery, his family said in a prepared obituary.
Nachman had been under hospice care and died at the house his grandfather had built and where he had lived for most of his life, Amy Nachman said.
“He could quote Shakespeare, Dickens and W.C. Fields right up until the end despite his battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” relatives said in the obituary. “Known for his quick wit, keen intelligence, generous and caring nature and love of Bombay Blue Sapphire gin, he will be sorely missed.”
A graveside service is scheduled Dec. 1 at a Montgomery cemetery.
November 26th, 2015
Four dogs die in Cottondale fire; woman escapes blaze - Four Jack Russell terriers died in an early morning fire in a trailer home in Cottondale Thursday. The fire occurred around 5 a.m. at the home on Keenes Mill Road.
A woman who lived in the home escaped the blaze but her dogs did not.
The Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service responded to fire, the cause of which remains undetermined.
November 26th, 2015
Big Thanksgiving numbers: Chuck's Fish serves about 1.5 tons of food to 1,000 people (WITH VIDEO) - How do you prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 1,000 people?
You start three days before the holiday, cook and bake more than 1.5 tons of food and have more than 200 volunteers to help out.
That what Chuck’s Fish and Project Blessings did for the sixth year running.
The restaurant on Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa served a holiday dinner with turkey and ham and all the fixings for about 1,000 people Thursday.
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Chuck’s Fish donated the food and its facilities and then opened its doors to the community. People from all walks of life came, said Marsha Sprayberry, founder of Project Blessings, a local nonprofit that helps low-income and disadvantaged homeowners with home repairs to give them a better quality of life.
There was no charge for the meal but donations were accepted for what has become Project Blessings’ biggest fundraiser, Sprayberry said. All the money donated goes to Project Blessings.
The goal, however, was to ensure that everyone in the community who wanted a Thanksgiving dinner had one regardless of whether they could make a donation.
There were no barriers of social class at the annual Thanksgiving dinner, said Tara Spath, who coordinates the event for Chuck’s Fish. “We might have one person who comes in alone and we will sit him at a table, and then a family will come in and we will have them join him.”
People from different walks of life will dine together and get to know each other, she said.
Volunteers came to Chuck’s in the early afternoons on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — when the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner — to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. Many of the staff from Chuck’s and its sister restaurant, Five, volunteered to help with the community feast.
“Half my staff is volunteering today,” Spath said. “We are very thankful for all the people who do volunteer.”
Jason Greear, Chuck’s chief chef who volunteered for the event, said volunteers from throughout the community prepared almost 400 pounds of turkey breast, almost 200 pounds of ham, around 375 pounds of mashed potatoes, 200 pounds of green beans, 15 pounds of creamed corn, 150 pounds of dressing, 15 gallons of gravy and 15 gallons of cranberry sauce. There were also about 1,000 slices of pies — pecan and pumpkin — and a like number of dinner rolls.
A milder than usual Thanksgiving allowed the restaurant to leave its front door open on Thursday, and patrons did not have to wait in lines in the cold when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m.
Lauren Walmsley, a University of Alabama senior majoring in economics, volunteered to help serve meals on Thursday. It was her first time doing so.
“I just feel great. Everyone here is so happy, and that makes me happy.”
Walmsley, who is from Daphne in south Alabama, said she didn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. Her roommate, who works at the restaurant, told her about the event and Walmsley said she decided it would be a good way to spend the holiday. She said she would like to do it again.
Mark Metcalf also volunteered on Thursday. “Well, my wife (Gail) said she was going to help, and I just followed her,” he said. “But I am really enjoying being here and helping out.”
Vance Rose has volunteered five out of the last six years at the event and he said he always does the same thing. “I am the dishwasher.”
He was there helping out with his wife and 18-year-old son.
“It is just something you do. It’s a labor of love.”
The annual Thanksgiving event to help Project Blessings was started by the restaurant’s owners Charles Morgan and Cris Eddings. The two also own Five. Similar fundraisers for local charities were held Thursday at Five restaurants in Athens, Ga., and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn.
November 26th, 2015
Bentley to serve meals at homeless shelter - MONTGOMERY | Gov. Robert Bentley will spend part of Thanksgiving serving food at a Montgomery homeless shelter.

The governor’s press office said Bentley will join other volunteers today serving the Thanksgiving meal at Friendship Mission.

The faith-based organization operates shelters for homeless men and women and also runs a soup kitchen.

Executive Shelter Director Tammy Middleton said she expects the mission to feed between 125 and 150 people today.

November 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in search of Christmas tree - The Tuscaloosa County Courthouse is seeking a large Christmas tree that is at least 40 feet tall to be used as the annual community Christmas tree on the front lawn of the courthouse. Anyone who would like to donate a tree, is asked to call the courthouse maintenance department at 205-464-8218.

November 25th, 2015
Chuck's Fish offers free holiday meals in downtown Tuscaloosa - A free Thanksgiving meal will be provided today at a downtown Tuscaloosa restaurant.

At Chuck’s Fish, 508 Greensboro Ave., staff and volunteers will serve dressing, traditional sides and pecan and pumpkin pie from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Free turkey sandwiches will also be handed out from Chuck’s Fish and Five Bar’s American Lunch food truck.

November 25th, 2015
Bentley asks federal government for refugee report update - MONTGOMERY | Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and to the U.S. State Department requesting reports on the refugee reception program in Alabama.

The refugee program in Alabama was established between the State Department and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops through a cooperative agreement. The bishops conference has a sub-agreement with Catholic Social Services of the Greater Mobile Area. Both of the church-related agencies are required to provide consultations to Alabama four times a year and submit quarterly reports on refugee reception.

Bentley’s letter said Alabama has not received the consultations or the required reporting on the refugee reception.

“The lack of reporting by volunteer organizations stands to further demonstrate my deep concern for the refugee vetting process,” he said in the letter. “In my opinion, the refugee vetting process is structured in such a way that (it) excludes states from any oversight and severely limits the amount of information states may have regarding refugees. My letter requests that the required quarterly consultations and expected reports to the state of Alabama begin immediately.”

Bentley also has asked President Barack Obama to reconsider accepting Syrian refugees. In a letter to the White House last week, Bentley informed president of his decision to not accept Syrian refugees in Alabama.

“The threat posed by the Syrian refugees is real, and as governor, I cannot expose my fellow Alabamians to the risk of accepting refugees from Syria, whose backgrounds cannot properly be checked to ensure national security,” he wrote then. “We must make every effort to protect our country from possible terrorists who want to destroy all that is good about America.”

November 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa investigate Dollar General robberies; one arrest made so far - Tuscaloosa police are investigating a string of robberies reported at Dollar General stores have made one arrest.

Kaleb Quinn Caddell, 20, has been accused of robbing the Dollar General Store at 6520 Hargrove Road E. on Oct. 22.

The investigation is ongoing, said Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Brad Mason.

Caddell and another man are suspected of committing several more robberies of Dollar Genearl stores in Tuscaloosa, Hale, Pickens and Calhoun counties during October, Mason said.

In the robbery of the Hargrove Road location, two suspects wearing black clothing and bandanas over their faces entered the Dollar General at 9:45 p.m. that night.

One man held the cashier at gunpoint and ordered her to open the safe while the other searched the store for other employes.

Customers hid in the stockroom. The men left after unsuccessful attempts to open the safe.

Investigators expect to charge Caddell with more of the robberies, Mason said. There are also charges pending against a second suspect whose name wasn’t released on Wednesday, he said.

November 25th, 2015
Prayer Shawl Mnistry provides shawls to people in need - Editor’s note: “Everyday Heroes” is an occasional series dedicated to telling the stories of people who serve the community by giving their most precious resource, their time.

A client at the Phoenix House pulled the olive green blanket over her shoulders, not because she was cold, but because every length of yarn was stitched together and prayed over with her in mind, and she felt loved.

It was her last night in the 118-day transitional program, and the shawl and the women who made it gave her comfort, she said.

“I love and appreciate the blanket. It has a strong impact because you don’t realize a lot of people need these small necessities,” she said. “In our situation, we have a lot of negative views from society ... but to realize there are people who don’t judge you ... it’s an ultimate feeling of love.”

That is what the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Lakewood Baptist Church in Northport does — the Shawl Ladies, as they call themselves, crochet and knit shawls, afghan blankets and other items to give to women clients at the Phoenix House as a way to show they are loved, not judged.

The Lakewood Baptist women meet every other Sunday to crochet for Phoenix House women clients, those who have experienced a loss, those who are sick and others in need.

They visit the women of Phoenix House, a transitional home for those who have experienced addictions, once a month during the school year and take them food and gifts and initiate activities like devotions, spa nights and crochet classes.

“It’s our goal to serve the Lord and minister to all through this,” said Debra Watkins, one of the Shawl Ladies. “This is a tangible evidence of God’s love.”

The ministry was started by the church’s former pastor’s wife, Jackie McQueen, about seven years ago as a way to take her mind off her son’s deployment to Afghanistan, Watkins said.

Women in the ministry began crocheting shawls and afghans to give to veterans and it expanded from there.

They have given crocheted items to children in foreign orphanages, hurricane and tornado victims and others. They began with the Phoenix House about 2.5 years ago, Watkins said.

She said the women stitch together the good, the bad and the ugly yarn to symbolize that all experiences — good or bad — can turn into something beautiful.

“I think that’s the biggest thing — women showing women, we all have pain. But we’re showing them a way to deal with that pain. We’re finding them another addiction,” she said.

Watkins said crocheting carries the mind away from troubles because it takes focus, and that is why it’s a two-fold ministry.

“Crafting is healing,” she said. “It heals the person who’s crocheting because it is a process of prayer for us ... and then we found that actually giving them was the most rewarding part. We found out people don’t usually get homemade things.”

The client said people donate hygiene and other items to the women at Phoenix House, but to receive something hand-made and to be taught a new skill shows a whole other level of love.

Watkins said anyone who wants to join the ministry and learn to crochet can call the church at 205-333-0414.

November 25th, 2015
Information may mean break in case of Northport woman who vanished 35 years ago - It’s been 35 years since Betty White disappeared from her home in Northport.

Police and her family suspect that she was killed, but her body was never found. A few weeks ago, investigators with the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit received information that could finally mean a break in the case.

The investigators have been searching a wooded area on U.S. Highway 43 North, just south of the Binion Creek boat landing.

Cadaver dogs from Mississippi have canvassed the area, said Tuscaloosa County homicide unit assistant commander Lt. Kip Hart. Archaeologists have dug about two dozen holes so the animals have a better chance of picking up a scent, he said.

White, 38, was reported missing after she didn’t show up for her 11 p.m. shift at the B.F. Goodrich plant on Dec. 7, 1980. Her parents discovered the door to her mobile home open and the phone off the hook when they went to check on her. All of her clothes, cash and belongings were still inside.

Authorities immediately suspected foul play, and developed Charles Michael Brewer as the suspect.

Brewer, 29 at the time, would be arrested the following spring for the death of a disabled Tuscaloosa woman. A fisherman found Dianna Lynn Holland, 20, the previous July — beaten, strangled and thrown from a bridge over the Sipsey River between Buhl and Elrod.

Brewer was found guilty of killing Holland, and his now serving a life sentence in Bibb County Correctional Facility. He was publicly named a suspect in White’s disappearance and also in the 1973 death of University of Alabama student Paula Ellis. Brewer was seen with Ellis on the UA Quad the night before she was found dead on Flatwoods Road in Northport, but no one has ever been charged in her death.

He denied any knowledge of the murders in a 2002 prison interview with The Tuscaloosa News.

Carla Blake, White’s niece, said that the family doesn’t want to say much while the investigation is still ongoing. She said family members were grateful that the public, law enforcement and media are still interested in what happened to her aunt.

“Hopefully, we’re going to get some answers,” she said.

Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.

November 25th, 2015
Alabama attorney general warns of seasonal scams - Alabama’s attorney general is urging residents to be on the lookout for scams during the holiday season.

“The best protection against scams and crimes of opportunity is not to be caught by surprise by scammers and thieves,” said Attorney General Luther Strange in a news release.

Strange said criminals often take advantage of consumers’ spirit of giving during the holidays.

People should use good judgment, Strange said, and look for these tell-tale signs of a scam.

“They contact you, ask for your personal information and demand that you pay them by wire or prepaid card to collect a prize or pay a supposed debt,” Strange said. “Be wary and don’t be afraid to demand proof.”

Here are some of the more common scams, according to Strange:

- Scammers posing as family or friends needing help: Someone may contact you by phone or email claiming a family member has been arrested or is incapacitated and needs money. The scammers will instruct you to wire cash or provide them with a prepaid card number. As a general rule, you should never send money to anyone if you cannot verify their identity. If you are unsure, check the whereabouts of the person reportedly needing assistance with other family members. Additionally, ask the person calling or emailing to verify details that only family would know, such as location of last family gathering, where they went to high school or college, etc.

- Fake charity scams: The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is also a popular time for fake charity scams. These scammers often use phishing emails, spoofed telephone numbers or door-to-door visits. Scammers may act as if they are working for an established charity or may even create a fake charity. Be safe and directly contact the charity of your choice and donate to them instead. If you suspect a door-to-door solicitor isn’t honest, contact your local law enforcement agency.

- Holiday gift card scam: Christmas gift cards can also be manipulated by thieves. Scammers sometimes rub off the security codes from gift cards while they are still on store shelves and wait until they think the gift card has been sold and activated. They will then spend the money, leaving the recipient with no money left on the card. To avoid this scam, make sure the gift card you are buying is intact before you buy it. Compare it to other gift cards of the same variety. Be sure to keep your gift card receipt.

- Buyer beware: Beware of websites that feature pop-up advertising promising a hard-to-find item or items at a too-good-to-be-true price. Always remember, if an online offers seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

The attorney general also said shoppers should be extra vigilant this time of year for crimes of opportunity.

Here are some safety tips for shoppers:

- Always park in a well-lit area.

- Do not leave a purse, wallet, presents, or other purchases in plain view in your vehicle.

- If possible, always shop with a friend or family member. There is safety in numbers.

- If meeting someone to purchase something bought online, such as from Craigslist or Facebook, meet in a heavily trafficked and well-lit area. If possible, meet in the parking lot of your local police department or sheriff’s office.

November 25th, 2015
Fayette's Christmas at the Park holiday display opens Thursday - Fayette’s Christmas at the Park will open today, offering visitors a mile-long drive-through tour of holiday lights and displays.

“Christmas is my favorite time of year,” said Doris Brasher, originator of Christmas at the Park.

The idea for Christmas at the Park stemmed from a trip to Callaway Gardens in Georgia in 2007 after Brasher and her husband, John, retired.

“Every tree had a light on it,” Brasher said. “It was unbelievable. I thought, ‘If they can do that much, I can do a little bit’.”

Brasher said she began with 15 wooden scenes. After 25 years, the display became too large for the couple to manage from their home and moved to Guthrie Smith Park with help from the city.

“The first year we put at the park what we had at our home,” Brasher said. “We made $6,000 and took that and bought animated scenes.”

Brasher said all the profits from Christmas at the Park are used for park renovations and new displays.

The couple and volunteers work five months of the year to plan and organize the holiday display.

This year, Christmas at the Park will feature nine wooden scenes, three buildings, a Nativity scene, Santa’s workshop, gingerbread house and 56 lighted and animated scenes. As visitors leave the park, they will see a display that will include Noah’s ark, a Nativity scene and a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” sign.

“Last year we had over 75,000 visitors from 29 states and 10 countries,” Brasher said.

Admission to the park is $1. Hot chocolate and train rides are $1 each. Christmas at the Park will be open today through Dec. 31 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Train rides are given Friday-Sunday and will begin Dec. 4.

November 25th, 2015
YMCA Christmas tree sale moves to spot near river after 25 years on McFarland Boulevard - For the first time in more than two decades, the Y’s Men’s Club’s annual Christmas tree sale, which benefits the Tuscaloosa YMCA, won’t be on McFarland Boulevard.

Instead, the trees will be on Greensboro Avenue, just north of Jack Warner Parkway, in the small park between the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and Riverfront Village.

Ryan Leach, chairman of the Y’s Men’s Club’s Christmas tree sale, said the move was necessary after the group was unable to gain permission to hold the event in its usual location outside of the former Bruno’s grocery store and pharmacy.

“It was something with the ownership — I’m not exactly sure,” Leach said when asked why the sale had to move. “I never got a reason for it.”

Leach said he was dealing with a representative of Cushman & Wakefield, an international property services company.

On Nov. 6, Marjorie Turrel, a property manager for Cushman & Wakefield’s Corporate Occupier and Investor Services, told Leach to find another location.

“I am very sorry to disappoint you. The ownership has not approved this request,” Turrel said in an email to Leach. “I think it is best if your organization finds another location this year.”

Turrel did not return messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

Neither did officials with the Alabama Department of Mental Health, which owns the 72-acre site where Bruno’s, it’s parking lot and all of University Mall are located.

Without a home, Leach said he turned to the city of Tuscaloosa for assistance.

Within days, the group had been granted permission to set up on the city-owned property adjacent to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, where the Holidays on the River and ice skating rink will be held this year, and the row of decorated Christmas trees called the Tinsel Trail.

“Now, you can go down and ice skate, look at all the pretty Christmas trees then buy one yourself to take home,” said Leach, who is in his first year as chairman of the sale.

Christy Bobo, manager of the city’s Arts and Entertainment Department, said city officials worked to find a site for the Y’s Men’s Club when made aware of their plight.

After the club submitted the necessary requests to the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation, the group was issued a permit to operate on the city’s property.

“We realized that the perfect mutually beneficial and available spot would be adjacent to our holiday festivities,” Bobo said.

