2014 Year in Review: Part 4

Published 4:12 pm Friday, January 2, 2015

Holiday spirit: Christmas tree lighting ceremonies were held in Jemison (above) and Clanton in December 2014.

Holiday spirit: Christmas tree lighting ceremonies were held in Jemison (above) and Clanton in December 2014.

Editor’s note: Below is the final installment of a four-part series looking back at the top news stories of 2014. This installment covers October through December.


2014 Swedish Fest Queens crowned

Five new Swedish Fest queens were crowned in pageants Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 just in time for Thorsby’s 2014 Swedish Festival on Oct. 11.

Morgan Lucas was crowned 2014 Miss Swedish Fest on Oct. 7.

Lucas’ court included Anna Grace Parnell, first alternate; Sydney Ranson, second alternate and Miss Photogenic; Kandice Cleckler, third alternate; and Elizabeth Ray, fourth alternate.

Other queens crowned Oct. 7 were Young Miss Swedish Fest Mia Deason and Little Miss Swedish Fest Cresley Haggard.

Deason’s court included Jennah Brown, first alternate; Mattie Woodall, second alternate; Campbell Easterling, third alternate; and Caylee Desmond, fourth alternate and Miss Photogenic.

Haggard’s court included Emma Owens, first alternate; Makayla Howard, second alternate; Braelynn Brooks, third alternate; and Kourtney Benson, fourth alternate and Miss Photogenic.

Taylor Pierce was crowned Junior Miss Swedish Fest on Oct. 6.

Pierce’s court included Lily Porter, first alternate and Miss Photogenic; Jade McWhorter, second alternate; Haylee Henry, third alternate; Lakelyn Connell, fourth alternate; and Katelyn Kim, ad sales winner.

Lanie Adams was crowned Tiny Miss Swedish Fest on Oct. 6

Adams’ court included Elizabeth Eason, first alternate; Lily Benson, second alternate; Leelah Penley, third alternate; Carly Meank, fourth alternate; and Lydia Payton, Miss Photogenic.

Nora Kayte Camarillo was named Baby Miss Photogenic.

All Swedish Fest pageants were held at the Thorsby High School auditorium.

Commission accused of violating open meetings, competitive bid laws

A Chilton County man has filed a lawsuit against the Chilton County Commission alleging commissioners violated Alabama’s open meetings and competitive bid laws.

Plaintiff Roy Burnett, who identifies himself as a “taxpayer and resident of Chilton County” filed the lawsuit Sept. 25 in state court against the county and commission, claiming the leaders held two illegal meetings in which they voted to implement courthouse security and violated the state’s competitive bid law.

The lawsuit also claims that during a regularly scheduled commission meeting July 14, the commission entered into executive session to discuss security and failed “to notify the Chilton County Sheriff of the executive session despite the fact that they had previously assigned him the responsibility for courthouse security.”

Burnett said commissioners failed to notify Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis but notified and invited John Shearon, the Republican candidate running for the office of sheriff in the upcoming General Election who attended the executive session.

The lawsuit states “Terry Wilson, the Democrat candidate for the office of sheriff in the same election was directed to leave and was not permitted to attend the executive session…”

“Eddie Price, the Independent candidate for the office of sheriff in the same election was not notified of the meeting or the proposed executive session.”

At the end of the executive session, the county commission resumed its regularly scheduled meeting and adopted a resolution authorizing Chilton County Commission Chairman Allen Caton, who is a defendant in the case, to “implement a plan for courthouse security” that authorized him to spend $14,999 to implement the plan.

Anything above $15,000 requires a bid, as stated in the lawsuit.

A reporter with The Clanton Advertiser was present during the July 14 meeting where law enforcement representatives from the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department and several municipalities, judges and county prosecutors were some of the individuals asked to stay in the executive session.

Sheriff Kevin Davis was not present at the July 14 meeting.

On Aug. 13, Burnett claims the commission “illegally convened” a special meeting without providing notice of the meeting, and passed a resolution contracting with the city of Clanton to provide security at the courthouse.

During the same meeting Burnett alleges commissioners adopted a resolution “taking away” the appointment of the current sheriff, as head of security over the courthouse and annex buildings, the lawsuit states.

