Demopolis schools to invest in new ID system

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education met in the newly-renovated Demopolis High School library Monday.

By the first of the new year all four Demopolis City schools will have a new identification system in place to better monitor visitors and volunteers.

The Board of Education approved the system Monday at its meeting held in the Demopolis High School library.

The initial cost of the scanning system from Alabama Card Systems, Inc., is $13,000. Thereafter, the school system will pay $250 annually to renew and update the federal sexual predator database.

Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said his office has been working for about six months on setting up a better way to supervise who will be working closely with individual students. Before the ID monitors are set up, he will meet with the schools’ principals to set up business rules and guidelines for those on campus.

Federal funding will be used to pay for the visitor management system.

Kallhoff said this is the first step in a more comprehensive monitoring system that he hopes to set up in the city’s schools.

The board gave approval to Kallhoff’s request that he and board attorney Alex Braswell continue “negotiations and execution” of the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Resolution Agreement for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards at Demopolis Middle School.

The issue stems from a complaint filed with the school system in April of 2015.

Kallhoff said if the negotiations are not approved, it can jeopardize federal funding for Demopolis schools.

Along with the negotiation approval, the board gave the okay to hire Ward Scott Architecture to conduct an accessibility survey and plan and oversee bidding and construction work related to the ADA compliance at DMS.

The $50,000 cost for the work at DMS is included in the capital funding budget approved in September.

In other action, the board approved:

  • The Continuous Improvement Plans for all four schools and the school system.
  • Out-of-town travel for the DHS JROTC to Birmingham.
  • Second and final installment for A-Plus Software of $10,000. The initial $30,000 was paid in 2016. The school system now will only pay an annual licensing fee.
  • An agreement with the Blackbelt Community Foundation Head Start and U.S. Jones Elementary to prepare and provide lunches that Head Start will pay for.

Personnel action included:

  • Conditional employment of Major Walker as Transportation/Maintenance Assistant.
  • Madoline Huff and Geraldine Walker as substitutes, with Walker also as a nurse.
  • Transfer of Reginald Atkins from DMS to DHS.

Continuing the practice of recognizing outstanding teachers, students and support staff, the board honored from USJ: Anne Johnson, teacher; Sylvia Tate, support staff, and Fernando Mancilla-Otero, fifth grader.

Honored from DHS were Lisa Lawrence, teacher; Pam Morgan, support, and Xavier Jackson, senior.

The next meeting of the board will be held Nov. 13.

Sylvia Tate

U.S. Jones Elementary School fifth grader Fernando Mancilla-Otero

DHS librarian Lisa Lawrence

DHS paraprofessional Pam Morgan

Demopolis High senior Xavier Jackson

U.S. Jones Elementary Teacher Anne Jones

County Commission holds short meeting Tuesday

In what had to be one of the shortest meetings on record, the Marengo County Commission Tuesday still took care of several items of business.

Commissioners amended the cancellation policy at Chickasaw Park requiring those who cancel reservations to pay a $10 fee. The fee will cover the cost of the lodging tax that the county must pay to the state.

Jason Windham received approved from fellow commissioners for a resolution supporting the Demopolis Babe Ruth league. After a recent visit from New York by the vice president of Babe Ruth, the city was awarded the 2019 Southwest Regional Championship. Windham said some 10-16 teams will travel to Demopolis to take part in the tournament.

Members also approved a renewal of the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission (ATRC) Agency on Aging Contract.

The commission approved Request for Proposals on repainting the jail and parts of the courthouse after steam cleaning stripped some of the paint from the buildings.

The commission tabled any action concerning Medicaid coverage for county inmates until it can receive further clarification on the matter.

The commission also approved a proclamation in honor of Woodrow Campbell who has coached at Marengo High School for 39 years. The high school will be naming the athletic field in Campbell’s honor.

A phone scam gone wrong

Scam artists targeting Marengo County didn’t do their homework, and Sheriff Richard Bates enjoyed it greatly.