Leach confessed that he’s a bit nervous being in a new location this year after at least 25 years on the city’s busiest street. After all, the group counts on the proceeds from the Christmas tree sale to help fund YMCA’s Youth First Campaign, which helps to ensure no child is turned away from services offered by the YMCA because of an inability to pay.

But he’s hopeful that with the signs in place outside the former Bruno’s and with some word-of-mouth help, the message will get out.

He’s also banking on residents choosing to buy local instead of from a corporate chain.

“Buy a tree from us,” Leach said, “and the money stays here.”

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.

November 25th, 2015
Alabama's Jake Coker eager to lead team into Iron Bowl - Jake Coker is not the laid-back, aw-shucks ol' country boy he portrays in his interviews. Not really.

Sure, he shows genuine elements of his personality in those moments. But the real Jake Coker, the competitor, was established a long time back in those summer games of football on family trips to the beach.

Coker grew up one of many grandchildren on his mother, Michelle Spires', side of the family. There are a total of 17 grandchildren, and a lot of his cousins graduated from Auburn. But they'll all be cheering for No. 14 come Saturday.

Today of all days is the day to reflect on the many blessings that surround us all. Coker has been giving thanks for his blessings all season. The kid who grew up dreaming about playing for Alabama in the Iron Bowl will see it come to fruition Saturday.

“Growing up watching this game with my family pulling for Alabama, it's always been a big dream of mine,” Coker said. “Playing in this game means a lot to me, but at the same time it's kind of like LSU, Tennessee, those kind of games. I always try to prepare like it's a normal game.

“Then after the game I can appreciate being able to play in that game.”

Coker really is living the dream. There were many hurdles to clear along the way — committing to Florida State before his subsequent transfer to Tuscaloosa remains chief among them — and it wasn't always easy, but the kid from Mobile is here: two days away from starting at quarterback for the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl.

When Nick Saban re-recruited Coker as a graduate-transfer, Coker jumped at the chance.

“It was an opportunity to play for Alabama, to earn a master's at Alabama, to step on that field and really realize a dream that he's always had,” Spires said. “When he got the opportunity to come to Alabama he never wavered. He knew. I knew. It really was a no-brainer.”

He earned the starting quarterback job through an intense competition that ran from spring all the way until the season opener. Even then, it wasn't secure.

His teammate Cooper Bateman earned the start against Ole Miss in the third game of the season, and even though Coker never admitted it, it threw a few coals in the furnace to make his competitive desire burn hotter.

He came on in relief in that game, made enough plays and showed the kind of toughness that won over his teammates and won him the job.

You see, Coker hates to lose. Even in friendly competition. That's why the laid-back guy you see in front of the television cameras isn't showing you the real Jake.

He wants to beat you. Then he wants to be humble about it.

It's always been that way. It's a trait he shares with his mother, who still plays competitive tennis.

“Jake was always playing with a ball, always competing,” Spires said. “In the summers we were all at the beach playing football. We'd have these massive games and people would gather on the beach to watch.

“And boy, Jake's team had better win. Jake was serious about the win. He wants to win.”

That's never changed, and that's what's made this season so special to him. The team is winning, and it's doing so with him at quarterback. He'd never say it out loud, but you can bet he knows the team is an unbeaten 10-0 with him as the starter.

There's been some playful back-and-forth with the Auburn side of his family this week.

“I had dinner with one of my cousins last night and just reminded him of it,” Coker said. “He was like, 'Yeah, man, I pull for you, I love you, but I can't say Roll Tide.' It was pretty funny.”

They're all pulling for him. It's been a long time coming, and the family isn't going to forgo a chance to celebrate Jake starring in his Iron Bowl moment.

“His cousins are pulling for him,” Spires said. “They are all Jake fans. Everybody around here is Jake fans. When Jake's on the field, we're all pulling for Jake.”

It's been a special season for Coker's family, and they know exactly what it means to him even if the laid-back, aw-shucks kid from Mobile won't directly come out and say it.

“I think he's just beaming with pride,” Spires said. “I do. I think he's very, very proud to have the opportunity to represent the boys that he's playing with.

“He loves these guys. They really like each other. It makes me proud to see how much they like each other and care about each other and how much they play for each other. He's thrilled. I think it runs the gamut. He feels everything. He feels so blessed.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.

November 25th, 2015
Report: Kirby Smart a top candidate for South Carolina job - News came Wednesday morning that University of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is emerging as the leading candidate for South Carolina’s vacant head coaching position.

The story, which was reported from Foxsports.com, really comes as no surprise as Smart has led one of the best defenses in the country year-in and year-out for the better part of a decade. The timing of the report could be worrisome, but UA coach Nick Saban has previously said he’s had no issues when former assistant coaches explored job opportunities during the season.

Former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain was hired by Colorado State during the season, even as he helped prepared the team for its BCS National Championship game.

Saban said there’s a reason schools have interest in his coaches.

“One of the reasons that (Smart and Mario Cristobal) are probably being considered is because they do a great job where they are right now, and I think both of those guys are bright enough to certainly realize that and they want to continue to do a good job where they are now because that’s a reflection of who they are and what they do,” Saban said. “And that’s why people would be interested in them.

“I’m always trying to help guys if they have a chance to get a better opportunity. But I also certainly appreciate the fact that they stay very focused on what we’re trying to do because they care about our players and our team. I think they both put that first. That’s certainly what I tried to do when I was an assistant coach. All the guys that I’ve had have done that very well.”

During his weekly Tuesday press conference Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn did not name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game.

As such, Alabama has spent the week preparing for both Jeremy Johnson and Sean White.

“I’ve just got to do my job and watch film on both of them because both of them are good guys,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Jeremy can run and throw. Sean can run and throw. So I’ve got to do my job of watching them to see what they do good and bad, so we can do good in getting to them and just getting them on their bad stuff. So I’ve got to do my job of watching film on both of them.

“Thank God, this week, I don’t got class all week. So it’s easier for me to watch film on one guy one day and the next day watch film on the other guy. So it’s easier to do that when you don’t got class and other stuff to worry about, so it should be helpful.”

Saban has a holiday rule that any player that lives within a two-hour radius is allowed to go home to celebrate with his family.

So Jake Coker won’t make it home to fill his plate, but he still has plans to enjoy it.

“I’m gonna try to eat until I can’t walk anymore,” Coker said. “Yeah, I can’t wait. Always like a good Thanksgiving meal.”

What’s normally on the table for a family meal?

“There’s all kinds of stuff,” he said. “Heck, I won’t see them this year though, probably. That’s one bad thing about college football and Thanksgiving, you don’t usually go back to see your family. But when I can, I’m full when I leave, that’s for sure.”

This isn’t the first time Saban has faced off with a former assistant coach from a previous staff. Judging by history, it won’t be the last either.

Saban has faced Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp a total of four times (counting Saturday’s game). He said the familiarity with the other can provide a slight advantage.

“Any time you play against somebody that you’ve worked with before, it gives you a little bit of an idea of what they like to do and what their thoughts are on how they like to play,” Saban said. “They obviously, having been with you, certainly know some of the things about what you like to do.

“I think you do take that into consideration but I’m not sure you can change what you do that dramatically because you have to really do what your players know and what they can execute. Really, it probably will come down to the execution of the players at the end of the day as to whether you have success or not. As coaches, it’s our job to try to prepare them well.”

Running back Derrick Henry, linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson were selected as finalists for three separate national awards. Henry is a finalist for the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards, Ragland for the Bednarik Award and Robinson for the Outland Trophy.

Henry was one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club to the College Player of the Year. The junior tailback was also selected as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum to the nation’s top running back. Henry has 21 touchdowns and 1,526 yards on 249 carries for a 6.1 yards per carry average that ranks second among SEC backs.

Ragland has already been selected as a finalist for the Butkus, Nagurski and Senior Class Awards. The Bednarik is presented annually to the College Football Defensive Player of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club.

Robinson was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman — on offense or defense — by the Football Writers of America. Robinson has a career-high 36 tackles this season, including seven tackles for a loss and three sacks.

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.