Burnett claims the individuals who have been provided by the city are not “sworn and certified law enforcement officers,” and have been “performing security at the courthouse” without a signed contract between the county and city, which is required by state law.

“Instead of conducting a discussion of courthouse security with the chief law enforcement officer of Chilton County, the defendants discussed courthouse security with the Republican candidate for sheriff, an individual with no authority to perform any act on behalf of the county, the commission or the sheriff,” Burnett said. “Alabama law does not authorize a governmental body to conduct an executive session to discuss courthouse security with mere candidates for elected office.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that “Alabama law does not authorize executive sessions for the purpose of deliberating how to circumvent the competitive bid law.”

At the end of the lawsuit, Burnett asks the court to declare the contract between the commission and the city of Clanton void, as well as force defendants to comply with the Alabama Open Meetings Law and the Alabama Competitive Bid Law.

Long-time announcer, ‘assistant’ presented Tiger Legend award

Rick McKee remembers how he first came to serve as the public address announcer at a Chilton County High School varsity football game.

McKee was a first-year teacher at the school, in 1973, when Ray Scruggs, the already well-established principal, told McKee that someone was needed to work in the press box.

“I said, ‘Yes, sir,’” McKee laughs.

At the football banquet at the end of the season, Scruggs joked that McKee had signed a 37-year contract. The number must have been chosen at random, but, coincidentally, McKee retired after exactly 37 years in Chilton County education.

He continued serving as the PA announcer for four more years, giving him 41 years as the voice fans at the game knew well. Not long into his tenure, McKee was joined in the booth by his wife, Sheri.

As the official “assistant,” Sheri provided drinks and snacks for her husband and everyone else in the booth, and helped take note of the players’ numbers so Rick could say the correct name of the player who just made a tackle, caught a pass or whatever other action there was to be called.

She also often had to pull Rick away from halftime conversations and back to his post.

The McKees were recognized for their contributions to the football program as this year’s recipients of the Tiger Legend Award, which the CCHS Gridiron Club presents annually.

“We look around as a group at those who have given to the organization, to the athletic program in general,” said Chris Smith, Gridiron Club president. “It was a perfect fit. It just shows our appreciation for what they’ve done.”

Montgomery officer talks about recovery after being shot

On the morning of Oct. 5, Clanton resident Stephanie Hubbard received a knock on her door that changed her life.

“I opened the door and my husband’s best friend was standing there in front of me,” Hubbard said Oct. 14. “I went through all of the reasons he was standing there, and I don’t remember much after that.”

Stephanie Hubbard’s husband of 16 years, Montgomery Police Department officer Robert “Bobby” Hubbard, was shot and injured the morning of Oct. 5 while responding to a theft call at the East Boulevard Walmart in Montgomery.

Although Robert Hubbard is still recovering from his injuries, which include multiple stitches in his throat from a gunshot wound and injuries to his right arm, the couple spoke to the media Oct. 14 for the first time since the incident.

“We just wanted to let everyone know that we are appreciative of all of the support we have received,” Robert Hubbard said. “I am happy to still be here, and this was our way to say thank you to everyone.”

Officer Hubbard responded to a shoplift complaint at the store around 8:30 a.m. when Matthew Wright allegedly pulled a gun and shot the officer multiple times as he was attempting to make an arrest.

Wright fled the state to Louisiana where he was captured the same day as the shooting.


Ms. Chilton County queens crowned

Kristen Robbins will be busy this year making appearances as the new Miss Chilton County and preparing to compete in the Miss Alabama Pageant in 2015.

Robbins was named the 2014 Miss Chilton County on Nov. 2.

“I was very excited about the opportunity,” Robbins said of being crowned. “I was honored just to represent my county at Miss Alabama and to finally have achieved something that locally I’ve been working toward for a while now. It’s the actualization of hard work that I’ve put in for a few years now.”

Robbins, 21, is the daughter of Steve and Diann Robbins.

She is a 2011 graduate of Chilton Christian Academy and attends the University of Montevallo.

She was sponsored by McKinnon Toyota.

Robbins said she enjoyed the sense of camaraderie among the Miss Chilton County contestants.

“We just had a good bonding experience,” Robbins said. “We’re all so supportive. I thank God and my family and my friends for their love and support, and I’m looking forward to representing Chilton County this year.”