Laura Bates, the sheriff’s daughter, had just gotten off the phone at her dad’s house and asked him, “Daddy have ya’ll got a warrant on me?”

It seems the phone call was from the “Marengo County Warrant Division,” and the man on the line told Laura there was a warrant for her arrest for not showing up for jury duty.

Bates, realizing it was a hoax, had her call back the number the scammer had given her and listened in on speakerphone. It sounded very legitimate, said the sheriff. The voice prompt listed a menu of offices to select, including the Warrant Division.

The Marengo County Sheriff’s Office is so small, “we do not have a ‘warrant division’,” said Bates.

When Laura, at Bates silent urging, asked “Lt. Daniels” if there were a warrant on her, “You can actually hear paper rustling in the background,” said the sheriff.

The scammer gave detailed instructions on purchasing a gift card to cover the cost of the fine plus the bail bond fee and where to deliver the card.

Laura then said she didn’t understand how everything worked and would put her father on the phone.

“Write down my name,” Bates told the scammer. “Write down my phone number. When you call the number, they will tell you that I am the sheriff of Marengo County.

“You idiot,” he said. “You called my daughter at my house.”

The scammer laughed and said he was just trying to raise some money to help his mother pay some bills.

Bates traced the phone to Montgomery, but the trail ended there.

While Bates realized the call was not legitimate, others in the county fell for the scam, he said. There was one couple who followed the instructions and took out a card for $1,900. Fortunately, the instructions the scammer told them to follow were incorrect, but the hoax was so real that the victims were convinced to pay up.

“I tell everybody, we do not tell anyone to get money to pay fines,” said Bates. “The most important thing for people to remember is not to send money.”

WES ceremony dedicates planter boxes, cuts ribbon for new Pre-K unit

First grader Tucker Wilson is handing a program to Amanda Barnes, director of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation.

“This is exactly what education is supposed to be.”

Jeana Ross, secretary of the state’s Department of Early Childhood Education spoke enthusiastically about Westside Elementary School and its Pre-K program Friday.

WES hosted a ribbon-cutting for its second Pre-K classroom made possible through funding by the Office of School Readiness. The event was held in conjunction with the unveiling of planter boxes built at all four Demopolis school campuses, part of a service project for a Black Belt Teacher Corps project.

Some 50 state and local dignitaries, administrators, teachers, school board members and parents braved the bright sun to celebrate the opening of the newest Pre-K program. Joining them were the children in the school’s Pre-K classes.

“It warms my heart” to see the crowd, said WES principal Roshanda Jackson. She also made a pitch for funding to open more classrooms. “In case there’s more funding, we have a waiting list,” she said.

Each Pre-K class holds 18 four-year-olds. Another Pre-K class of children ages 3 and 4 has 13 students, including six who are special needs, funded by other grants.

Ross said the classroom program is expected to have a 25 percent match from the community. Looking at those attending, she said Demopolis support looks more like 100 percent.

“This school is loved,” she said.

Early childhood education “is closing the achievement gap,” she continued. It also lessens the numbers of student in special education and lowers absenteeism.

Tracye Strichik, director of the Office of School Readiness, said Alabama has been Number One in the nation in Pre-K education for the past seven years. The program provides one-on-one support to teachers to enable them to provide the best education to the youngest students.

Dr. Ken Tucker, president of the University of West Alabama, said the idea for the Black Belt Teacher Corps arose because teachers were hard to recruit to the most rural and poor section of the state.

Patterned after Teach for America, the students who receiving scholarships with the BBTC are required to teach in Black Belt schools for three years after graduation.

The funding for the corps began two years ago when money was found in the state Department of Education budget. Almost all of the initial $250,000 has gone to $10,000 scholarships.

Recipients also are required to take part in leadership training and to conduct a service project that meets identified needs in the community.

Allie Marques of Livingston chose to build three planter boxes on each campus for her “Sprouting Minds Garden” project. The vegetables grown in them are changed every season. This fall each box has pumpkin plants.