November 25th, 2015
Suspected missing person found safe - One of four people on the list of missing persons since the April 27, 2011, tornado has been found safe.
Police didn’t believe that Laurie Anne Macconnell, 53, was a tornado victim, but her brother and a friend reported her missing around that time.
“Because of the circumstances and the timing, we listed her as a missing person then,” said Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Brad Mason.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Florida entered her name into a database when she left the country on Nov. 19, Mason said, and learned she had been reported missing. A TPD investigator spoke to her on the phone and verified her identity and that she was in good health.
Macconnell is now with family in Georgia, Mason said.
The remaining three people missing since the tornado are Latoya Brown, Teresa Marioquen and her daughter, Teresa Marioquen. Anyone with information about them is asked to contact TPD at 205-349-2121.
More than 600 people were originally listed as missing in the days following the storm. The Marioquens may have moved from their home on 13th Street East, but investigators have been unable to confirm their whereabouts. Cellphone records place Brown in the area of Rosedale Court, which was leveled by the tornado, that afternoon. Her family, who still lives in Tuscaloosa, hasn’t heard from her since.
November 25th, 2015
Tuscaloosa-based company honors man, 100, for military and community service - It's the giving season — time to give volunteer hours, time to give donations and time to give thanks.
WTI Transport, a Tuscaloosa-based trucking company, is among the giving.
It honored U.S. Navy veteran, Jessie Neal, on Tuesday for his military and community service by giving him and his family loads of food and gifts in boxes and laundry baskets, including a Thanksgiving turkey and ham.
Departments within the company recently competed in a food drive as a way to give back to the community. Altogether along with some donations from Save-A-Lot grocery store in Northport, employees collected 2,857 items, including canned foods, crackers, soups, water, sodas, cereal, oatmeal, box dinners and other non-perishable food items.
"We have everything — breakfast, lunch and dinner items," said WTI family care specialist, Billie-Jean Clayville.
The company plans to divide the goods among multiple veterans and their families chosen through the VA Medical Center.
"It started off, we were going to get enough food to feed Jessie's family, but with the holidays coming up, we've raised enough food for probably 20 plus families," said WTI president Rendy Taylor.
But the company wanted to honor Neal in particular in an effort to give thanks along with their donations.
"We couldn't ask for a better person to sponsor," Taylor said. "During this time, the conditions of the world as we know today, has brought us closer to the people who protect us, look after us and provide us our freedoms that we have. That's the reason veterans are so important to us."
Neal was sailor during World War II and served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946.
The 100-year-old veteran was born in Pickens County and now lives in Millport with his grandson and granddaughter-in-law. He had one daughter with his late wife of 65 years and has three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Neal was also the first black man to serve on the Millport Town Council, serving from 1980 to 1990 before serving as mayor pro tempore from 1990 to 2004.
He also served as chairman of the trustee board and on the deacon board at his church, Holly Grove Baptist.
His grandson, Marion Hodge, said it was nice to have others recognize his grandfather's service to his community and his country.
"We're very grateful. He has definitely meant a lot to us," Hodge said. "I think he well deserves people honoring him today."
November 25th, 2015
City Council approves liquor license for banquet hall - Objections from historic district residents were not enough to sway the City Council to stand in the way of a downtown building’s future.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved a specialized liquor license at the request of District Room LLC, the operators of a banquet hall inside a portion of the former Focus on Senior Citizens facility at 551 20th Ave.
The City Council allowed the sale of the 13,000-square-foot building in December to a local company consisting of Charles Spurlin, owner of The Shirt Shop on Greensboro Avenue, and the owners of Innisfree Irish Pub, which operates next door to the former Focus building.
This company has converted the building into four spaces for commercial use. Avondale-based Post Office Pies, a pizza restaurant opening its second location here, has occupied two of them and Dex Imaging, a copier and printer company with 24 locations across the Southeast, has leased a third.
A fourth, 900-square-foot space remains available but will not be a restaurant or eatery, said Innisfree owner Tripp Rogers, because it was not built to accommodate such a business.
But it’s not these businesses that have residents concerned.
It’s the remaining 3,500-square-foot space that will be used as a banquet facility and catered by Innisfree’s kitchen.
Nearby residents, represented by the Original City Association, protested the sale to University Stations because of its plans for the banquet facility.
On Tuesday, they objected to the liquor license that Rogers and his co-investors were seeking.
“We ask you, as a City Council, to make sure that there are processes in place that can manage this properly,” said OCA President Kelly Fitts. “And if we do have additional problems, you will help us with those problems.”
Although a similar room in the building already was used for rental parties, the OCA contends that allowing Innisfree to operate the remodeled version could increase problems like public intoxication and loud and confused students meandering neighborhood streets during early morning hours.
On Tuesday, these residents again urged the City Council to reject the liquor license. They contend the banquet hall, operating under the name District Room, would increase the party-like atmosphere that they saidInnisfree already creates.
“If we could have our druthers, we’d prefer the liquor license not be granted,” said historic district resident Ted Miller.
Miller and Linda Ursic appeared before the City Council during its weekly pre-council meeting to ask that the council deny the liquor license.
Ursic, repeating similar complaints and concerns that first arose when the sale of the building was before the City Council, said families already have left the Caplewood historic neighborhood because of an increase of college students.
She said she fears that an increase in rambunctious patrons caused by the District Room’s operation would further harm historic neighborhoods.
“Now, it’s disastrous,” Ursic said. “We have really struggled to keep downtown as it is now.
“I just fear what happened in Caplewood is going to happen downtown.”
A key concern of residents is that Innisfree would use the banquet hall as an overflow space for the restaurant and bar whenever crowds grew overly large.
Rogers was asked about that by the City Council and said that would not be the case.
“It’s strictly for private events only,” Rogers said. “I’m sure we’ll have all kinds of events that want to be there.”
While city code enforcement and Revenue Department officials said there would be no way to know if Innisfree did, in fact, use the area as an overflow area for the bar, Tuscaloosa-based attorney Matt Tompkins, speaking on behalf of the District Room’s owners, denied that the banquet hall would be used for this purpose.
Tompkins said during the pre-council meeting that the space will be used only when rented for parties and special events and the liquor license approved by the City Council will not allow other uses.
“This is not going to be The Double Deuce,” Tompkins said, referring to the fictional bar regulated by Patrick Swayze’s bouncer character in the 1989 movie “Road House”
. “That’s not the intent,” he said.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 24th, 2015
Holiday hours help lure shoppers this week - Most folks will be off from work on Thanksgiving Day, and a national survey of employers by Bloomberg BNA shows 71 percent of employers are giving their employees paid off-days on Thursday and Friday.
That will mean a four-day weekend for travel, fun and, of course, shopping on what promises to be one of the busiest extended shopping weekends of the year. The National Retail Federation projects 135.8 million Americans plan to shop during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. The federation’s annual survey of shoppers found that 57 percent of consumers have already started their holiday shopping.
It also found that the most requested holiday gift for the ninth year running is a gift card. Those who plan to buy gift cards will spend an average $153.08, down from $172.74 in 2014. Total gift card spending nationwide is expected to reach $25.9 billion, the federation said.
The holiday shopping season traditionally starts with “Black Friday” — once a term reserved exclusively for the Friday after Thanksgiving. But in recent years “Black Friday” isn’t just about Friday anymore.
In recent years, more merchants have started their Black Friday door-buster specials on Thanksgiving Day, or even earlier.
Here’s a look at many area stores’ earlier opening times to kick off their “Black Friday” sales.
-Dollar General, 7 a.m. Thursday.
-Big Lots, 7 a.m. Thursday; 6 a.m. Friday.
-Walgreen’s 8 a.m. Thursday.
-Gander Mountain, 8 a.m. Thursday; 5 a.m. Friday.
-Rite Aid, 8 a.m. Thursday; 7 a.m. Friday.
-JCPenney, 3 p.m. Thursday.
-Old Navy, 4 p.m. Thursday.
-Michael’s, 4 p.m. Thursday.
-Toys R Us, 5 p.m. Thursday.
-Best Buy 5 p.m. Thursday.
-University Mall, 6 p.m. Thursday, mall doors open with many store opening at this time, Belk, 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Target, 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Wal-Mart, 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Sears, 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Office Depot/Office Max 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Dick’s Sporting Goods, 6 p.m. Thursday.
-Kmart, 7 p.m. Thursday.
-Lowe’s 5 a.m. Friday.
-Game Stop, 5 a.m. Friday.
-Alumni Hall 5 a.m. Friday.
-Tractor Supply, 6 a.m. Friday.
-JoAnn, 6 a.m. Friday.
-Sam’s Club, 7 a.m. Friday.
-Fred’s 7 a.m. Friday.
-Pet Smart 7 a.m. Friday.
-The Shirt Shop, 7 a.m. Friday.
-Hobby Lobby, 8 a.m. Friday.
-Home Accents, 8 a.m. Friday.
-​​Pants Store, 8 a.m. Friday. ​
-​​​R&R Cigars, 8 a.m. Friday.
-Beyond Southern Furnishings, 9 a.m. Friday.
-Rhubarb’s Gifts & Home, 9:30 a.m. Friday.
November 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council Action: Nov. 24 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:
-Authorized an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to Price Construction Company Inc. for installation of water mains and services for UA Coleman Coliseum parking lot water main extension; total $822.66.
-Authorized an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to Tuscaloosa City Schools for installation of water mains and services for Alberta School of Performing Arts water main extension; total $2,176.28.
-Authorized an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to War Construction Inc. for installation of water mains and services for First United Security Bank fire line; total $1,584.42.
-Authorized an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to the Townes of North River Development LLC for installation of water mains and services for Townes at North River Section 13 and 14; total $8,587.80.
-Authorized payment to Cassandra Price in settlement of claim; total $1,018.25.
-Authorized payment to Kimberly Washington in settlement of claim; total $525.87.
-Set Jan. 5 as the date for a public hearing on a proposed vacation of a 15-foot alley abutting Lots 1-7 Block “F” in Alberta Heights.
-Approved the ABC application of T-Town Market Inc. for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at Shell Mini Mart; 1901 Veterans Memorial Parkway.
-Approved the ABC application of District Room LLC for special retail license — more than 30 days at District Room, 551 20th Ave.
-Authorized amendment No. 1 to the subrecipient agreement between the City of Tuscaloosa and the Salvation Army using 2013 ADECA CDBG-DR funds.
-Authorized amendment No. 1 to the subrecipient agreement between the City of Tuscaloosa and the Salvation Army using 2013 CDBG-DR funds.
-Authorized the Office of Federal Programs and the Office of Resilience and Innovation to amend and advertise amendments to their Citizens Participation Plan to input HUD’s final rule on affirmatively furthering fair Hhousing.
-Amended the policies and procedures for the commercial revolving loan and small business revitalization loan committee.
-Authorized execution of an agreement with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs under the fiscal year 2015 emergency solutions grant program.
-Authorized an amendment to the city’s agreement and authorized the mayor to execute the amendment agreement with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa Incorporated under 2011 and 2013 home funds for the development of affordable housing.
-Authorized an amendment to the city’s agreement and authorized the mayor to execute the amendment agreement with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa Incorporated under 2014 home funds for the development of affordable housing.
-Authorized engineering and related services contract with Walker Associates Inc. for Fourth Street infrastructure improvements project; total not to exceed $34,500.
-Authorized execution of underground utility service easement to Alabama Power Company for the new YMCA Family Center building at 14th Street and 23rd Avenue.
-Authorized renewal of NDAA liability insurance for Office of the City Attorney; total $7,398.
-Authorized the mayor to execute a loan agreement between the board of trustees of the University of Alabama on behalf of the university for the loan of a portable restroom facility for use at public events.
-Authorized agreement with CFM Group for engineering services for the Ashbrook drainage design project; total not to exceed $12,000.
-Amended resolution authorizing the mayor to execute agreement between the city and the Cassady Co. Inc. for relocation of utility facilities on public right of way ALDOT Project No. STPAA-STPOA-0215(501); total not to exceed $41,413.68.
-Authorized mayor to execute contract with Neel-Schaffer Inc. for construction engineering and inspection services for the Riverwalk East project ALDOT project No. SB-NR13(955); total not to exceed $79,940.
-Authorized a departmental reorganization plan.
-Amended the resolution establishing a budget for the public works capital fund.
-Amended Amendment No. 4 to the resolution establishing a budget for the public safety capital fund.
-Tentatively awarded public works contract for Juanita Drive improvements project to Dominion Construction Co. Inc.; total $1,021,508.57.
-Authorized the mayor to execute the NPDES permit for the Hilliard Fletcher Wastewater Treatment Plant.
-Adopted a resolution expressing intent to reimburse the city all or any portion of the cost of the design and construction of certain capital improvement projects from the proceeds of the general obligation warrant series 2016A; total $30.1 million.
-Authorized the mayor to execute an agreement with Southeast Appraisal Services Inc. to provide professional appraisal services for the First Street East sanitary sewer project.
-Authorized an emergency repair contract with GFC Construction Inc. regarding the relocation of a portion of the Lake Avenue sanitary sewer damaged during the construction of the Forest Lake University Place City Walk project.
-Adopted a resolution concurring with the appointment of Philip O’Leary as acting director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development Services.
-Adopted the third amendment to the fiscal year 2016 general fund budget.
-Adopted the third amendment to the fiscal year 2016 water and sewer Ffund budget.
-Amended Section 12-53 of the Code of Tuscaloosa.
-Introduced zoning amendment No. 1337 to rezone 1.54 acres located at Lot 1 and 2 of Kyle Sellers Subdivision — Cottondale Efficiency Apartment Inc./Donald Madison from R-1 to RMF-1.
-Set Dec. 22 as the day for public hearing to consider adoption of zoning amendment No. 1337.
​-Authorized the payment of bills, total $15,198.09.
November 24th, 2015
Northport council interviews two for finance director position - Northport officials interviewed two candidates for finance director on Tuesday night.
The council members, Mayor Bobby Herndon and City Administrator Scott Collins interviewed April Hoffman of Tuscaloosa, a revenue examiner with the Alabama Department of Revenue, and Kenneth McKeown, manager of accounting services for the city of Jacksonville, Fla.
The two were among three finalists originally presented to the council by the city’s Civil Service Board. A third candidate withdrew.
Candidates were asked questions about their priorities if hired and experience implementing new policies and procedures, developing large budgets, analyzing complex financial data, and closing the books and bookkeeping.
The finance director is responsible for recording the debits and credits and ensuring the books are balanced and closed before the year-end audit.
The city initially had 11 candidates before the pool was narrowed to three by Civil Service Board.
The city would like to have someone hired by end of December, which is also the end of its fiscal year, Collins said. The council will vote to pick the new finance director. The council meets again Dec. 14, its only meeting date scheduled next month.
The position has been vacant since the interim director left this spring. Northport has been without a permanent finance director since Marc Powell retired in spring 2014.
November 24th, 2015
Robbery suspect escaped on pink bike - Northport police are searching for a man who robbed a convenience store early Sunday before escaping on a pink bicycle.
An armed suspect in his late teens or early 20s robbed Bama Discount Gas, 3435 McFarland Blvd., at 7:50 a.m. Sunday. He was around 6 feet tall with a slender build and was wearing a red Alabama jacket with a hood and white script Alabama “A” on the back. He was wearing white or gray pants, white gloves and was holding a small revolver, said Officer Carrie Baker, a Northport police spokeswoman.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Northport police at 205-339-6600 or CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
November 24th, 2015
Fayette office manager charged in theft - The Fayette Water Board office manager arrested and charged with theft last week is the second water board official accused of stealing taxpayer money this year.
Cynthia Rockette “Rocky” Brand, 58, was charged with first-degree theft on Friday, said 24th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Chris McCool.
The accusation follows the May arrest of longtime director Scott Allen “Scotty” Moore, 59. Moore is accused of spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on women’s clothing and strip clubs. His cases are still pending.
The charges against Brand are unrelated to the charges Moore is facing, McCool said.
He did not give details about the charges, but said that the water board asked his office to investigate the matter. He turned the case over to the State Bureau of Investigation.
The arrest warrant indicates that Brand is accused of stealing at least $2,500 from the water board. She turned herself in to the Fayette County Jail on Friday and was later released on $20,000 bond.
November 24th, 2015
Warm weather expected for Thanksgiving Day - A warming trend will bring temperatures close to 70 degrees on Thanksgiving Day in the Tuscaloosa area, according to the National Weather Service.
Thursday will be sunny with 5 to 10 mph winds from the east.
The low Thursday night is expected to be in the mid-50s.
November 24th, 2015
Della Carter, a local hero at Temporary Emergency Services - Della Carter knows firsthand what it’s like to be poor.
As a girl, she picked cotton.
Today, the 78-year-old volunteers at Temporary Emergency Services. She said her childhood is part of what motivates her to help others who have fallen on hard times.
“I come up here to help others,” said Carter, who has volunteered at Temporary Emergency Services every day, except Sundays from
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for almost nine years. “It makes me feel good to know I’m doing something to help somebody.”
Carter sorts through T-shirts and other clothes, shoes, linens, dishes and miscellaneous items donated to the nonprofit organization.
But she said that volunteering is also good for her mental and physical health.
Carter said it does her mind good to be able to sit in the back of the Temporary Emergency Services Thrift Store, meeting and greeting people who drop off donations. She said that’s more fulfilling than sitting at home watching TV.
She said sorting through the piles of black plastic bags — about 200 to 300 are donated each day — helps exercise her hands, which have scars on the palms where she recently had surgery for arthritis.
“It helps me to help others,” she said.
Carter goes through each bag, diligently sorting through which items the thrift store can sell and which items need to be recycled.
Broken items and stained, dirty, ripped clothes, shoes or linens and items with holes are recycled. A recycling company buys those items from Temporary Emergency Services.
The good stuff is shuffled onto the shelves and racks in the thrift store and sold for low prices.
Carter said the money from the recycling company and from sales help fund services provides Temporary Emergency Services.
Temporary Emergency Services offers items like formula and diapers, fans and heaters, food and water and more to people in need. It also offers services to help clients with obtaining identification, dental assistance, fire victim assistance, funerals, utility assistance, help with rent and more.
“We just couldn’t do what we do without the help of volunteers,” said Karen Thompson, executive director of Temporary Emergency Services.
Thompson said Temporary Emergency Services now has nine permanent volunteers, including Carter, and needs at least 15 more.
“The heart of any organization is having permanent and constant volunteers,” Thompson said as she encouraged more people to be like Carter and volunteer. “She has been a wonderful asset. We’re just glad to have her and for her to be a part of our organization.”
Temporary Emergency Services is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people and families in crisis situations. Churches in the Tuscaloosa community formed the agency in 1945 to serve clients unable to receive assistance from local social services agencies.
November 24th, 2015
Leadership has big impact on 2015 Alabama team - As early as July, Nick Saban was making mention of his team's chemistry and makeup. He wasn't talking about expectations or goals, but how the Crimson Tide had approached the process of preparing for the season.
He liked what he saw, even if he hadn't seen his team on the field yet.
“I just had a meeting yesterday with our team to reiterate to them how well I think they're doing this summer,” Saban said in his opening statement at SEC Media Days in Hoover. “Working hard, everybody's all in to doing things the way we want them to do them, not a lot of negative energy around, a lot of positive energy, a lot of good character, a lot of positive leadership.”
Players bought in early for this season. Later in his comments in Hoover, Saban mentioned a change in team chemistry late last season as players became focused on outside noise. The 2015 season still has a ways to go, but players feel like they're on the right track.
“This team is way more focused than we were in 2013 when we were heading down there, and even last year at this point,” senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “I think it's a much more tight-knit locker room. Everybody has the same goals. No big egos on the team. Everybody is just focused on trying to complete our mission, which is to be in the national championship and win it at the end of the year. I think we're doing a good job so far, but obviously the job is not done yet.”