Robbins and the other newly crowned 2014 Miss Chilton County queens will attend several local Christmas parades and tree lightings over the next few weeks.

On Nov. 1, Hannah Tierce was crowned Junior Miss Chilton County, Kalyn Smith was named Young Miss Chilton County and sports wear winner, and Braelynn Brooks was named Little Miss Chilton County and sportswear winner.

Shearon wins Chilton County Sheriff seat

John Shearon was elected to be Chilton County’s next sheriff.

With all precincts reporting, Shearon received 8,225 votes, unofficially, during November’s General Election, or about 71.7 percent of the total number of votes cast.

Shearon is a former sheriff’s department employee.

“I left here six and a half years ago to come back and do what I’m doing now,” said Shearon, who had worked with the Calera Police Department. “I just want to make a difference.”

The majority vote allows Shearon, running on the Republican ticket, to avoid a runoff against either challenger Eddie Price, an Independent, or Terry Wilson, a Democrat.

Price unofficially received 1,705 votes, or about 14.9 percent; while Wilson received 1,541 votes, or about 13.4 percent.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Shearon said. “I can thank everybody enough.”

Shearon defeated incumbent Kevin Davis in June’s Republican Party Primary. Shearon received about 55 percent of the vote in that election to Davis’ 45 percent.

Giving thanks: Grace Fellowship Church and Through the Grace of God Ministries hosted a free community Thanksgiving meal at the Clanton Recreation Center in November.

Giving thanks: Grace Fellowship Church and Through the Grace of God Ministries hosted a free community Thanksgiving meal at the Clanton Recreation Center in November.

Community gathers to give thanks at early Thanksgiving meal

Members of the community gathered Nov. 25 at the Clanton Recreation Center off Lay Dam Road to give thanks over a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Grace Fellowship Church and Through the Grace of God Ministries sponsored an early Thanksgiving feast, and invited the public to stop by and have a free meal.

“It has been so neat to see the response from the community and the diversity,” Meredith Vincent said.

Vincent, who attends Grace Fellowship Church, came early Nov. 25 to serve food with her family.

“I wanted my children to step outside of themselves and see what it is like to serve others,” Vincent said. “They were out of school this week for Thanksgiving so it worked out that we could all come.”

Vincent and her family stood side by side in front of the food serving scoops of turkey, dressing and various side dishes.

Vincent said the most popular dish in the lineup of food was the cornbread dressing.

“Everyone seems to really like that,” Vincent said.

Grace Fellowship Pastor Jake McCall said this is the third annual year for the event, which averages 150 meals each year.

“We have about 25-30 volunteers who come and serve,” McCall said. “The meal allows people in the community to come together and interact with others that they may not have the opportunity to see on a regular basis.”

McCall and Bro. Ralph Bingham of Through the Grace of God Ministries both worked to spread the word and invite anyone interested to come have lunch.

McCall said some volunteers arrived at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday to begin preparations for the meal, which was served from 10:30-2 p.m.

“We had people waiting in line at 10:30 this morning so we have had a great response so far,” McCall said.

Jenni Moore came to serve food and said the thing she enjoys the most about the event is the fellowship.

“It is nice to just come and meet other people,” Moore said.

Annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony draws large crowd

The annual Jemison Christmas tree lighting had the largest crowd in event history with about 500 people showing up Nov. 26 for the festive fun.

“We decided to move the date to the week of Thanksgiving as opposed to having it the same week as the Christmas parade,” Jemison librarian Tammie McGriff said. “We thought having the two more spread out would be better, and we had the most people we have ever seen show up.”

Jemison City Hall was abuzz with activity as the event kicked off outdoors with Christmas carols performed by the Jemison High School Ensemble, a live nativity with youth from Jemison First Baptist Church, and a countdown for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree which stands several feet tall adjacent to city hall.

After the tree was lit, activities continued inside the auditorium at the city Municipal Complex with a performance by the Jemison High School cheerleaders, a prayer by Bro. Rex Kent with Jemison First Baptist, a flag ceremony by Cub Scout Pack No. 74 and Boy Scout Troop 747, a violin performance by Hannah Ellison and a drama performance by the Jemison High School Theatre Department under the leadership of Cherie Hickey.