Marques, who grew up on a farm, believed students would better understand and enjoy their food if they had a part in planting it and watching it grow. She designed curricula to be in line with state standards for each grade level.

Helping her with the project were CEMEX, United Rentals and Poppies.

Marengo County Commission approves $20M budget in Tuesday meeting

Phillip Spence, right, post surgeon for the Marengo County unit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, accepts a resolution from Commission Chairman John Crawford Jr., passed by the Commission to proclaim Sept. 15 as POW/MIA Recognition Day. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Marengo County will operate with $20,118,622.52 for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 after the County Commission voted to adopt the budget Tuesday. Estimated expenses for the year are expected to be $17,369,274.28.

That will leave a difference of restricted funds of $2,749,348.24.

The Commission made it possible for Demopolis voters will have a chance to approve a 3 mil tax renewal for Demopolis schools by putting the issue on the December ballot.

Demopolis City Schools Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said the tax is renewed every 10 years and brings in some $225,000 per year to the school system.  He said the funds in the past have been used for nurses, transportation and School Resource officers.

Only ballots in Demopolis will have the tax issue.

Phillip Spence, post surgeon for the Marengo County unit of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, accepted a resolution passed by the Commission to proclaim Sept. 15 as POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The resolution “honors the commitments and the sacrifices made by our nation’s prisons of war and those who are still missing in action.

County Engineer Ken Atkins presented bids on road repair materials. Commissioners approved the lowest bidder for each item with the stipulation that the bids meet specifications.

Also approved at the meeting was a contract with the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. The contract, renewed annually, guarantees one bed per day.

Juvenile Probation Officer Darren Glass said if the county uses more than 365 days, it will be charged $60 per bed per day.

Commissioner Jason Windham forwarded a request from the Demopolis Industrial Development Board for a contribution toward the ribbon-cutting for Two Rivers Lumber Company, now set for Oct. 19.

Windham said the Marengo County Economic Development Authority and the IDB also are helping to pay for the event.

The Commission voted to contribute $1,000, but the money was made as a budget amendment to MCEDA, since the county cannot directly give to the company.

Probate Judge Laurie Hall told commissioners that the primary election went well, with only one complaint about moving a polling place.

Commissioner Freddie Armstead thanked all of Marengo County for the effort to help Hurricane Harvey victims. He said the Demopolis Fire Department especially went above and beyond to man the trailers that held the items that were donated.

In other action, the Commission approved:

  • Leaving the Tobacco Tax CD at Sweet Water State Bank.
  • The Grand Jury Report.
  • The first step in declaring Peace Lane a public road.
  • A consultant for work on Sparks Road.

Demopolis BOE passes 2017-18 budget

The Demopolis City School Board passed the 2017-2018 budget Monday after holding the state required second public hearing.

CFO Evelyn James said the budget is a “reasonably accurate estimate” of income and expenses for the coming year. Expected income is $20,333,550, and expenses are estimated to be $22,317,703. With a beginning balance of $5,845,295, the system should remain in the black at the end of the year.

The bulk of the funding – 64 percent — for Demopolis schools will come from the state, James said. Income from the federal government is 11 percent, and local funding, 22 percent, with another 3 percent from other sources.

Instructional costs and instructional support will make up 65 percent of expenses. “That’s the way it’s should to be; it’s all about educating our children,” said James.

The state foundation will pay for a total of 143.06 teacher units and another 50.35 units will come from other sources. Federal allocations will cover 37.33 teachers, and local funding pays for 12.48 teacher units.

James said the budget will be revised in January to better reflect the actual revenue being received from the state.

The budget goes into effect Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Supt. Kyle Kallhoff reminded board of a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Sept. 15, at 9 a.m. for the new Pre-K program at Westside Elementary School.

At the same time there will be dedication of wooden planter boxes. The brainchild of a UWA student, the boxes were constructed by Cemex employees. Three have been placed at all four campuses.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be Monday, Sept. 18, at 5:15 p.m.