Jones said Alabama's leadership this year reminds him of 2012, during his freshman year. That team won the national championship with veterans like AJ McCarron, Barrett Jones, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Mosley and Damion Square leading the way.
There are plenty of experienced pieces on this year's team as well, including seniors like Jones, center Ryan Kelly and linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Ragland has seen a change from recent seasons, too.
“Every time you walk into the locker room you just feel at home and at peace,” he said. “It ain't no animosity, anything like that. I just feel great about this team, man. If everybody keeps doing their job, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
That wasn't always so certain, especially after Alabama's loss to Ole Miss. A players-only meeting after that game helped galvanize the Crimson Tide. Alabama had surrendered the driver's seat in the SEC West in its conference opener, but even then Saban said he liked what he saw.
“We're going to try to do the right things and I like the character and chemistry of this team,” he said on the Monday after his team lost to the Rebels.
More specifically, some of the distractions Saban alluded to in Hoover haven't been an issue to this point.
“Everybody is focused on the team goals instead of their own personal aspirations and things they want to accomplish,” Cyrus Jones said. “Whether it's winning awards or what their stats are or with the older players, what their draft stock is and different things like that. Everybody is just focused on this team and just winning games and reaching our ultimate goal.”
The ultimate goal remains in mind as Alabama prepares for its final game of the regular season. The last two UA teams suffered late-season malfunctions that kept the Crimson Tide out of the national championship, and this one wants to avoid a three-peat.
“I feel like everybody down in the locker room, we feel like we've been selling ourselves short these last few years,” junior linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “We could have done some stuff that we didn't do because of stuff that was going on outside of the program and clutter just getting in a lot of guys' heads. I feel like this team, we really want to be all we can be. We don't want to have any 'what ifs' or regrets.”
November 24th, 2015
Fourth suspect charged with murder - A fourth suspect has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a man found dead at an apartment complex in August.
Last week, a grand jury indicted Marion resident Michaela Brooks, 18, on two capital murder charges in the death of Gregorie Somerville. She was arrested Monday afternoon.
Somerville, 25, was found dead in a car in the Aspen Village apartment complex off Skyland Boulevard on Aug. 24. Investigators believe that Brooks was driving the car occupied by three other suspects who they believe set up a robbery.
Marquell Underwood, 18, Trevoris Sheppard, 22, and Samuel Sanders, 17, were all charged with capital murder the following day.
Someone on their way to work found Somerville lying partially outside the driver’s side door of his girlfriend’s car. A single .40-caliber shell casing was found near the vehicle.
Investigators believe that the suspects lured Somerville to the apartments under the pretense that they would buy a large quantity of marijuana, but they intended to rob him, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Capt. Gary Hood said at the time. Somerville was shot and killed when he arrived at the complex, he said.
Investigators said that the suspects took Somerville’s shorts, his cell phone and the marijuana.
The teenagers are being charged as adults. All are being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail with no bond set.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
November 24th, 2015
Walter Energy seeks approval to cut benefits - Walter Energy Inc. is seeking court approval to stop paying retiree benefits and end employment agreements, saying the company's buyers are unwilling to take on the burdensome financial obligation.
More than 800 union workers and 3,200 retirees once employed in the company's Brookwood mines could be affected.
Walter Energy plans to sell its coal operations in Brookwood to lenders who have offered to forgive $1.25 billion in debt. The sale is dependent on the rejection of the union agreements that guarantee what the company called “insupportable hourly labor costs” along with nearly $600 million of medical benefits and pension obligations for around 3,200 retirees.
Attorneys wrote in the motion filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Birmingham that they hope to preserve the company's core operations and employment opportunities.
United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said that cutting retiree benefits would be disastrous for the former miners.
“If successful, Walter Energy will force many retirees into making life or death decisions about getting needed health care or buying food; about getting the prescription drugs they need to stay alive or pay the mortgage,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “These are people with cancer, black lung, kidney disease, heart disease, severe injuries and more. They worked in Alabama's mines for decades, producing the coal that powered our nation. Nobody gave them their health care and pension benefits – they earned them.”
The request came just a month after more than 1,000 union workers and supporters filled Brookwood City Park to rally for legislation that would protect their benefits. A proposed bill, called the Miners Protection Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate in July, If enacted, it would authorize the transfer of excess funds from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that cleans up abandoned mine lands to the United Mine Workers of America's severely underfunded 1974 Pension Plan, which is in danger of running out of money.
Walter Energy, along with other American coal companies, has struggled because of recent market conditions and increased global production. Coal prices have dropped by more than 70 percent since 2011. Mines have been idled or closed to reduce operating costs, but the company still hasn't generated a positive net income since 2011, according to the court filing.
Walter Energy's financial projections indicate the company will run out of cash to operate in less than three months, the attorneys wrote.
Attorneys asked Bankruptcy Judge Tamara O. Mitchell to consider the company's request at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 15.
November 24th, 2015
Man shot on University of Alabama campus - A man was shot twice Monday night in what investigators believe was a drug-related robbery on the University of Alabama campus.
The victim's friend told police that the victim had met an unknown person to sell a phone at the Park at Manderson Landing, said Capt. Gary Hood, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander .
Evidence, however, suggested that the robbery was drug-related, Hood said.
The victim, 24, was shot in the leg and abdomen, according to UA Police. His injuries were not life-threatening.
Authorities were called to the riverfront park at 9:50 p.m.
The victim is not a UA student, Hood said.
The suspects left the park, heading east in a gold two-door older model box-style vehicle, according to UAPD. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning.
November 24th, 2015
Car stolen after man leaves toddler, keys inside in Nashville - NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Police have arrested a man who they say stole a vehicle while a toddler was still in the back seat — and have arrested the girl’s father on a neglect charge.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department tells media outlets that on Saturday night, Emanuel Batey, 46, went into a Nashville store to buy cigarettes. He left his 19-month-old daughter in the back seat of the unlocked car with keys in the ignition.
While Batey was inside, police say Frederick Rutherford got into the car and drove away with the child still inside. Shortly thereafter, Batey called police.
Rutherford eventually surrendered to police and has been charged with vehicle theft, kidnapping and driving under the influence. Batey was charged with child neglect and driving without a license.
November 24th, 2015
One child killed, one injured in Prichard house fire - PRICHARD | One child has been killed and other injured in a Prichard house fire.
The Prichard Fire Department told media outlets they responded to a report of a house fire Sunday afternoon. Once firefighters were able to enter the building, they found the body of a small child in the front room. Another small child was taken to the hospital with severe burns.
Two adults were able to escape the fire unharmed.
Fire officials say the fire destroyed the home.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Alabama State Fire Marshall will conduct an independent investigation.
The Prichard Fire Department says there are no indications of foul play.
November 24th, 2015
1 arrested, 1 sought after woman robbed in Birmingham Walmart parking lot - BIRMINGHAM | Police say a man accused of robbing a woman in the parking lot of a Birmingham Walmart has been arrested.
Birmingham police spokesman Sean Edwards says Jarod Dorsey, 22, is charged with robbery in the Nov. 19 incident and is being held on $75,000 bond.
Authorities say Dorsey and another man are accused of pulling a 58-year-old woman to the ground and dragging her across the pavement during the robbery. Police say the woman was injured in the encounter.
Edwards says authorities are following up on information about the second suspect in the attack.
It's unclear if Dorsey has an attorney.
November 24th, 2015
Jefferson County sheriff's office says man beat Chihuahua to death - CENTER POINT | Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies are searching for a man suspected of beating a Chihuahua to death.
Sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Christian said Monday that the man was seen earlier in the month beating a small dog with a mop handle. The report to police said the man tossed the dog into a dumpster when it stopped moving and crying.
According to the sheriff’s department, the man told investigators that the dog in the dumpster was his, but he did not know how it got there. He said he left the dog tied to his back porch, but the animal was gone.
Christian said deputies have a warrant charging Marvis Rutledge of Center Point with first-degree animal cruelty.
The Greater Birmingham Humane Society determined the dog died from being beaten.
November 24th, 2015
Snow's Bend Farm owners named farmers of the year - David and Margaret Ann Snow of Snow’s Bend Farm on Monday were named Tuscaloosa County Farmers of the Year during a luncheon at the Indian Hills Country Club.
Wayne Ford, who chairs the Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa committee that made the selection, said the Snows were a “great choice” for the award.
He cited the Snows’ involvement in the community through regularly hosting University of Alabama classes on their farm in Coker and organizing organic-food related events.
“We usually try to find people who do farming locally and are active in the community,” Ford said. “About the only thing we really try to look for is people whose income primarily comes from farming, and in this case, all of their income comes from it. That’s important to us.”
David and Margaret Ann Snow are Tuscaloosa natives who first met at Central High School, where they were members of the class of 1997. But after graduating from college, they were unsure about their career path.
“David went to graduate school but didn’t really get into it. I joined the Peace Corps but that ended when we were evacuated from the country we were in. So we had a summer on our hands and went to work on a farm,” Margaret Ann Snow said. “And we liked it. So, David’s family had some land here and we thought, ‘Hey, we’ll give it a shot.’ ”
Twelve years later, Snow’s Bend Farm has grown from less than a quarter of an acre along the Black Warrior River to more than 10 acres, supplying restaurants, farmers markets and stores throughout Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.
Snow’s Bend produces 50 different fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as pastured pork and cut flowers. Among the more unusual items grown on their farm are the leafy rainbow chard and a South American pepper called a fatalii.
“It’s hotter than a habanero,” said Margaret Ann Snow. “If you can grow it in Tuscaloosa, we probably do.”
The Kiwanis Club of Tuscaloosa has given a Farmer of the Year award every year since 1953.
November 24th, 2015
A changing of the grill: Tired of the grind, owner puts legendary Rama Jama's on market - Even on a lesser game day, the line of folks ravenous for shakes, omelets, chili dogs, cheeseburgers, fries or pies stays three-deep for several hours at Rama Jama's, from breakfast through lunch and right up to mid-afternoon kickoff.
Seats are at a premium, even after the Charleston Southern lambasting begins, so those who had burgers bagged to go lean against brick fences or stroll through nearby vendor stalls, slurping up before entering Bryant-Denny Stadium, just across the street.
So there's no problem with the business, said owner Gary Lewis. He just wants to let someone else work 14-hour days.
"I set myself a challenge, a year ago this month, to work the grill alone in the afternoons," which, except for Saturday home-game days, are Rama Jama's quietest times. "And now you see what I'm doing," he said, laughing.
Rumors started flying last week, on social media and elsewhere, when word leaked that Lewis was looking to sell the business. Fears arose the almost 20-year-old breakfast-lunch-after-game diner — often said to be in the shadow of Bryant-Denny, but only for breakfast: it sits at the southwest corner of the stadium — would be shutting its doors.
Business revved up even more. Well-wishers Lewis hadn't seen in years stopped by. Some former students got in touch, saying they were raising money to save Rama Jama's: promises of $1,500 here, $2,000 there. Saturday after the game, as the alcohol flowed, emotions ran high.
" ‘Oh man, don't leave us!'," Lewis repeated, laughing.
On the Monday after what may be his last home game, the lunch rush isn't nearly as chaotic, but still there's a steady flow from the time he opens the doors at 6 until mid-afternoon.
He's not looking to sell because business is slow. Lewis would like to slow down himself, take a break from 14-hour days, from no vacations, from experiencing Tide football only vicariously. Since Sept. 14, 1996, when he opened the morning of a Vanderbilt game, Tide fan Lewis has guessed at touchdowns by crowd noises roaring across the street like a cresting wave, PA announcements blaring moments afterward, loud and crisp as if you were almost there.
Even if you didn't know Lewis was also the first owner of The Houndstooth, team devotion shines through. The dominant color scheme at the corner of, fittingly, Paul W. Bryant Drive and Wallace Wade Avenue, is crimson, red and white, with a splash more crimson: Hot light from the neon Rama Jama's sign, reflected on the Coca-Cola and Borden's displays; exterior brick sometimes left crimson, sometimes painted white. Miniature red roses curl around the lamppost out front, where the patio's central fountain cradles a baby elephant.
Inside is a more eccentrically accumulated Bryant Museum, a diner with red vinyl seats atop a red-and-white checkerboard floor, virtually every inch of wall and ceiling space plastered with imagery and paraphernalia: helmets, shoes, footballs, tickets, stadium seats, seat cushions, caps and hats, pom-poms, newspaper pages, game programs, magazine covers, autographed photos, license plates (TGRHNT, ROOLLL, 2B 1ST, YEATIDE and YEA centered over the name of the state), and crimson ceiling tiles commemorating national championships.
The shoulder pads of Nico Johnson, No. 35, worn with three national champion teams, in 2009, 2011 and 2012, hang over one long table, while the white shoe with which Jamie Christensen kicked three game-winning field goals in 2005 sits high up, adjacent to the door to the restrooms. There are typed, framed letters from "Bear" Bryant — though all generations are represented, Rama Jama's is heavy with the Bear, as it should be — and oddities such as Heinz 57 ketchup bottles with labels for the Tide's national championships.
Speaking of rarities, look on the wall perpendicular to the cashiers to see a black-and-white shot of the former Alabama Christian College college basketball player, in short shorts and long white socks, going high for a layup, in a 1971 game against Auburn. That athlete's stamina keeps Lewis running, at 64, over the 14-hour days.
"It's really been cool, being a big fan of Alabama football, and getting to work right here, for all these years, in the shadow of Bryant-Denny Stadium," Lewis said.
The Montgomery native was born with Crimson blood.
"My daddy was a Bama fan, and his daddy was a Bama fan, and his daddy was a Bama fan," Lewis said. "So I kinda had it instilled in me early, listening to games on the porch."
He opened the Houndstooth July 14, 1988, and sold it in the spring of ‘93, not long after the ‘92 championship season. Players were flocking in; business was booming.
"Being the smart businessman I am, I sold out right then," Lewis said, smiling. With the proceeds, he went into restaurant business in Birmingham with "restaurant people," which he says with a barely concealed grimace, and soon lost what he'd built up.
On a return visit to Tuscaloosa, he saw a closed convenience store — which had apparently opened in the early ‘50s as a Shell service station — and found a home for his more than 300 pieces of Tide memorabilia. (Over the years, patrons have added to the collection, wanting to be a part of the place; Lewis estimates the pieces are about 75 percent his, 25 percent donations). Due to the souring experience in the Magic City, Lewis decided to own and run it alone.
"If I want to do it, I'll do it myself. If it succeeds, I'll point the finger at myself. If it fails, I'll point the finger at myself," he said.
So he's never had a partner at 1000 Bryant Drive — an attempted second location on Greensboro Avenue opened and closed some years back — and stays on the clock virtually all day every day, never asking employees to do any job he won't do himself, from grill to counter to cleanup and beyond. He'll arrive at 5 a.m. to begin opening prep — possibly 4 a.m. on game days — and work until closing, locking up at 6:30 or 7 p.m. On those fall Saturdays, depending on what time the game ends, Lewis will keep Rama Jama's open for two hours or more afterward, to catch post-game euphoria-hunger. For LSU game, he worked 22 hours. Rama Jama's is open six days a week, but he works seven, he said, catching up on all the other necessities of restaurant life on Sundays.
On game days his usual staff of eight to 10 doubles or triples — "I'd quadruple it if I had the space to expand" — and while the hours are long, so is the payoff: Customers served goes from several hundred to several thousand.
"Without game days, we'd make a living. With 'em, we make a pretty good living," he said.
And after work? Lewis mimes falling asleep.
"I go home and go to bed. I live an exciting life," he said, smiling.
Much of Rama Jama's business comes from out of town, visiting fans drawn by proximity to the stadium, families doing college-campus visits, or folks who've heard about it through various media, from ESPN to CBS to MSNBC, and in countless newspaper and magazine stories. And there's a whole lot of walkup, with just a handful of parking spaces on either side, and no room to expand.
"Hopefully I've been a good ambassador to the University of Alabama, to the city of Tuscaloosa," Lewis said.
He began speaking with an agent about selling back before the season began, but hadn't planned to make an announcement until Monday, after the last home game of the season. While brushing off rumors, enjoying the "Don't go!" expressions, Lewis said the reaction has been largely positive, showing how much people enjoy what he's built up. Through his agent, he's talked to several prospects, a few of whom want him to stay on, in some capacity.
"I might stay a while, hand the ball off, let them take it a little further," he said. "I'm not going to sit at home, I can tell you that. My wife wouldn't allow that."
But perhaps because even on a quiet Monday he's continually drawn back to the grill — "I've got 'em backed up" — he hasn't put much time into thinking about what comes next. He doesn't hunt or fish, he said. Who has time for hobbies?
Except one in crimson, maybe.
"I haven't been to a game in 20 years. ... I've been across the street from all of 'em," he said. "That's on my list."
November 24th, 2015
Demonstrators at Alabama Capitol protest driver's license office reductions - MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Demonstrators emptied liquor bottles outside the Alabama Capitol to protest the closing of driver's license offices in Black Belt counties.
Selma Sen. Hank Sanders told the Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/15BgWn5 ) that state agencies are leaving money-losing liquor stores open in the impoverished area, while mostly closing rural driver's license offices.
The crowd chanted “Give us the ballot, not just the bottle” during the Monday protest.
The event was one of several demonstrations over the closures.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency in September announced it was closing 31 part-time driver's license bureaus. After a backlash, the department said it would offices open for one day each month.
Event organizers said that is inadequate.
Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, said ALEA is working under the budget approved by lawmakers.
November 24th, 2015
A little holiday sparkle: Tinsel Trail's grand opening (PHOTOS) - 31755
November 24th, 2015
Free meal offered to all at Chuck's Fish in sixth year of Thanksgiving tradition - For those who don’t want to cook, those who don’t have family or those who are homeless or can’t afford a meal, Chuck’s Fish will open its doors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday for a free Thanksgiving meal.
The free meal will be available to everyone, in an attempt to bring people from all walks of life together at the restaurant, which is at 508 Greensboro Ave.
Jennifer Hitchner, the restaurant’s accountant, said chefs began preparing 26 turkeys and 12 hams on Monday for Thursday’s meal. Staff and volunteers will also serve dressing, traditional sides and pecan and pumpkin pie, she said.
Free turkey sandwiches will also be handed out from Chuck’s Fish and Five Bar’s American Lunch food truck.
“It’s going to be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” Hitchner said. “We take something we specialize in, which is food, and do something good for the community.”
The event is free, but donations are encouraged.
All donations benefit Project Blessings, a local nonprofit organization that has partnered with Chuck’s Fish for the past six years for this fundraiser.
“The Thanksgiving meal is our major fundraiser,” said Marsha Sprayberry, Project Blessings founder. “We help low-income, disadvantaged homeowners in Tuscaloosa County make repairs to their homes so they can have a better quality of living.”
Sprayberry said all money raised goes to purchase supplies and materials and to pay for three things the 100 percent volunteer-run organization cannot do for insurance reasons — roofing, plumbing and electrical work.
Donation buckets will be placed around the room for those who can donate.
“You’ll see pennies dropped in, and you’ll see a large amount of checks,” because the event is something for everyone from all backgrounds, Sprayberry said.
Volunteers are still needed to help serve food on Thursday. To volunteer, call the restaurant’s special events coordinator at 205-799-1720.
In addition to Chuck’s Fish, Operation Thanksgiving will be held at the Robert Hasson Community Center, 1513 12th St. in Northport, on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with food and health and wellness tips.
The East Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl, at Hargrove Memorial United Methodist Church at 1812 Hargrove Road E., will provide a lunch of baked chicken, dressing, rolls, sweet potatoes, green beans and pecan and pumpkin pie from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Doors will open at 11 a.m., and everyone is welcome.