Radio personality “Dollar” Bill Lawson was the emcee Tuesday night and recognized the 2014 Chilton County Peach Queens, the 2014 Miss Swedish Queens and the 2014 Miss Chilton County Queens.

“Grandma” and “Grandpa” invited all of the children on stage and read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Sarrell Dental and Eye Center sponsored free pictures with Santa, and the event also recognized the first “Mr. and Ms. Jemison.”

“We thought it would be a neat idea to recognize two people in the Jemison community who have really helped in so many ways,” McGriff said.

LaMerle Hamm, owner of Piggly Wiggly in Jemison, was recognized as “Ms. Jemison,” and Danny Hayes, owner of Hayes Drugs, was recognized as “Mr. Jemison.”

The two were called up on stage and given white sashes, which will be displayed in their stores for the upcoming year.


Flag raising ceremony held at veterans facility

Cedar Ridge Veterans Facility held a memorial dedication and flag raising ceremony on Dec. 6

The event showcased the new commemorative flag garden, located in front of Cedar Ridge, featuring flags representing the five branches of American military service: United States Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Army.

The five flags were arranged to form a star around the centerpiece of an American Flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on June 2 in honor of the late founders of Cedar Ridge.

The founders were former Marine Sgt. and Vietnam veteran Jerry Glaze and his wife, Nell, who are current owner and manager Melani Pritchard’s parents.

“The community has been excellent to us,” Pritchard said on Dec. 8. “We are thrilled with how everything turned out for today and couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

More than 30 people attended the ceremony on Dec. 8 on the outer lawn of the Cedar Ridge facility located at 325 County Road 271 in Clanton, near the Collins Chapel community.

After the flags were raised, snacks and drinks were served to members of the community who came out for the event.

“We wanted to be able to do something special for the veterans who live at this facility and also for other local veterans, and they have been looking forward to this day for a while,” Pritchard said.

Georgia-Pacific announces $6 million investment at Thorsby location

Georgia-Pacific announced Dec. 8 a $6 million investment at its Thorsby engineered lumber operation to expand production capacity of laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

In a move that positions the facility for long-term success, improvements include upgrading the press system’s lay-up line and veneer sheet feeders, as well as increasing overall veneer dryer capacity and efficiency, according to a press release.

Project completion is expected by the second quarter of 2015.

“As the housing market continues a slow but steady improvement, we are investing in our building products division to ensure our ability to meet growing customer needs,” Paul Watterson, general manager for Georgia-Pacific’s engineered lumber business, said in a release. “Along with being located within a good wood basin that provides easy access to raw materials, the improvements to our Thorsby operations will increase our ability to supply LVL, a key component for beams and headers in new construction.”

CON application approved for planned hospital

The final hurdle between the beginning of construction of a new hospital in Chilton County was cleared Dec. 17.

The Alabama Certificate of Need Review Board approved the CON application submitted by the Chilton County Healthcare Authority.

The board unanimously approved plans to construct a 30-bed hospital facility in Chilton County, which would be located off Highway 145 near Interstate 65 Exit 212.

A 1-cent sales tax increase is being collected to fund the project, after it was approved by voters during the June Primary Election.

Approval from the CON board is necessary for operation of a hospital in Alabama and was the last step of the process of opening a new hospital in Chilton County not in the hands of the local Healthcare Authority.

“We can now officially start,” Authority spokesman Sibley Reynolds said. “We’ve been running toward the race; now we’re in the race.”

The meeting was held in the State Capitol Auditorium and attended by more than 20 local leaders.

Shoney’s, Inn of Clanton closed as a result of court case

Shoney’s and the adjacent Inn of Clanton were closed Dec. 18 as a result of a bankruptcy case involving the owner of the businesses.

Visitors to Shoney’s, a popular local eatery, were greeted by doors chained shut and signs reading, “Sorry, we are temporarily closed.”

What the closings meant for employees at the two businesses couldn’t be determined by press time.

A Chapter 7 case came before U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Alabama involving Sunrise USA Inc., which owns and operates the local Shoney’s and Inn of Clanton businesses.

The trustee in the case, Daniel Hamm, had been operating the businesses, but in an order dated Dec. 18, Hamm requested that the court terminate his authority to operate the businesses.