Demopolis preparing for bicentennial celebration

It could be said that Demopolis has been planning this party for 200 years.

“The People’s City” saw its start in 1817 when French exiles settled in the area. Visitors have been welcomed ever since, but not more so than on Sept. 14-17 when Demopolis greets visitors, past residents and those living here now for a homecoming.

Sponsored by the Marengo County Historical Society, the four-day event will feature tours of historic homes representing different eras of the city’s history, talks and demonstrations by artists and authors, receptions and a black-tie gala with fireworks to climax the event.

The weekend begins Thursday, Sept. 14, with a 7 p.m. reception on the front porch of Gaineswood, designated as a National Landmark. At 7:30 guests will adjourn to the drawing room for a short theatrical drama of the history of Marengo County, Demopolis, the Whitfield Family and Gaineswood presented by the Gaineswood Belles and Beaux.

Historian Betje Klier will speak on Friday, Sept. 15, at the Demopolis Public Library’s Lunch-N-Learn series. Her talk, “Bourbons before Bourbon,” will explain just who the French exiles were that settled the city.

To reserve a lunch, call the library at 289-1595. Guests can bring their own sack lunch.

Also on Friday, businesses around the Public Square will be getting into the homecoming spirit by hosting open houses and an art walk from 5-7 p.m., sponsored by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Just a block away at Lyon Hall, artist Julyan Davis will have an exhibit of his Demopolis works and present a talk about his art at 6 p.m.

From 7-11 p.m. Kenny Heard and his four-piece band will play in the Public Square from 7-11 p.m., sponsored by the City of Demopolis. Heard’s music is described as California funk meeting Alabama soul.

The two-day Bicentennial Pilgrimage of Homes opens Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. More than 16 houses will be open for viewing.

Pilgrimage tickets are $30 each. A VIP Pilgrimage ticket for $50 not only includes admittance to all the homes, but more events are included. A boxed lunch and tour of Rooster Hall with a talk on the Rooster Auction of 1919 will be at noon on Saturday, and 2 p.m. the VIP ticket holders will be treated to a guided tour of Lyon Hall, including the second floor and roof.

VIP tickets are available through Sept. 8. Regular tickets may be purchased through the day of the event.

At Lyon Hall, Davis will be painting scenes of Demopolis from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. His works will be on display in the home both Saturday and again on Sunday from 2-5 p.m.

Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burns, authors of “Visions of the Black Belt,” will be signing copies at Bluff Hall from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and offering the books for sale.

Saturday night Demopolis lets out all the stops with a formal dress Bicentennial Gala at the Demopolis Civic Center. The black-tie affair features the Lamont Landers Band of music, mixing Soul, Funk and R&B. The evening will end with fireworks over the Tombigbee River sponsored by the City of Demopolis. Gala tickets are $50 each.

The Pilgrimage of Homes continues Sunday from 2-5 p.m. VIP ticket holders have access to one additional house at 1 p.m.

At 3 p.m. in the Coplin Building, historian Klier will speak about Demopolis’ French roots and the Vine and Olive Colony wallpaper, which she spend years researching. Her talk is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Bicentennial, contact the MCHS at 289-9644, or email marengohistory@bellsouth.net. For Bicentennial tickets, visit <eventbrite.com/e/demopolis-bicentennial-tickets>.

Demopolis BOE holds first meeting of new academic year

Praising Demopolis City Schools for an “extremely smooth start,” School Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said it was the best he has experienced in his 20 years in education.

At the Board of Education meeting Monday, Kallhoff said the work on the buildings and the efforts by the teachers and administrators were reflected in the ease back into the school year for the system’s 2,300 students.

He showed the board a three-minute video of the first day of school at all four campuses.

The superintendent told board members the system is fully staffed with the exception of a nine-month custodian at Demopolis High School.

That said, the board still had work to do to complete the start-up for the 2017-2018 year, beginning with the need to advertise for a part-tiime LPN for Demopolis Middle School.