Food for this event is provided by Bama Dining through the University of Alabama Swipe Away Hunger program in which students can donate their guest meals from meal plans.
November 24th, 2015
Alabama Fire College will use grant money to offer a distance training network - The Alabama Fire College is receiving a $453,604 federal grant to establish a distance training network to provide training for rural emergency responders in the state.
“The primary purpose is to extend training for emergency medical personnel,” Alabama Fire College Executive Director Allan Rice said.
The one-year grant, which requires a 30 percent match from the college, will be used to establish a network across the state to remotely provide training classes for first responders in rural areas.
The grant would buy equipment for the central site in Tuscaloosa at the Fire College campus and the monitors and other equipment needed for the remote classrooms. The Fire College would be reimbursed for the equipment purchases through the grant. Rice hopes to begin purchasing equipment before the end of the year and be able to begin testing the system by March 2016.
While the network will primarily be used for emergency medical personnel training, it will also be used for some firefighter training, Rice said.
The system will initially have 10 sites but will be capable of adding more sites in the future. The Fire College would need additional funding for the expansion, Rice said.
The distance training network is among 75 projects being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is investing $23.4 million to expand distance learning and telemedicine opportunities in rural areas.
“Rural communities often lack access to specialized medical care or advanced educational opportunities necessary for stronger rural economies,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in comments released by the USDA. “These grants will help increase access to health care and many other essential services.”
The USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program is providing the grants, which may be used to purchase equipment to provide educational and telemedicine services.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 24th, 2015
Woman charged with child abuse - A Tuscaloosa woman has been charged with attempting to kill an infant daughter who was hospitalized with brain damage and several broken bones.
Shaikeyia Peenekia Allen, 19, was charged Monday with aggravated child abuse and attempted murder.
Police said that the five-month old child has been treated for a fractured skull, broken ribs, multiple bite and pinch marks. The infant was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, said Tuscaloosa Police spokeswoman Lt. Teena Richardson.
Shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, happens when a baby is shaken or thrown.
Physicians at Children's of Alabama hospital in Birmingham believe the child will be developmentally delayed in high motor skills and suffer possible vision loss. The child is in custody of Alabama Department of Human Resources.
TPD's juvenile division was notified of the abuse in September, Richardson said. They believe the baby was injured over a period of a few weeks, she said.
Allen was held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bond set at $60,000.
November 23rd, 2015
LOOKING BACK: November 23 - -The Tuscaloosa Kiwanis Club named W.E. Braughton its 13th annual Farmer of the Year.
-The Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society asked the City of Tuscaloosa to lease the old Findley house in Riverview for restoration and use by the society.
-Former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath had his most productive day in the American Football League, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the New York Jets to a 41-14 victory. Namath was The Associated Press Player of the Week.
-Joseph Kortbawi, the first enlisted soldier who reported to Northington General Hospital in 1943 to work as an Army transportation officer, returned to visit the site.
-Alabama football players carried assistant coach Howard Schnellenberger and Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant across Legion Field in a sort of victory parade for the 1965 SEC champions, after the team rolled over Auburn 30-3.
-R.L. Ziegler Packing Plant began construction of a new building valued at about $250,000.
-University of Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings said that backup quarterback Danny Woodson had been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and would not play in the Crimson Tide's regular-season finale against Auburn.
-Army Sgt. Arthur "B.J." Jackson was buried in Centreville. He was the first serviceman from West Alabama to die during Operation Desert Shield.
-UA head basketball coach Wimp Sanderson was unhappy with his team's performance though the seventh-ranked team recorded a 72-47 win against the Delaware Blue Hens. Sanderson wanted better defense.
-Stillman faculty and staff were honored for their years of service to the college. Clara B. McCrary and Bertha Herndon had served for 20 years; Geneva Williams had served for 35 years.
-Multimillionaire Robert Hearin of Jackson, Miss., died of a heart attack. Hearin's wife, the former Annie Laurie Swaim of Tuscaloosa, had been abducted two years before and had not been found.
-Pickens County Commissioner Tony Junkin was the 2005 recipient of the David M. Cochrane Award.
-Forrest Wiggins of Fosters was named Tuscaloosa County Farmer of the Year.
-Biology professor Guy Caldwell was selected as the state's professor of the year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
-Lamar County announced expansions at three industries creating more than 400 jobs. NACCO Materials Handling and United Furniture Industries would get state incentives for their growth. In Fayette County, Custom Automated Services would get incentives to add 25 jobs and Brown Wood Preserving would add 15 jobs.
-A charge of vehicular homicide was filed against a young man involved in a car accident that killed Susan Kines Langston, daughter of former UA assistant coach Joe Kines, in June.
-Kim Ouderekirk, teacher at Tuscaloosa Academy for 25 years, won the 2010 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award for Alabama.
-Auburn ended an Alabama winning streak in the 17th annual Beat Auburn Beat Hunger food drive.
-Due to the new configuration of Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Auburn football team would not get the chance to walk through visiting supporters for its traditional Tiger Walk prior to the 75th Iron Bowl against the University of Alabama. The addition of the south end zone upper deck had changed the logistics for team arrival for the visiting team from previous seasons.
-The Iron Bowl was a second-half catastrophe for Alabama when Auburn scored 21 second-half points to end Alabama's 20-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium 28-27 and stay in the hunt for a national championship.
-Sarah Hardin, of the Northport-based It Takes the Cake Bakery and Catering, would compete on the nationally televised Food Network Cake Challenge.
-Construction of the Amphitheater was to be completed this week.
-City officials were again seeking bids on the former Fire Station No. 1 and Police Department site on Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard South between Sixth and Seventh streets.
-After a slow start, the Crimson Tide pulled away from the Western Carolina Catamounts for a 48-14 win.
-Members and guests of Liberty Baptist Church celebrated the church's 130th anniversary.
-Focus on Senior Citizens of Tuscaloosa County moved its activities to a new home in the McAbee Center on Loop Road.
-Tuscaloosa city officials agreed to help local military veterans expand the Veterans Memorial Park on McFarland Boulevard.
-UA beat Auburn in the Beat Hunger food drive contest.
-The University of Alabama Athletics Department led the SEC in graduation success rates from 2004-07, according to figures released by the NCAA.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
November 23rd, 2015
Tinsel Trail holds grand opening today at 5 p.m. - A grand opening ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. today for the Tuscaloosa Tinsel Trail near the Tuscaloosa River Market off Jack Warner Parkway.
The grand opening, which is free and open to the public, will feature Christmas music by the Sounds of Joy choir, cookies and hot chocolate and a visit from Santa Claus.
The Tinsel Trail consists of more than 100 trees decorated by local businesses and other organizations. The groups pay a fee to sponsor the trees, with proceeds going to Tuscaloosa’s One Place, which provides a variety of services to local residents and families.
The trail, which is free to walk, will remain open until early January.
November 23rd, 2015
Renowned Cavell Trio returns to play at home tonight - Although gaining renown internationally and here at home since inception in 2007, the Cavell Trio still avidly seeks works written for its lineup of oboe, clarinet and bassoon, a repertoire not as wide as that for piano or string trios.
Lefevre’s “Sinfonia Concertante in C,” which the University of Alabama resident ensemble will play tonight for the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra’s “Much Ado About Mozart” concert, is an even more singular piece.
“It’s new to us for about a year,” said Osiris Molina, who plays clarinet between Shelly Myers Meggison on oboe and Jenny Mann on bassoon. “We first played it in Spain at an international clarient conference.
“It’s kind of a rare combination, fitting our pieces, but also for accompaniment with an orchestra.”
The chamber concert, second of a new series by the TSO, will also include the symphony on Korngold’s “Suite from ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ op. 11,” tying into the season’s Shakespeare celebration, and Mozart’s “Symphony no. 29 in A major.”
The Korngold work was commissioned for a staging of Shakespeare’s comedy in the early 20th century, at the Vienna Burgtheater. The Mozart piece is one of his best-known early works, described by British critic and musicologist Stanley Sadie as “...personal in tone, indeed perhaps more individual in its combination of an intimate, chamber music style, with a still fiery and impulsive manner.”
Lefevre’s piece gives a chance for the Cavell Trio, all of them TSO performers and occasional soloists, to take the lead as an ensemble.
“A big part of what the TSO does is highlight soloists from the orchestra,” said Mann, who also serves as executive director of the symphony. “So (tonight) we’re the showpiece.”
This second chamber concert, an idea instituted last season by TSO Music Director Adam Flatt, returns to downtown Tuscaloosa’s First Presbyterian Church, as a change from the TSO’s usual home at UA’s Moody Concert Hall.
“There’s a stage built out in front of the sanctuary, so you can seat most of the orchestra together,” Mann said.
“It has stunning acoustics,” Meggison said.
“And the whole place will be illuminated by candles,” Mann said. “It’s a lovely environment.”
Last year’s chamber concert sold out, which in the church sanctuary is about 500. On Saturday, the TSO was within 30 seats of selling out tonight’s concert.
In addition to the Spain conference, the Cavell Trio has in the past year played the Hot Springs Music Festival, where it’s a festival favorite, and performed a residency at Vanderbilt University. And it has continued to build on a local following, after winning the 2013 Druid Arts Award for best musician, making often donated-fee performances at area events.
“One thing that has helped us is that people see us as part of the community, which we definitely are,” Meggison said.
They’re also in the planning stages for a third Cavell Trio disc, following on 2012’s “The Art of Collective Invention,” and last year’s “Dialogue,” with a grant from UA, and one potential grant in the process from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
“This one’s going to be mostly new music, written for us,” said Molina, though the works are not being commissioned.
“We’ve been lucky to have composers gift us with incredible works,” Meggison said.
Tonight’s performance of “Much Ado About Mozart” begins at 7 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 900 Greensboro Ave. To see if tickets are still available, call the TSO office at 752-5515, or email at tso@tsoonline.org.
November 23rd, 2015
How confident are Alabama fans about this year's Iron Bowl? - Some football fans have a rising tide of confidence that Alabama will win Saturday’s Iron Bowl, but most acknowledged that Auburn has a chance to pull off the upset, according to a random sampling of people in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
The annual regular-season ending rivalry transfixes and divides the state, with fans of the winning team earning bragging rights for the year.
John Dooley, a Crimson Tide fan from Tuscaloosa, predicted a convincing victory for Alabama but added that Auburn remains a team to be reckoned with.
“I think we will win by two or three touchdowns if we do well, but Auburn is a funny team. They could just as easily put up a tough fight,” Dooley said.
Jeremiah Johnson said the Tide’s defense will be the difference in the game and that Auburn doesn’t have a quarterback capable of putting enough points on the scoreboard.
“Personally, I feel as though this game won’t be a contest at all,” Johnson said. “I understand this is the Iron Bowl, and I don’t doubt they’ll come ready to play. But we’re talking about an all-time great defense Alabama has. It won’t be close.”
Charles Davis of Hoover said Auburn won’t need a record-setting quarterback to win.
“I think Auburn’s gonna whip ‘em. Nobody plays like (Aubrn’s 2010 Heisman Trophy winner) Cam Newton did, but I think it’ll be a good game,” Davis said.
Other fans said Alabama’s star players will carry the Tide to victory.
Alan Bailey of Lacey’s Spring predicted a big game for Alabama’s Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I’m always looking out for (running back) Derrick Henry. He’s a beast. (He) carries the team on his back the whole time,” Bailey said.
Tyrone Brown of Birmingham said Auburn will have a tough time containing UA’s Reggie Ragland, a candidate for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate linebacker.
“I’m rooting for Reggie. I used to be linebacker in high school and I never played as good as him,” Brown said.
Two fans said that the outcome of the Iron Bowl isn’t as important as having a good time watching the game with friends and family.
“The Iron Bowl is the annual event when, whether Auburn wins or loses, I get to be closest with my father,” said Jackson Hall, an Auburn fan from Montgomery.
Sarah Banning, a UA student from Montgomery, said, “I’m not big into football, but whoever wins, I hope they all have fun.”
Alabama can wrap up a berth in the SEC Championship Game against Florida and keep its national playoff hopes alive with a win Saturday.
UA won last year’s Iron Bowl by a score of 55-44 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
November 22nd, 2015
Tuscaloosa's Druid City Dames are bringing back the flat track - There's a new team in town ready to show exactly what it's made of: The Druid City Dames, Tuscaloosa's first roller derby team, blends a mix of sugar, spice and seriously strong women.
Following the 21st century resurgence of the sport, roller derby teams are spread throughout the state: Birmingham's Tragic City Rollers; Huntsville's Dixie Derby Girls and Rocket City Rebels; Mobile's Derby Darlings; Dothan's Circle City Chaos; Montgomery's Montgomery Roller Derby (formerly River Region Rollers), among others, some of them now on hiatus. But before formation of the Druid City Dames, Tuscaloosa was missing out.
After commuting for a year and a half to Birmingham to compete with Tragic City Rollers, Megan Gunter decided to try to create something local. Much of the recent years' growth of roller derby is attributed to the speed with which social media propagates pop-culture, so she created a Facebook page in June, thinking it would be the easiest and most effective way to spread the word.
"The page instantly went viral, receiving over 100 likes on the first day," Gunter said. "I was not expecting that at all."
Today, the page has more than 1,170 likes, and the Dames are more anxious than ever to get out and show what they've been practicing for months, following evaluation meetings at Druid City Brewing to determine interest.
In order for the Dames to qualify as a league for competition, they must pass a total of 68 skills tests, regulated by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the largest governing body for roller derby, with 308 full member leagues, and 99 apprentice leagues worldwide.
One major block in the way of the Dames is a lack of venue. For the past few months, the YMCA let the Dames use its indoor basketball courts, but meetings were cut to once a week since basketball season began. The Dames now fear that they will soon have to resort to skating in empty parking lots, or worse, completely shut down the team, unless they can find a venue.
"We have all this momentum, and for us to get shut down would be terrible," Gunter said.
Princess Nash, who is on the venue committee, has been searching for months now, but has yet to find a covered space with a flat surface at least 108 by 75 feet, the requirement for a setup with 10-foot safety lanes outside the track.
"The most challenging skill to pass is skating around the track 27 times in 5 minutes," Dames member Julianne Davenport said. "This requires a lot of practice and time, so without the proper venue, it will be almost impossible for the women to complete their skills and qualify as a team."
While the search goes on, the Dames continue weekly practices, focusing on endurance, speed skating, blocking, jamming and most importantly, safety.
"Since this is a full- contact sport, safety is our main concern," Gunter said. "The women wear rubber quad skates (four wheels, in side-by-side pairs), elbow pads, knee pads, wrists guards, mouth guards and helmets to prevent them from sustaining injuries."
Prior to joining, most of the Dames had zero experience with skating. In fact, many didn't know much about roller derby at all. They quickly found out it can be extremely strenuous.
"Endurance is the hardest part. I have played a lot of sports, but one hour of this makes me feel like I'll die," Nash said.
A few with prior experience skating stepped up to lead. Kelly Wolfe, the team's head coach, formerly taught newbies on the Tragic City Rollers. Susie Poindexter, who with Carla Atkinson rounds out the coaching staff, first tried the sport when many skating around her were 30 years younger. She took that as a challenge, and hasn't stopped since.
The women on the Dames team range from 22 to 57 years old, and include two professors, two lawyers, a scientist, a banker and a photographer.
"What I love about this sport is that people you wouldn't normally meet, you meet at roller derby," Poindexter said.
Aside from physical demands, modern roller derby — dominated by women although there are male and co-ed leagues forming — builds on a kind of rock ‘n' roll/science-fiction theatricality, something like a ‘50s B-movie with helmets and skates.
Each team member creates her own alter ego, complete with stage name. On the track, Gunter goes by Valhallaback Girl, Wolfe becomes Assault E. Senorita, Poindexter is Dr. Paindexter, and Atkinson answers to Scarla O'Teara. Derby names must be registered into a database and verified to defy duplication.
There is also a position open for women who do not like to skate, but still wish to be a part of the team, known as non-skating officials. Every team needs three non-skating officials in order to compete, and Davenport is one of them.
"I'm an NSO, so during the actual bout, I track different penalties and record how long they're in there, or if I'm on whiteboard duty, I track other stuff," Davenport said. "But during practice, I help time laps and count laps. Basically, whatever (Wolfe) needs me to do, I'm there."
While the Dames continue the venue search, in order to knock out all 68 skills and compete in tournaments, they have big plans for the future.
"Once we get a new venue, we want to find at-risk girls for delinquency and dependency, under the age of 19, and enroll them in junior derby training classes to help them let out aggression," Gunter said.
"Once they're 19, they can join the team and have some stability in their lives."
The Dames also want to start non-profits and fundraisers to help the community.
Anyone knowing of a venue capable of meeting the roller derby team's requirements can contact Megan Gunter at druidcity dames@gmail.com.
November 22nd, 2015
New to the old sport of roller derby? Welcome to the rink - While roller derby can be a lot of fun, it can also be a difficult sport to follow for those not familiar with the game. Teams are simultaneously on offense and defense at the same time.
In a bout, teams play a pair of 30-minute periods, with a halftime break. Each period consists of multiple jams, in which both teams can score points. A jam runs two minutes or until the lead jammer calls it off.
Teams can be fielded of up to 14 each, though only five each take the track at a time.
The two main positions are blockers and jammers. Blockers set up walls to prevent jammers from getting past, and are usually strong and powerful. Women with better stability and foot control, and who absorb hits well, are assigned as blockers.
Jammers tend to get hit the most, speed skate the most and take out the most people. They have stars on their helmets for visibility. Women with better endurance and speed are assigned as jammers.
One blocker can also be designated as a pivot, which is basically a blocker who can become a jammer during the game. A pivot wears a striped helmet.
In order to score points, jammers must pass the opposing team's blockers. Jammers get one point for every time they pass a blocker from the opposing team, after lapping the pack once.
Players can block with hips, rear and shoulders, but cannot block to the back, trip or elbow another skater. Any such infraction sends a player to a 30-second penalty box; the penalized player is not replaced for that period, so the team plays short.
Roller derby grew out of banked-track skating marathons from as early as the 1880s, but became a competitive professional sport in the 1940s, with fans in the millions watching teams in 50 cities, and on early television. Over intervening decades it became more entertainment than sport, something like WWE, and began to die out.
The grass-roots, mostly amateur-team return of the 21st century retains much of the joyous theatricality of mid-20th century, while returning focus to the game's athleticism.
November 22nd, 2015
Alabama steamrolls past Charleston Southern - The tin horns were silent on Saturday.
The final score was No. 2 Alabama 56, Charleston Southern 6, a measure of Nick Saban's mercy and the glaring absence of any reason to do any more. The score was 49-0 at the half, with Alabama scoring touchdowns on each of its five possessions as well as two punt returns. Few starters saw much, if any action, in the second half.
“I told the players if you're not inspired to play every play, you're kind of cheating yourself,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We've played lackluster in games like this in the past sometimes, but I was happy with the effort today.”
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If there was a single standout in the game, it was returner/defensive back Cyrus Jones, who scored two touchdowns on punt returns of 43 and 72 yards and set up a third score by snatching a Charleston Southern lateral out of the air on an option attempt. The two punt return touchdowns in a single game put Jones in the Alabama record books as the first player to accomplish that feat. He also is the first player to score three punt return touchdowns in consecutive games.
“We've had issues in the last trying to get those balls fielded when they rugby punt,” Saban said. “We put two guys back there to keep it from rolling, Cyrus and Richard Mullaney, and Cyrus did a good job of fielding the ball and returning it. He's got really good running skills. Remember, he was a wide receiver when he got here and did a good job with that.”
The Crimson Tide's star running back, Derrick Henry, had nine rushes for 68 yards and two touchdowns, all coming in the first quarter. He did have one second-quarter pass reception for 28 yards, but did not play in the final 40 minutes. Starting quarterback Jacob Coker was also done with his day's work before halftime, completing 11 of 13 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, one to Calvin Ridley and another on a spectacular leaping catch by senior Richard Mullaney.