The 20-hour per week position is needed, Kallhoff said, because the health needs of the students have grown. The RN at the high school cannot divide her time among schools because of the increased number of students with diabetes at DHS.

Evelyn James, the CFO of the school system, said revenues are up by $883,000 over the same time in 2016, while expenses have decreased by $29,000. She said the system has 3.11 months of revenue in reserve. The state Board of Education requires a minimum of one month.

Her report was followed by the state auditor, Emily Tyler, reporting no problems found in the audit done for the 2015-2016 year.

To keep revenue flowing into the school system, the board approved a resolution presented by Kallhoff to petition the Marengo County Commission to consider a renewal of a three mill tax for District 2, which includes the city of Demopolis. The tax requires voter approval for renewal every 10 years. He asked members of the board to attend the Sept. 12 meeting of the Commission when he presents the request for the tax renewal.

First readings were held for two board policy changes, both required by the Alabama legislature. The first, the Jason Flatt Act, involves youth suicide awareness and prevention. It calls for employees to receive annual training to identify characteristics of students who may be considering suicide.

The Religious Liberties policy requires that there will be no discrimination of students or their parents for religious beliefs. A public hearing for both policies will be held Thursday, Sept. 7, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Also approved by the board was a lease agreement with TEQlease for Impero Computer Monitoring Software. Kallhoff said the five-year lease, at $5,000 per year, would serve the school system in three ways:

First, it would allow the monitoring computers to restrict use to certain websites, preventing users from visiting inappropriate sites. Second would be a time-saving feature, allowing IT to install programs in multiple computers from one base unit instead of having to install programs individually.

The third feature allows those monitoring the use of school computers to flag any words or searches that could pose any dangers.

In other action the board approved:

  • The Equipment Financing Agreement with Government Capital Corporation for the Active Panel Promethian installation project.
  • Renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Demopolis Police Department for two School Resource Officers. The school system will pay half their salaries.
  • A hold harmless agreement with the DPD for the use of the DMS football field for National Night Out on Sept. 12.
  • Contract for Susan Hollinger to provide psychometrist services to administer testing for special education and gifted students.
  • Overnight and/or out-of-state trips for the DHS cross country team Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 to Meridian, Miss., and Nov. 10-11 to Moulton.

Personnel matters included:

  • Hiring Rebecca Hasty as bookkeeper at DMS.
  • Substitute hiring of Annie Collins and Betsy Stephens.
  • Head tennis coach changed from Sam Mosley to Dana Hill.
  • Maternity leave request for Whitney Mosley, USJ, to begin Feb. 18, 2018.
  • Maternity leave request for Kristi Stokes, USJ, to begin Jan. 3, 2018.
  • Family medical leave request for Tammi Western-Scott, DMS teacher.
  • Katrina Sprinkle as long-term substitute for Western-Scott.
  • Rodney Lewis as DMS assistant football coach for supplement of $1,189.
  • Norvie Womack as DMS athletic director for supplement of $1,400.
  • Name correction from Aug. 2 personnel report from Javalynn Williams to Javalynn Wilson Henderson.
  • In a special called meeting Wednesday, Aug. 2, the board accepted the resignation of Annette Gwin, the DHS culinary arts instructor. Gwin had been a teacher in the system for 16 years.

The superintendent set public hearings for the 2017-2018 budget For Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. and Sept. 11 at 4:30 p.m., followed by a called meeting at 5 p.m. to approve the budget.

He also invited board members to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. for the new Pre-K program at Westside Elementary School.

At the same time there will be dedication of wooden planter boxes. The brainchild of a UWA student, the boxes were constructed by Cemex employees. Three have been placed at all four campuses.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be Monday, Sept. 18, at 5:15 p.m.

Demopolis test scores trend positive though ACT Aspire results questioned by state

Test scores taken last spring in Demopolis City Schools show terrific gains in some areas and challenges in others.

Results of the ACT Aspire, ACT and AP course tests were to be shared at the Teacher Institute Friday prior to the start of the new school year.