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Most of the second-half work was handed by Cooper Bateman at quarterback and the freshman running back duo of Tuscaloosa native Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, stepping in for the injured Kenyan Drake. Scarbrough ended as the game's leading rusher, gaining 69 yards on 10 carries and scoring once. Harris finished with 10 carries for 44 yards.
“We think (Harris and Scarbrough) are talented guys,” Saban said. “We wanted to get them in the game so they could get more experience.”
Charleston Southern, which moves on to the FCS championship playoffs from this point, gained a total of 134 yards, 85 on the ground. The marquee moment for CSU was a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kyle Copeland that averted an Alabama shutout.
The game was the home finale for an Alabama senior class that is 46-6 and counting. With a relatively easy win, the only disappointment for the senior was no “Dixieland Delight,” the Crimson Tide's unofficial (and, in the Bryant-Denny version, unsuitable for work) celebration song.
“I had to play it myself,” said Reggie Ragland, who came to the post game press conference listening to the tune on a portable device. “It's the only way I could hear it.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.
November 21st, 2015
Just Jesus Outreach Ministries brings families together with Taking Thanksgiving to the Streets - Deandre Dunn carried stacks of Styrofoam to-go boxes filled with turkey, dressing, corn, beans, sweet potato pie and other Thanksgiving-style foods and handed them out as part of the third annual "Taking Thanksgiving to the Streets" event on Saturday.
Dunn said his wife had cooked all week, and their family of five kids joined them Saturday to help serve food to those less fortunate.
"It's meaningful to me to give (my kids) an opportunity to give back," Dunn said. "I came from one of those homes where I know how it feels to eat cereal with water. I came from one of those homes that had the government cheese, didn't know where the next meal would come from."
Now he is fortunate enough to be able to help others who are now in that situation while spending time with his family, which is what the event is all about.
Just Jesus Outreach Ministries hosted the event, created by pastor and founder Olivia K. Davis, on Saturday in an effort to bridge the gap among all races and bring families together.
"This event is designed for fathers and mothers (to) come together and share Thanksgiving dinner with their kids, especially if they've never had a grandmaw or grandpaw," Davis said. "When we grew up, granddad would always serve the first slice of turkey. That's why we have men out here to serve the plates to represent the strength of the man and the strength of the father because we have to get the fathers back in position."
Men handed out plates of food to people gathered in the street to eat turkey, donated by the Salvation Army, and sides and desserts, made by mothers and grandmothers in the community.
The event drew more than 2,000 people and delivered food to even more in some public housing complexes and nursing homes. Davis said there were enough plates to feed up to 3,500 people.
Dorothy Williams has volunteered every year. She said she has seen people from all walks of life, and sees the thankfulness in their eyes as she scoops food onto their plates in an assembly line.
"I think (the event) is great," Williams said. "It helps people because some people won't even get a Thanksgiving meal. There are some people who don't have families, and to come together and feed them, I think that's great."
November 21st, 2015
Students in poverty less likely to pass standardized tests than others, results show - In the 2013-14 school year, only 5.48 percent of Tuscaloosa City Schools 10th-graders in poverty passed the math section of the ACT test.
This past year's test results, the percentage of 10th-graders living in poverty who met or surpassed the ACT's math standards dropped to 3.56 percent.
Black and Hispanic students didn't do much better. Both student groups dropped from 6.51 and 21.05 percent to 3.84 and 5.35 percent, respectively. In comparison, the percentage of white students passing the ACT's math test increased from 44.96 percent to 49.67 percent.
The school system's percentage of non-poverty 10th-graders passing math dropped from 34.35 percent to 30.82 percent.
The achievement gap is inescapably evident in the Tuscaloosa City Schools. The percentage of poor, black and Hispanic high school students passing the math test lingers in single digits while almost half of white and non-poverty students pass with 27 to 46 percentage points higher.
The achievement gap in education refers to the difference between the test scores of minority and low-income students and the test scores of their non-low income, white and Asian peers.
Jeremy Zelkowski, an associate professor of mathematics education in the University of Alabama's College of Education, said the achievement gap is not something that's unique to the Tuscaloosa City Schools, but is a trend that's reflected in standardized tests nationwide.
"From a research perspective, that's across the country," Zelkowski said. "There's no question that socioeconomic status is the biggest tie between low achievement and high achievement."
Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Paul McKendrick said he's not pleased with the low percentage of passing test scores. To hopefully improve on that, the school system is training teachers to better understand the ACT and ACT Aspire — the standardized test for grades 3-8 — and do more to assessments of students strengths and weaknesses.
But the achievement gap is hard to fix. It starts as early as elementary school.
"With the gap, that's why pre-K is so important," McKendrick said. "You can see it starts in third grade. That's why we're as much as possible trying to get more pre-K and coordinating with groups like Head Start and Success by Six. If you don't get students caught up, that achievement gap just continues."
In third grade, 32.38 percent of students in poverty passed the math section of the 2014-15 ACT Aspire. The percentage of black students who passed was 33.2, and the percentage of Hispanic students who passed was 31. The percentage of non-poverty and white students passing was 91.89 and 86.3, respectively — an achievement gap between 53 and 60 percent.
Zelkowski said unfortunately, there's not much school systems can do to close the gap.
"Those are things that schools cannot impact," he said. "What they need to do is look at schools that are in low socioeconomic areas, that are successful, and see what they did and replicate that. As far as closing the achievement gap, that can't change overnight.
"You might have to change the culture where these kids come from or even who their guardians are. When kids grow up around low achievement and their friends at school don't think education is important, how are you going to change that kid's mind about education without changing his culture?"
Changing the culture of a student's environment is not a school system's job. The resources they're given are meant to educate. But just because a school system can't change a student's home culture, doesn't mean it can't change students' school culture, he said. Though that's also a challenge.
"You can change the school culture with the principal and in the classrooms," Zelkowski said. "You can have one or two teachers at a school who can do great things in their classrooms, but that's not going to change the culture of the school. You need to do that with leadership and support from the central office. These are the biggest ideas of what research has told us to change those kinds of things.
"Regardless of whether it's white culture, black culture or Hispanic culture, it's about changing the culture of learning within the school. I think it's more difficult in African-American predominated schools because the poverty is typically much higher than in a school that's predominately white. The research psychology has shown that there are a lot more single-parent homes in the black communities than the white ones.
"The issue is not race, it's poverty. If we could fix poverty in America, we wouldn't have any education problems in America. But that's not something schools can fix. It's something legislators should be able to fix."
Regardless of if the gap is something educators can fix or not, McKendrick said they're going to keep trying their best.
"The way we try to look at this is we look at the students who were close to passing," he said. "We're not trying to make excuses about their being only 3.56 percent passing (in math for poverty 10th-graders), but we try to look at those in the 39.19 percent who were close to passing and move them forward.
"Yes, that's a very low number, but that's why we've shifted this year to a focus on literacy and teacher development. But again, this test is so different than what we previously administered, so the burden becomes what we can do in the central office to provide those resources for our teachers."
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 21st, 2015
New name announced for Alberta Technology Center - The new technology library under construction in Alberta now has a name.
City officials have announced that “The Gateway: Alberta’s Innovation and Discovery Center” will be the new name of what, until now, has been called the Alberta Technology Center.
“I really like it,” said Councilman Kip Tyner, who has represented Alberta as part of District 4 since 1997. “We’ve been not knowing what to call it forever.”
The $2.8 million building will feature more than $1.4 million in massive computer screens, interactive tables and kiosks that patrons of the center will use to access a trove of information.
The center is under construction alongside the Tuscaloosa Police Department’s East Precinct on University Boulevard.
This was a conscious decision by city officials, who wanted to cluster together municipal facilities — the new Fire Station No. 4 and the Alberta School of Performing Arts are nearby — as a means of encouraging private economic investment in Alberta.
Plans call for The Gateway’s overall completion by the first of the year, with its doors opening by the fifth anniversary of the tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.
The Gateway also is expected to serve as a eastern termination point for the City Walk, a recreational trail that is intended to extend from western Tuscaloosa to Alberta, following along the twister’s path.
Funding for the technology is coming from portions of the $60.5 million in federal appropriations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program.
The Gateway came from Alberta’s history as “the original gateway to Tuscaloosa, and it was the only way you could get to the University of Alabama, back in the day,” Tyner said.
The city has turned to Tala Professional Services, a technology and management consulting firm with offices in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, to design and install the digital screens and components of the center.
Inside, users will be able to access digital-only copies of books and possibly other media, like music. These funds also will supply the center with tablet computers, e-readers and other devices to allow patrons to access the information the library will contain.
“People who have no technology skills whatsoever will not be intimated because they can learn and learn for free,” Tyner said. “It’s going to be for everyone.”
The Gateway’s main feature will be a large, interactive “wall,” which is essentially a giant computer screen, from which patrons can use their fingers to access books and files and download them to individual devices.
In addition to the technological offerings, The Gateway also is expected to have a coffee shop and child activity center.
The City Council has set aside $160,000 to cover the facility’s annual operating costs and is seeking bids for companies to oversee its operation either independently or in conjunction with city forces.
The idea for The Gateway grew out of recovery efforts following the 2011 storm.
City officials have said that the city has been working to rebuild the neighborhoods within the tornado’s path as a community with access to amenities necessary to thrive. This includes mass transit hubs, city facilities and public resources.
The Gateway is part of that overall vision.
“It is going to benefit every district,” Tyner said.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 21st, 2015
Gobbled up in flames: Officials tackle deep-fried turkey safety - Northport Fire Rescue teamed up with Publix on Saturday to offer shoppers cooking safety tips, including a featured presentation — frying a frozen turkey in peanut oil.
The third annual demonstration of the dangers of turkey frying was organized by Lt. Tony Gill, Northport Fire Rescue's training officer.
“It gives people a sense of awareness when they see it instead of just reading about it,” Gill said. “Every year, we receive (cooking-related) calls. People have things on their mind at the holidays other than fire safety. Family visiting tends to be more thought about than fireworks (on the Fourth of July).”
According to Gill, this is one of two yearly demonstrations the station organizes to remind people about cooking safety during the holiday season. In December, they set a dry Christmas tree on fire to remind people the dangers of leaving a live tree unattended with so many fire hazards around.
“We're going to show just how fast a room can ignite from a live tree,” Gill said.
Sparky, the fire station's mascot dog, also made an appearance at the turkey demo. Children were offered a look at the fire engine and given small gifts, like plastic fire hats and coloring books.
“Our main goal is to make people safe when cooking, like making sure you maintain proper grease levels in a pot. People need to ask themselves if cooking indoors is a good idea. They need to make sure there are no flammables near the stove. Really just think about fire safety when cooking with an open flame,” Gill said.
Two turkeys were cooked on-site: one correctly, and one incorrectly. The resulting grease fire badly damaged a section of vinyl siding donated by Roofing Supply Group, LLC. Almost all supplies for the event, including the turkey and peanut oil, were donated by the Northport Publix.
“You know, I cook a turkey almost every year,” Gill said. “Some years I mix it up, go with a ham. And I have to be careful, too.”
Northport Fire Rescue will hold another turkey frying demonstration from 9 a.m. until noon Tuesday at Northport Fire Rescue Station No. 2 on Alabama Highway 69 near Union Chapel Road.
November 21st, 2015
County Courthouse in search of a christmas tree - The Tuscaloosa County Courthouse is seeking a Christmas tree that is at least 40 feet tall to be used for the annual community Christmas tree on the front lawn of the courthouse. Anyone who would like to donate a tree is asked to call courthouse maintenance department at 205-464-8218.
November 21st, 2015
City Hall overhaul moves forward - Tuscaloosa city officials are moving forward with Mayor Walt Maddox’s plan to restructure certain city departments.
Pitched to the City Council last month, the mayor’s plan calls for the elimination of the Office of the City Engineer, the Department of Planning and Development Services, the Department of Revenue and the Office of Resilience and Innovation.
In exchange, the plan would create two new departments:
The Department of Urban Development, meant to deal with short-term projects, developments, repairs and operations;
And the Department of Infrastructure and Public Services, which Maddox said would be geared to longer-term projects and operations, such as master planning and broader visions of the city’s future.
Aspects of the Office of the City Engineer, Department of Planning and Development Services, the Revenue Department and the Office of Resilience and Innovation would be aligned under the new departments as well as the existing Finance Department.
With these two new departments will come the hiring of two new department heads, expected to e city’s highest pay grade.
Those new department heads will be paid between $113,000 and $150,000 annually. Currently, only the city attorney and the mayor are paid at that level.
Maddox said he will work within the existing fiscal 2016 budget to fund the salary and fringe benefits of the new hirees.
The realignment of city departments is occurring with announceed retirement of City Engineer David Griffin at the end of the year, and next week’s departure of John McConnell, the director of the Department of Planning and Development Services, who is leaving to take a similar job in Colorado.
Additionally, the mayor said the new department head heads likely will be selected from current employees.
“Certainly, we have to keep in mind that we have to do all of this within the existing budget,” Maddox said, “and that tends toward us looking internally.”
Since Oct. 6, when the City Council first heard the proposal, council members have had the chance to speak with city employees to gauge their reactions.
Councilman Kip Tyner said he did that and last week was vocally supportive of the move.
“This is a big deal,” said Tyner, who has been on the council since 1997. “Through it all, following through and doing my due diligence, I learned a lot more than what you just see on a chart here.
“There’s no perfect way to do things, but you always work to get better.”
First-term councilmen Eddie Pugh and Matt Calderone also supported the change.
“It’s something we’ve probably been needing to do for a long time,” Pugh said, noting that the exits of McConnell and Griffin would help ease the move.
“This reorganization plan is bold and creative,” Calderone said. “I think it’s a wise move moving forward.”
Other changes will bring the business operations the city’s Water and Sewer Department under the new Department of Urban Development, while the operations and maintenance of the water and sewer treatment and distribution systems would be moved under the new Department of Infrastructure and Public Services.
Additionally, the city departments of facilities maintenance and environmental services would be reorganized under the Department of Infrastructure and Public Services, as would the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation and Water and Sewer Services.
By January, the mayor said he wants to fill the two new department head positions as long as the City Council approves the job descriptions.
When the new department heads are in place, they will assist in refining the plan to a daily working model. Maddox said he expects that will occur by spring and the transition of city employees and their duties to the new organizational structure by summer.
The full implementation of the new organizational structure is expected to be well under way by next fall, just in time for the adoption of the fiscal 2017 budget, he said.
“Our constituents expect us to deliver services at a high level,” Maddox said last week. “There will never be a better time to move forward with this. The timing is perfect for us to make this transition.
“We promise to do our best to not let you down,” he said.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 21st, 2015
Glen Allen mayor earns Cochrane Award - Glen Allen Mayor Allen Jackson Dunavant on Friday was named the 2015 recipient of the David M. Cochrane Award, presented by the West Alabama Regional Commission.
Named in honor of West Alabama Regional Commission's first chairman, the award is presented annually to an elected, policy-making official in the regional commission's seven-county jurisdiction in West Alabama, which includes Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties.
Glen Allen is in north-central Fayette County and south-central Marion County, with the majority of the town lying in Fayette County.
The award recognizes outstanding leadership, innovation in local government and promotion of regionalism through intergovernmental cooperation.
Dunavant was presented the award at the Hotel Capstone in Tuscaloosa on the University of Alabama campus during the West Alabama Regional Commission's 50th anniversary celebration.
November 21st, 2015
Auburn beats Alabama in annual food drive that benefits food banks - Auburn University "Beat Bama" by collecting more canned goods than its archrival during this year's edition of the annual food drive ahead of the Iron Bowl, which collected 327,995 pounds of food to benefit the two communities' food banks.
Auburn gathered 211,625 pounds of nonperishable food during the drive. Alabama collected 116,370 pounds.
"Beat Auburn Beat Hunger may be over today, but there were trucks full of barrels of food still coming in," said Courtney Thomas, director of UA's Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism. "Our commitment is the fight food insecurity. This is a fun little way we do it."
The annual drive inspired by the football rivalry collects nonperishable food and monetary donations for the Food Bank of East Alabama in Auburn and the West Alabama Food Bank in Northport. The drive began Oct. 5 and ended Friday.
In Tuscaloosa, the Beat Auburn Beat Hunger food drive includes a series of annual events such as the Hunger Banquet, homecoming competitions to build sculptures out of canned goods and opportunities at sporting events to donate canned goods. UA's goal this year was 325,000 pounds, a mark meant to surpass the 300,049 pounds collected last year by UA. Auburn collected 198,041 pounds in 2014.
The drives this year relied on different methods of calculating totals, Thomas said.
"It was drastically different where we did not get to count corporate gifts," she said.
The totals this year are strictly canned goods, she said.
The UA food drive this year also sought to commemorate the loss of Henry Lipsey, the director of the West Alabama Food Bank since 2007, who died earlier this summer.
The drive honored Lipsey's legacy by incorporating his initials into the design of this year's Beat Auburn Beat Hunger T-shirt, and the university is working on the Henry Lipsey Above and Beyond Award.
"We really pushed hard to honor that legacy of going above a beyond like he did," Thomas said.
The West Alabama Food Bank partners with 80 agencies in nine counties in West Alabama.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 21st, 2015
GAMEDAY: Alabama produces graduates as well as NFL prospects - Sometime next fall, barring catastrophic injury, University of Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland will put on a new uniform and make his National Football League debut.
Before that, in the midst of bowl game preparations, he'll walk across a different stage in Tuscaloosa to greet UA President Stuart Bell. He's already counting down.
"In about four and a half weeks," Ragland said last week. "December 12th. I'm happy. It's been a long journey for me, three-and-a-half years. It's been a long journey and it's something nobody can take away from me, being able to graduate."
Ragland will be one of 19 graduates from the Alabama football team to walk across that stage this winter, the most in the program's history. Some of them are future NFL players, many of them won't make a roster in the league. For a program with a reputation as an NFL breeding ground, that degree production has become just as important as draft production.
"I could have something to fall back on in life, because I know football is going to end sometime," Ragland said. "This way, I've got something to fall back on to better myself and keep bettering myself as a person throughout the years. I could have left last year as a junior, played 10 years, I'd have been 31 years old and still have more life to live, so I've got to have some education to fall back on to better my life and my family's life."
While Ragland will accept a bachelor's degree in consumer affairs on Dec. 12, three of his teammates will be receiving their master's degrees: Jake Coker, Isaac Luatua and Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who is finishing his master's in marketing, credited his success to a culture that emphasizes academic achievement in the program, from top to bottom.
"When Coach (Nick) Saban offered me originally, he was telling me all the great things that were going to happen if I came here," Kelly said. "One of the big things that he kept reiterating was the fact that, ‘I'm going to get you a degree.' So I took it as important. I'm getting a free education, so why not maximize everything I can?"
Under Jon Dever, the assistant athletics director for student services, Alabama provides tutors, schedule management, study halls and academic resources for all of its athletes. If an athlete is in a class with no tutors, the workers at the Bill Battle Academic Center will find one, Kelly said.
"I think Alabama is different and very special because we have the most tutor help," Kelly said. "I didn't get two degrees because I was the smartest guy in the room. I just used the resources we had. I know that eventually football is going to (end) some day when I can't play any more and the only thing I'll have to fall back on is my education."
As with every component of Saban's program, there's a process of accountability that's monitored by football staff and student leaders alike. Players are assigned points by their personal monitors when they miss or are late to class and tutoring sessions. The numbers are charted, and like golf, the lower the score, the better. When the scores climb too high, grades suffer and there are consequences handed down by the coaching staff. The team leaders, for their part, focus on leading by example.
"More of the leadership group is actions versus talking to guys," Kelly said. "There's guys who need talking to, but when you look at our leadership group and the guys who are older here, there's a ton of guys graduating in December. A lot of the younger guys can see it. I saw it with Barrett Jones, who was getting his master's at the time."
Just as Saban emphasizes starting well on the field, the student leaders, Dever and the academic staff emphasize the same in the classroom. When recruits come in and are forced to adjust to college life and the demands of a Division I football schedule, Dever and the staff at the academic center closely monitor their schedules and time management.
"Those first two years are huge, which is why Jon Dever has so many people over there helping the new guys to help balance school and football," Kelly said. "That's a huge strain on our day, a lot of hours up here. They have your schedule there for you, you know when things are due so you're never going to be blind-sided by a project or something like that. They just make sure you're on top of things. Once you show them the progress you've made and that you can be accountable, they give you some leeway. Like anything else in life, it's striking a balance."
In the Alabama program, not much is said about the NFL during the season. The more thought that goes into the league, Kelly said, the less focus goes onto the field at Alabama. That doesn't stop players from discussing their futures outside of professional football, though. Kelly plans on a career in law enforcement even though he's getting a degree in marketing.
"I've thought about it a lot," Kelly said. "I think everybody here wants to play in the NFL and Alabama gives you the best chance to do that. But my dad has been in law enforcement for 27 years, and that's where I've always wanted to go. It's always been something I'm passionate about."
Ragland said the team leaders consider it just as important to talk about life outside football as gap responsibilities or disguising blitzes.
"It comes with being a leader," Ragland said. "You've got to always make sure you check on your guys and see where their head is at. I know me, Ryan Anderson, Denzel Devall, we talk about what we want to do outside of football in the future all the time. You've got to check on your guys and see where their head is at outside of football, because if they've got the right mind set outside of football, they'll have the right mind set on the field."
Some of Ragland's and Kelly's teammates, including defensive tackle Darren Lake, are first-generation college students, who have taken full advantage of a scholarship offer.
"You know there's probably not a guy that I'm prouder of on our whole team than Darren Lake, in terms of where he's come as a person, how well he's done in school based on his academic background, and how much he's improved as a football player," Saban said. "So, seeing those kind of guys coming from where he came from and being successful, having a chance to graduate, getting to play and improve here as a player. That's what college football is all about, and certainly the reason that I love it."
Lake is one of the latest in a long line of first-generation graduates and graduates who have come from impoverished backgrounds to success at Alabama.
"There's a lot of guys here who, without football, would never have had the chance to go to college, get a degree and further their life," Kelly said. "There's a lot of guys here who are first-generation graduates who will graduate with their master's degree for free. They pay the price in practice and in games and have a good time doing it, but it really is special because a lot of guys have really improved their value of life and chances of being successful."
Ragland, for his part, wants to use his degree to help give back to his community. He spoke of opening community centers in towns where he used to live — Florence and Huntsville — to start. He spent more than 50 hours during his college career performing community service, including a stint or two singing to veterans and retirees.
He'll start close to home.
"I think I'll be an entrepreneur," Ragland said. "My mom, she loves to cook and she always wanted her own restaurant, so she'd have something to call her own. I'll make sure she has that so that she can just have her own source of income. I want to open that type of business in my hometown or anywhere that wouldn't be normal to them."
The restaurant wouldn't be Ragland's first gift to his mother, who pushed him to return to the Crimson Tide and finish his degree instead of entering the NFL draft last season.
"I always told her that, even if I left, I told her I'm going to get my degree some kind of way to show her that I'm working hard in life besides sports," Ragland said. "Sports can only take me so far. My education will take my way longer than sports. I always told my mom that I'd get my education for her. If I can't give her nothing else, I can give her that."
November 21st, 2015
Habitat for Humanity dedicates 55th house since April 2011 tornado - <!-- Start of Brightcove Player -->
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Monique Howard and her home on 25th Street in Alberta were thrown through the air during the April 27, 2011, tornado. She landed near a power line 25 feet from the only part left of the house she once lived in — the foundation.
She sustained a head injury that resulted in a monthlong coma and blindness in one of her eyes. Howard was the last person injured in the tornado released from DCH Regional Medical Center on July 4, 2011.
Since the tornado, Howard said she has bounced from one family member's house to another in the city's West End. But now, Howard can return to her former Alberta neighborhood, a place she called home for 24 years before the tornado destroyed it.
On Friday, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa dedicated its 55th house since the tornado to Howard and her daughter.
The 1,200-square-foot house, located on Juanita Drive, features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dine-in kitchen, a laundry area, a living area and a tornado safe room built to FEMA standards.
"She has had such incredible trauma from that storm and just the idea that she will have a safe place to go with her 2-year-old little girl, Treazure, is just a wonderful peace of mind for her," said Ellen Potts, Habitat executive director. "I can't imagine what she's been through, but I know I would feel better if I had a safe place to stay."
Since the tornado, every house Habitat has built with private funds and Community Development Block Grant disaster funds from the City of Tuscaloosa includes a tornado safe room, Potts said.
"Several of our homeowners here on Juanita Drive took a direct hit (from the tornado)," she said. "We don't choose people based on whether or not they are a tornado victim. We choose families who need housing."
The families purchase the home at fair market value with a zero interest 30-year mortgage that saves them $85,000 to $90,000 in interest payments over the life of the mortgage, and single-adult households must put in 250 hours of sweat equity on their new home or the homes of other Habitat homeowners, Potts said.
Potts said there are 18 more lots on Juanita Drive with the potential for houses, but "right now, we've run out of funding for Juanita Drive."
She said Habitat is looking for new partners and private funding to help continue construction of housing on Juanita Drive, which has been transformed since the tornado.
Before the tornado, the area on and around Juanita Drive was responsible for 10 percent of all crime in the City of Tuscaloosa, but by rebuilding and bringing in homeowners instead of renters to the area, the crime rate has fallen, Potts said.
Howard said it looks like Alberta is coming back better than ever before after the storm, and she is happy to return home.
She said now that she has a safe room, she is not afraid to return to the area that was destroyed.
"You can't run from weather. You can't run from God's work," Howard said.
November 21st, 2015
Bentley increases security for college football games across state this weekend - Gov. Robert Bentley announced on Friday the state was increasing law enforcement units at college football games this weekend as a precaution in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
"Although there have been no known threats in Alabama, I take very seriously the safety and security of Alabamians in light of recent terrorists attacks and threats across the globe," said Bentley in a statement released by his office. "It is important to be prepared as a state. That preparation includes closely monitoring soft targets such as college football stadiums and other mass gathering venues."
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is increasing the number of state troopers and State Bureau of Investigation agents at the games this weekend to provide increased patrols and monitor activity during the games.
Bentley's comments came a week after coordinated attacks in Paris killed 130 people and wounded 350 during a series of shootings and suicide bombings at cafes, a rock concert and outside a soccer stadium.
The University of Alabama is set to play Charleston Southern University at 3 p.m. today at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
UA is prepared for any situation that may arise and encourages fans to be mindful of the list of items prohibited in the stadium and to contact the nearest police officer if they see something suspicious, according to a spokesperson contacted about security this weekend.
Auburn University is schedule to play Idaho at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn at 3 p.m.
The state agencies are also maintaining regular communication with their federal counterparts in the intelligence community, Bentley said. The governor encouraged fans to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity by calling local law enforcement or reporting it to the Alabama Fusion Center at s4.alacop.gov/.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 21st, 2015
Phone outage affects city, county - A damaged fiber optic line is to blame for phone and network outages that affected both the city and county school systems on Friday.
Tom Perrymon, director of technology for the Tuscaloosa County School System, said all 34 schools suffered a loss of telephone and Internet service for almost the entire school day.
Lesley Bruinton, coordinator of public relations for the Tuscaloosa City Schools, said six school sites also had lost phone and Internet services on Friday.
The schools were: Eastwood Middle School, Paul W. Bryant High School, Northridge High School, Verner Elementary School, Woodland Forrest Elementary School and both the Southview Middle and Elementary schools.
The outage also affected the telephones at The Tuscaloosa News.
Efforts to reach AT&T for comment were not immediately successful, but services appeared to be restored just before 2 p.m.
Perrymon said that he was told by AT&T officials that contractors, while attempting to repair a long-distance communications line near Bucksville, accidentally cut a main fiber optic line that several customers in this area of Alabama rely upon for service.
The network serving each of the county schools went down at 3:43 a.m., but the central offices in downtown Tuscaloosa were not affected. This allowed officials to inform parents and guardians about the outage via a telephone call at about 8 a.m.
“It (was) affecting a lot of different customers,” Perrymon said. “I know they’re working as fast as they (could) to get it repaired.”
November 20th, 2015
Body found in Duncanville - A man was found dead Friday morning off Duncanville Middle School Road.
Lt. Kip Hart, assistant commander of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide unit, said authorities were summoned to the area at about 7:30 a.m.
Deputies with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and investigators with the homicide unit responded. Portions of the road were blocked off while an investigation was conducted.
No foul play is suspected in the death of the 70-year-old man, Hart said.
November 20th, 2015
Tuscaloosa jobless rate declines - Tuscaloosa County’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in October, down from 5.2 percent in September.
The county’s October jobless rate was also down from a year ago when it was 5.1 percent.
Alabama’s unemployment rate is down slightly.
The governor’s office said Friday the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for October was 5.9 percent. That’s down one-tenth of a point from 6 percent in September.
Last month’s rate is also below the jobless rate from a year ago by two-tenths of a percent.
Employment increased by 7,200 jobs, with more than half the gain coming in the government sector. There were also increases in the professional and business services area, plus the trade and transportation sector.
Total wage and salary employment in the state now stands at 1.97 million jobs. That’s the highest since November 2008 at the outset of the great recession.
Wilcox County has the state’s highest unemployment rate at 13.3 percent. Shelby County is lowest at 4 percent.
November 20th, 2015
Reward money offered in cat cruelty case - Up to $6,000 in reward money is being offered for information that will help authorities arrest a man suspected of abusing a cat and posting a video of it online.
Tuscaloosa police are asking anyone who knows when and where the video was recorded to come forward.
“Investigators are asking anyone with information regarding the date and approximate time the video was made and the location of where the video was made to please contact us, as these are crucial pieces of information we need to request an arrest warrant,” said Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson in a news release.
The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $5,000 and Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers is also offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for assaulting the cat.
The video was posted to YouTube on Nov. 2 and shows a man, now identified as Brandon White, holding the black-and-white cat by the scruff of its neck before striking it several times with a belt.
On Nov. 9, police announced that warrants had been obtained to search White’s home in Sumter County. White’s cellphone was seized and the residence was searched for evidence, but no arrest was made.
White and his mother, a police officer in Sumter County, have refused to talk with investigators. Anderson explained earlier this month that police have been unable to make an arrest because they do not know where or when the video was shot.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Tuscaloosa Police Department at 205-349-2121 or Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
November 20th, 2015
Tuscaloosa woman killed in crash - A 31-year-old Tuscaloosa woman died early Friday morning in a crash that happened in Greene County, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Deborah Elaine Horton died when the 2000 Chevrolet Impala she was driving left the road and struck two trees.
Horton was pronounced dead on the scene.
The single-vehicle crash occurred at 12:45 a.m. Friday on Greene County Highway 156, 11 miles northeast of Union.
State troopers are continuing to investigate the crash.
November 20th, 2015
Former Tide walk-on returns to Tuscaloosa as Buccaneers' offensive coordinator - The University of Alabama didn’t recruit Gabe Giardina. It was the other way around.
Giardina grew up in State College, Pa., where his father worked in the Penn State athletic department as director of marketing and promotions for 17 years, but he knew he wanted to try to play somewhere else in college.
He picked Alabama, and reached out to the coaching staff of then-head coach Mike DuBose.
“I just wanted to make my own path a little bit,” he said. “I felt like God wanted me to go somewhere that wasn’t home.
“I was recruiting the school more than they were recruiting me.”
He had a good senior year in high school and got an invitation to walk on as a non-scholarship player.
By the time he graduated in 2004, Giardina had played in nine games and seen DuBose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Price come and go as head coaches, and Mike Shula begin his tenure. Still, he wanted more.
“I had to fight, bite and scratch just to stay on the team as a player,” he said. “I volunteered (to coach) for Mike Shula for a year, working for free.”
Shula elevated him to a graduate assistant position a year later, and Nick Saban kept him on in that capacity when he was hired in 2007.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “Met my wife there, got two degrees from there and absolutely love Tuscaloosa.”
Giardina gets to experience Tuscaloosa again on Saturday when he returns as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Charleston Southern. His players at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school are excited about playing against a major-college national title contender. The coach is excited about coming back to where he got his start.
“You try not to hyperventilate too much,” he said. “It’s fun to be nostalgic about it, but then you’re trying to get your guys prepared.
“It’s been on the schedule a while. There’s those natural emotions of it’s cool to go back there and play, but then you get back into your season and the things this team has been able to do and how hard this bunch of guys play for each other, we’ve got guys that really love each other and a staff that loves the kids.”
Jamey Chadwell, head coach of the Buccaneers, sees the passion Giardina brings to the program.
“A tireless worker and does a great job with the kids, loves his kids and he’s fun to play hard for,” Chadwell said. “Gabe does a great job with our offensive line and also as our offensive coordinator. He brings a great edge every day. He’s a typical offensive line guy, always looking for some way to motivate, and does a phenomenal job.”
Giardina was a backup kicker at Alabama.
“He also helps our kickers,” Chadwell said. “He’s always there as a reminder for them, so he’s a big reason why we’re having success.”
Charleston Southern brings a 9-1 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium and has already secured the Big South league championship and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
“This is the first outright championship the school’s ever won,” Giardina said. “It’s the first trip to the playoffs. This is the best team Charleston Southern has ever put out there.
“To me, if I could coach at a high level that would be a great dream, but more than anything I’ll never look back at 2015 and not get emotional about the things these guys have done. Charleston Southern was 0-11 in 2011. You look at what they have done as a team for a first time at a place that has never been all that successful.”
Giardina has tried to bring some of the lessons he learned under Saban to CSU.
“He’s got great players, but the culture he’s created at the University of Alabama has sustained itself over the years,” Giardina said. “The way he’s done it and kept his message fresh is something.
“From a non-football perspective, he really does a ton in the offseason and in fall camp of just trying to build into the players, helping them become what he calls being a champion beyond the field. The folks they bring in to speak to the team, the leadership stuff they do, he genuinely cares about the kids beyond the field. He talks about signing with Alabama not being a four-year decision, but being a 40- or 50-year decision.
“We’re trying to build a family at Charleston Southern, and it’s not a four-year family. It’s a family that lasts 40 or 50 years. We don’t want to find out you’re getting married on Facebook, we want to get the text message.”
The 35-year-old coach, who is married to the former Wimberly Edwards of Greenville, with three sons all under age 5, knows his team faces a daunting task. He wants this player to focus on their assignments rather than Alabama’s pedigree.
“I’m not going to show them too many clips of A’Shawn Robinson jumping over the snapper (to block a kick against LSU),” he said. “I try not to tell them what (UA players) were recruited as, we’re talking about how we’re going to be fundamental and block these guys based on how they line up rather than this guy across from you might be a high draft pick.
“They can watch it. They know, but it’s more about showing them who to block and not concentrate on where this guy’s going to play in three years or next year.”
Giardina also wants his players to experience the atmosphere of an Alabama home game. He remembers being on the sideline as a player and feeling like the ground was shaking after Tyrone Prothro caught a long touchdown pass.
“The kids are super-excited,” he said. “We don’t get to play in many stadiums like this. It’s fun to go make that dream a little bit of a reality for them. The big thing is you want to walk out like you walk out of any game, feeling like you executed well.”
Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.
November 20th, 2015
Students rally in support of inclusion on University of Alabama campus - Behind a banner bearing the message "We are here, we are loved, we are done" about 150 students and supporters marched across the University of Alabama Quad on Thursday in support of changes they believe will make the campus more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
"This makes me so happy and proud to see people at this university do care about inclusion and diversity," senior Amanda Bennett said, her voice amplified with a megaphone.
The We are Done demonstration on Thursday morning began outside Foster Auditorium, the spot made famous by the successful integration of the university more than 50 years ago in the face of segregationist Gov. George Wallace's "Stand in the School House Door."
Anthony James, a senior in microbiology from Columbus, Ga., led the group in chants and songs as the demonstrators walked from the plaza in front of Foster Auditorium across the Quad to the steps of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library.
"I am here for a more just, more equitable, more inclusive Alabama," James said.
The students carried signs with messages including "We are Done," "Down with the Machine," "We Are Not the Problem" and "Alabama Deserves Better."
The organizers distributed fliers listing 11 demands sought by the coalition.
"All these demands are things that we didn't just decide to come up with, they are things that will level the field institutionally at Alabama," James said.
Bennett, one of the organizers, said the demands reflect the broad interests of the coalition including increasing diversity, improving the campus handling of sexual assaults and making reforms to campus politics. The ideas have been on campus for a long time, she said.
The demands for a division of diversity, inclusion of diversity training in the core curriculum, and bringing the Machine — the secretive voting bloc of predominantly white sororities and fraternities that has dominated campus politics — into the fold of registered and supervised student organizations are recommendations that have been part of ongoing discussions on campus.
The recommendations have been part of the work by an ad hoc task force of students, faculty and administrators created by the UA Faculty Senate to recommend ways to increase diversity on campus and make changes to the governance of student organizations.
Bennett and others have been meeting with the UA President Stuart Bell and other members of the administration to discuss the demands, which also include increasing the percentage of black faculty and staff, and creating a safe space for black students on campus.
What form a safe space might take is still being discussed, Bennett said. Her examples included a space in the Ferguson Center or a standalone building for the division of diversity or programs and resources for black students.
It can be intimidating to be a minority student on the campus of a predominantly white institution, said Maya Perry, a 19-year-old sophomore in political science and English from Montgomery.
It's an environment, she said, where black culture is often not well understood and students receive push back sometimes when they express themselves.
The concept of a safe space is important because it give students some assurance they will have a place to be themselves and express themselves, Perry said.
"I love that our college and president are acknowledging it," Perry said of the group's concerns about diversity and inclusion.
Bennett and others were appreciative of the willingness of Bell's four-month-old administration to listen to their concerns. Bell announced on Wednesday a chief diversity officer and a new diversity plan would be included in the development of a new strategic plan for the campus.
Patrick Fitzgerald, a junior from Harvest and a senator in the Student Government Association, praised the energy of the crowd and encouraged them to think of the demonstration and Bell's announcement as the beginning of their efforts.
‘Doesn't this show how ready we are to bring change to campus?" Fitzgerald said. "This is not the end of this movement, it is the beginning, and it excites me."
Sehar Ezez, a senior majoring in history from Tuscaloosa who addressed the crowd at the foot of the front steps of Gorgas Library, argued the gains of the past weeks are positive signs but the demonstrators still face a culture that has an institutional indifference to racism.
"That is real great, but as long as we have a system where racism is tolerated and as long as the Machine is putting its influence on who is going to be hired, change is not enough," Ezez said.
There is a culture of fear on campus, she said. Women who are sexually assaulted are afraid to speak out, she said. Minority students are left to endure racist comments, she said.
"They can't speak up because they are the only minority students in the class," Ezez said.
To illustrate the hostility, James read messages from social media directed at the demonstration by hecklers and recalled his experience with a car full of young white men who yelled "Roll Tide," and then added a racial epithet as he walked by the stadium on a Saturday night.
"These are things I have to go to sleep with," James said. "We are talking about trauma and injury, not to the body but to the spirit."
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
November 20th, 2015
Substance in plane's cargo area in Birmingham verified as laxative - BIRMINGHAM | A powdered substance that prompted an investigation at Birmingham’s airport turned out to be an over-the-counter laxative.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport spokeswoman Toni Herrera-Bast said Thursday that authorities determined the substance was MiraLax.
She said an airport employee found an unmarked plastic bag in a cargo hold that contained a powdered white substance and alerted authorities.
Officials say the plane was scheduled for a return flight to Atlanta. Delta officials say the flight was delayed by more than two hours.
Officials say no other flights have been delayed.
— From staff and
November 20th, 2015
Birmingham teen arrested in three fatal shootings - BIRMINGHAM | Birmingham police say a teenager has been arrested in three shooting deaths and is being investigated in an additional homicide case.
Department spokesman Sean Edwards said Wednesday that a 15-year-old boy is accused in the deaths of 34-year-old Kenneth Davidson and 26-year-old Shaundria Peoples, both of Birmingham, and 22-year-old Tramone Mitchell of Hoover. Police say the killings happened between Oct. 23 and Nov. 14.
Edwards says witnesses were able to identify the teen in the shootings. The teen’s identity hasn’t been released and Edwards says the boy is in Family Court custody.
Edwards says the teen is charged as a juvenile and additional information is not available.
November 20th, 2015
Deadline is Friday for West Alabama Christmas Parade float entries - Today is deadline to enter a float in the 40th annual West Alabama Christmas Parade.
Groups or organizations can register online at www.tcpara.org/westalchristmasparade. The fee is $40 for a non-judged entry and $45 for a judged entry. First and second place trophies will be awarded in these categories: float, decorated vehicle, band, marching group and best overall.
The parade will be at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 on Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa. The theme of this year’s parade is Christmas Stories, Christmas Movies.
November 20th, 2015
Leaders will be in Fayette to announce federal grants to help community - State and local leaders will be in Fayette today to announce federal grants that will improve water and sewer service in the Pea Ridge community.
Two Community Development Block Grants will be used to replace deteriorated sewer lines and extend water service in Pea Ridge.
Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday will join other state and local leaders make the announcement at 10 a.m. today at the Fayette Civic Center.
November 20th, 2015
In Mobile, Ben Carson calls for "mad dog" refugee screenings - MOBILE | Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Thursday that blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. is akin to handling a rabid dog.
At campaign stops in Alabama, Carson said halting Syrian resettlement in the U.S. doesn’t mean America lacks compassion.
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson told reporters at one stop. “It doesn’t mean you hate all dogs, but you’re putting your intellect into motion.”
Carson said that to “protect my children,” he would “call the humane society and hopefully they can come take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.”
He continued: “By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly. Who are the people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us?”
He later repeated the comparison at a rally at the University of South Alabama, while telling hundreds of supporters that reporters had misrepresented his earlier remarks. “This is the kind of thing that they do,” he said, drawing laughs and applause.
Carson is among the GOP hopefuls who have called for closing the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees in the wake of the shooting and bombing attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the carnage, stoking fears of future attacks across Europe and in the U.S.
The retired neurosurgeon, who is near the top of many national and early state preference polls, said he’s been in touch with House GOP leaders about their efforts to establish new hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.
Dozens of Democrats joined majority Republicans in the House to pass the measure on Thursday. It would require the FBI to conduct background checks on people coming to the U.S. from those countries. The heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence would have to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”
Asked whether he would sign it, Carson said he hasn’t reviewed the details. “If, in fact, it does satisfy basic needs for safety, of course,” Carson said.
The Council on American-Islamic relations condemned Carson’s dog comparisons at the same time it blasted another GOP hopeful, Donald Trump, for declining to rule out setting up a U.S. government database and special identification cards for Muslims in America.
“Such extremist rhetoric is unbecoming of anyone who seeks our nation’s highest office and must be strongly repudiated by leaders from across the political spectrum,” said Robert McCaw’s, CAIR’s government affairs manager.
In Mobile, Carson said, “Islam itself is not necessarily our adversary.” But he said Americans are justified in seeing threats from Muslim refugees and the U.S. shouldn’t “completely change who we are as Americans just so we can look like good people.”
He continued: “We have an American culture, and we have things that we base our values and principles on. I, for one, am not willing to give all those things away just so I can be politically correct.”
Separately, Carson said Thursday that Islamic State militants are more organized and sophisticated than the al-Qaida terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Those attacks, he said, “really didn’t require a great deal of sophistication because we weren’t really paying attention.”
He added, “You didn’t have to be that great. You had to be able to fly a couple of planes. You’re going to have to be a lot more sophisticated than that now.”
Carson’s spoke a few days after some people in and around his campaign offered public concerns about his command of foreign policy. The chief critic, former CIA agent Duane Clarridge, told The New York Times that Carson struggles with Middle Eastern affairs.
He “not an adviser,” Carson said, adding that Armstrong Williams, his longtime business manager, also “has nothing to do with my campaign.”
Williams spoke to the Times, the Associated Press and other media about Carson’s need to improve as a candidate. Carson described Williams as an independent operator who “speaks for himself.”
But, Carson acknowledged, Williams as recently as this week helped the candidate edit a foreign policy op-ed the campaign sent to The Washington Post.
November 20th, 2015
O'Neal Steel to open new plant on Nucor Steel property in Tuscaloosa - O’Neal Manufacturing Services, a division of Birmingham-based O’Neal Steel, plans to open a new plant in Tuscaloosa next year.
The plant will be built on Nucor Steel property on Holt Road Northeast. The plant will have two plasma cutting lines that will take steel plates made at Nucor and cut them into specified shapes for O’Neal customers.
The plant is tentatively set to open next summer and will have 34 employees when both cutting lines are in operation, said Ron Travis Jr., an O’Neal vice president.
O’Neal Steel is a family owned steel processor with around 3,800 employees at 85 facilities in 35 states and eight foreign countries. Around 500 of those employees are in Alabama. The company was started in Birmingham in 1921 and is now run by the third and fourth generation of members of the O’Neal family.
O’Neal Steel does not make steel. It buys steel from steel-makers like Nucor and then cuts and finishes the steel to the specifications of manufacturers that make products that include heavy machinery, bridges, locomotives, elevators, forklifts and more.
Customers that will be served from the Tuscaloosa plant were not identified Thursday during a presentation to the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, An O’Neal slide presentation about the company in general, however, listed numerous manufacturers as its customers — including GE Locomotive, Otis Elevator, Caterpillar and Toyota Forklift.
Travis said locating the new plant at the Nucor property will reduce the cost of transporting steel plates to O’Neal’s processing centers elsewhere.
Scrap steel also from the cutting process also will be recycled back to Nucor, where it will be melted to make new steel plates.
Under the plan presented to TCIDA, Nucor will build the plant and then lease it to O’Neal.
O’Neal indicated it will invest $2.9 million to furnish and equip the plant.
The overall investment in the project will be $7,115,000, which will include the plant construction.
TCIDA agreed to abate $163,673 in property taxes over 10 years and $286,464 in sales and use taxes incurred in construction. Alabama allows such abatements for new and expanding manufacturing facilities. The abatements do not include the portion of property and sales taxes that go to schools.
Construction of the new plant is set to begin in January with the building tentatively set for completion in May and the first equipment coming in a month later, Travis said.
In other TCIDA action, Dara Longgrear, the authority’s executive director, told the board that there are rumblings of more automotive-related projects in the pipeline.
The automotive industry is the county’s largest industrial sector. It includes the Mercedes plant in Vance, which announced a $1.3 billion expansion this fall, and a host of automotive parts manufacturers.
“We are hearing the background music in automotive,” Longgrear said. “There will be more automotive opportunity out there. ...We will have more success in automotive soon.”
The TCIDA board also elected Claude Edwards, president of Bryant Bank, as its chairman for 2016. Dean McClure, president of TTL, was elected vice chairman, and Mark Crews, vice president of the Western Division of Alabama Power Co., was elected treasurer.
Longgrear was re-elected as the board’s secretary and Mike Smith, TCIDA’s legal counsel, was re-elected assistant secretary.
Patrick Rupinski can be reached patrick.rupinski@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0215.
November 20th, 2015
City school board stays deadlocked on strategic plan - At the beginning of Thursday’s three-hour Tuscaloosa City Board of Education work session, Superintendent Paul McKendrick said he hoped that by the end of the meeting he would have a clear picture on how the board will vote on the revised integrated curriculum facilities analysis demographic strategic plan he intends to recommend for their approval on Dec. 1.
He left the meeting with a pretty clear understanding: Board opinions about the strategic plan have not changed.
“It was a productive meeting,” he said. “I don’t think we got the resolution we wanted. We may still be at 4-4 (a tied vote), but at least there was some discussion about the topics, clarification and I think we have an idea of where everyone is.”
On Oct. 20, the board voted down McKendrick’s recommended strategic plan in a 4-4 vote. The parts of the plan that by board members who voted against it — Earnestine Tucker, Clarence Sutton Sr., Marvin Lucas and Erskine Simmons — took issue with:
- Having year-round school in only the Central Zone.
- No plan to create smaller student-teacher classroom ratios.
- Lack of details about how the money in the $168.9 million plan will be spent.
- Absence of specific plans to improve Eastwood Middle School.
- Failure to “correct” gerrymandered downtown zoning line.
- Failure to change zoning lines to create true neighborhood or area schools so students can attend schools closest to their homes.
At an Oct. 23 board retreat, McKendrick presented the board with a revised strategic plan that dropped his recommendation for year-round school in the Central zone and addressed every board issue except for smaller student-teacher classroom ratios and the zoning issues. By the end of the retreat, board members indicated that their vote would not likely change.
At Thursday’s work session, McKendrick once again presented the board with a revised version of the plan.
New revisions he made include keeping all the school choice options that are currently in place in the system and adding world languages to the elementary school curriculum. By keeping the current school choice zoning configuration, McKendrick is no longer recommending that the Verner zone/Central choice zone for the Country Club neighborhood be changed to a strictly Verner school zone. It would stay the same as it is.
He did, however, keep his recommendation to change the zone from Queen City north of McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street to a University Place Elementary zone/Rock Quarry choice zone.
Tucker, Sutton and Simmons once again expressed their discontent with Mc-
Kendrick’s recommended zoning plans and his refusal to “fix” the city school system’s gerrymandered zoning lines by creating neighborhood schools.
“There has never been an opinion that we are against the need for a new middle school (in the Northridge Zone),” Tucker said. “Like Mr. Lucas said, with the way (Rock Quarry Middle) was built is not conducive to teaching and learning. That just has to be addressed. But I think we have to address the zoning and by addressing the zoning it will justify whatever size school we need.
“... It is unfair for us to take away choice zones for some communities and neighborhoods and leave it for others. It’s not fair and I don’t see how we can justify that. ... It’s not about the number of children in those zones, but we have to get rid of some of the vestiges that separate this community.”
She said the Tuscaloosa County School System doesn’t have the zoning issues the city system has because it created neighborhood schools when it drew the zone lines and didn’t tamper with them afterwards like the city school system did.
Sutton said creating zoning lines that increase racial diversity as some people believe his position is on the issue, is not his goal. He just wants true neighborhood schools.
“There’s three things I’m about, Clarence Sutton Sr., I can only speak for me. I’m about justice, I’m for righteousness and I’m for fairness,” he said. “Neighborhood schools means to me going to the school nearest you. One person said, ‘Why should I send my child to an under-performing school?’ That’s true. None of our schools should be under-performing no matter where a person lives. We’re responsible to make sure all of our schools successful.”
Simmons approached the zoning conversation with two points. He said the threats of the system possibly being sued following an Office of Civil Rights complaint about possibly changing the zoning lines to a neighborhood school configuration are not something the board members should heed to, especially if they haven’t contacted the Office of Civil Rights to see if there’s a risk of a lawsuit. He called the lawsuit threats fear tactics.
Secondly, he said the board hired an expert for $388,403 to help create a strategic plan — the professional education consulting firm DeJong-
Richter — and one of the company’s initial suggestions was that the system be rezoned to create “natural boundaries,” with neighborhood schools.
“I think we should create some natural boundaries and move forward with this proposal,” Simmons said.
Board member Norman Crow said if the board improved the neighborhood schools,people would naturally want their children in those schools and not take the choice option to go to higher-performing schools outside of their school zone. He said a quarter of the students in
Central/Verner zone choose to go to Central.
Simmons and Tucker disagreed saying that creating neighborhood schools would alleviate the overcrowding in the Northridge Zone.
At the end of the meeting, Tucker said her vote will not change until the zoning issue is resolved.
Crow responded by saying “that’s a shame because it’s a good plan.”
Tucker then said if the plan didn’t call for every issue to be voted on in one fell swoop, the parts of the plan they all agree would pass.
McKendrick said he’ll take into consideration the suggestions the board made. Those suggestions include Marvin Lucas’s request not to combine Central and Oakdale
elementary schools into one 650-student school, but rather take the $19.2 million allocated to build a new school and renovate both schools.
But as far as the suggestion to get rid of school choice and create neighborhood schools, McKendrick said it’s not something he’s inclined to do.
“In talks with everyone, we’re still going to be at 4-4,” he said. “If I change (that part of the recommendation) we’ll still be at 4-4. The people who would have voted one way (the board members who have voted yes) will vote the other way and we’ll still be at stalemate.”
McKendrick presented the board with an option to vote on the plan as it is on Dec. 1 or to vote on the plan without the two zoning recommendations. But he’s not sure if he’ll recommend the plan without the two zoning recommendations that are causing the stalemate.
“That’s one option that could possibly work, but it’s not what I think will work. I’ve heard complaints about it with people saying, ‘if you’re going to have to deal with it three years from now why not do it now?’ Those are some of the same people who say (do) not vote for the plan if downtown is not included in there.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
November 20th, 2015
Georgia executes man convicted in woman's 1994 slaying - JACKSON, Ga. | A man convicted of killing a woman he met at a Georgia nightclub was executed Thursday after losing a last-minute round of appeals.
Marcus Ray Johnson, 50, was declared dead at 10:11 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, Georgia Department of Corrections officials said. Johnson was convicted in the March 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore in Albany.
Johnson declined to make a final statement or have a prayer said for him. The warden left the execution chamber at 9:44 p.m. In most executions, the lethal drugs that are used start flowing within minutes after the warden’s exit.
Brian Kammer, an attorney for Johnson, argued his client shouldn’t be executed because doubts remained about his guilt. Prosecutors said there was no doubt Johnson killed Sizemore.
A Butts County Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected a constitutional challenge to Johnson’s sentence and conviction and declined to stop his execution. The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday upheld that ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Johnson’s appeals for a stay of execution without comment Thursday evening.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday denied Johnson’s request to commute his sentence or to delay it for 90 days to allow further DNA testing. The board, as is its custom, did not give a reason for its denial. The parole board is the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence in Georgia.
“The duty of the Board of Pardons and Paroles is to act as a failsafe to prevent miscarriages of justice such as the execution of persons whom the evidence shows may be innocent,” Kammer said. “The Board failed egregiously in this respect, and as a result the state of Georgia is about to execute an innocent man.”
Sizemore and Johnson met at an Albany nightclub the night of March 23, 1994, and witnesses saw them kissing and drinking heavily. They were seen leaving the bar together early the next morning.
A man walking his dog later that morning found Sizemore’s body inside her SUV behind an apartment complex. She had been stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife and sexually assaulted with a pecan branch, prosecutors said.
Johnson told investigators he and Sizemore had sex in a grassy vacant lot and that he then “kind of lost it” and punched her in the face during an argument. But Johnson said he left immediately afterward and headed home to collapse on his front yard, where he awoke the next morning.
A judge stopped Johnson’s previously scheduled execution in October 2011 to allow for new DNA testing on some evidence but later denied Johnson’s request for a new trial.
The only physical evidence linking Johnson to Sizemore supports his admission of consensual sex and her bloodied nose, Kammer argued. The rest of the state’s case was circumstantial and based on unreliable and inconsistent eyewitness testimony, he said in court filings.
Investigators never found Sizemore’s blood on Johnson’s pocket knife or on the branch prosecutors said was used to sexually assault her, Kammer argued. They didn’t find Johnson’s DNA or fingerprints in Sizemore’s SUV, which police believed he drove from the crime scene to a different part of town.
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, who was a prosecutor in the case, said earlier this week that he has no doubts about Johnson’s guilt.
All of the arguments Johnson’s defense team has raised have been heard and rejected by courts, he said. The eyewitnesses saw Johnson in broad daylight and were completely reliable, and new DNA evidence didn’t prove Johnson’s innocence and didn’t implicate anyone else, Edwards said.
November 20th, 2015
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