“There hasn’t been a lot of bragging in the past few years,” said Supt. Kyle Kallhoff, but after the results of the tests in the spring, “I immediately went out and bought five pizzas” to celebrate with students and teachers.

However, the ACT Aspire scores are being called into question by several school systems in the state who reported large flaws in the details of the test results. Kallhoff attended a meeting in Montgomery August 4 in which concerns about the test were aired with DOE officials. The DOE will be reviewing the results – including those in Demopolis – within the next several weeks.

Kallhoff said the ACT Aspire test, administered to students in grades 3-8, will be replaced for the 2017-2018 year with Scantron while the state Board of Education decides on another standardized test to monitor progress.

So far the DOE hasn’t given superintendents a lot of input on the interim test and has yet to issue guidelines for using it, leaving school systems scrambling to determine how to administer it this fall and evaluate the results.

The new test is supposed to show teachers the readiness data of their students so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

“If it were up to me, I would use (ACT Aspire) one more year,” said Kallhoff, even though he feels the test “is not good for everybody.”

ACT Aspire aligns with the ACT test given to every junior in Alabama. The test assesses a student’s progress to be ready for college and covers reading, English, math, science and writing.

The problem, said Kallhoff, is that not every student will go on to college or technical training after high school.

Still, Kallhoff was pleased with several results, which also was a reflection of the emphasis placed on different subjects. For instance, he said, 19 percent of the DHS juniors tested at or above the benchmark score for mathematics on the ACT, an indication they would make an A or B in a college algebra course. That is the highest percentage ever for DHS.

Scores showed professional development for teachers have a great impact on students taking the ACT Aspire. A full 69 percent of students in 6th grade scored proficiently on writing, a jump from only 5 percent when those students were in fifth grade.

A similar, although less dramatic increase, was shown in 5th grade students over their scores in 4th grade, from 9 to 40 percent.

The 6th grade math scores rose three points to 57 percent. All other grades stayed the same or showed a decrease over the previous year of anywhere between 5 and 22 percentage points.

Middle school math is always a challenge, said Kallhoff.

Fifth grade reading scores on the ACT Aspire jumped to 44 percent of students ready or exceeding the benchmark, reflecting the professional development teachers received. The scores have risen over the last three years.

Eighth grade reading scores also rose to 38 percent, a rise of 8 points. The other grades slipped slightly or stayed the same over the previous years.

In reading, science and English, classes mostly held their own from one year to the next. The biggest decline was 4th grade English which slipped by 16 percentage points, and the biggest gain was in 8th grade science scores that jumped by 6 percent.

The ACT test is given to all high school juniors in the fall. Those who want to improve their scores can opt to take it again on their own.

The ACT test sets benchmark scores in four subjects: English, math, reading and science. After a dip last year, DHS juniors came roaring back last spring with some of the best scores ever, including the aforementioned math.

In English, 53 percent taking the test met or exceeded the benchmark, a jump from 40 percent the previous year. Math was up from 12 percent; reading climbed to 28 from 22 percent, and science showed the biggest gain to 20 percent from 8 percent in 2015-2016.

What pleased Kallhoff is that 11 percent of the juniors who took the test met the benchmark scores in all four subject areas, an increase over 3 percent the previous year.

Advanced Placement courses are offered at DHS for students who need extra challenge in certain subjects or who want to receive college credit before enrolling.

Each student can take more than one AP exam at the end of the year, depending on how many AP courses he is taking. This year 328 tests were administered. Of those, 58 percent ranked in the extremely well qualified level, which almost ensures students of receiving college credit. Another 38 percent ranked well qualified, which usually is considered credit-worthy by colleges, and 19 percent scored on the qualified level, which may or may not be accepted.

The superintendent, now beginning his third year, said he is excited “where we are with our principals.” With the addition of Brandon Kiser at DMS and Blaine Hathcock moving to DHS, he believes the school system is building a solid foundation for the future.

“Things are right now where they need to be.”

New technology to improve Marengo polling places

Probate Judge Laurie Hall Tuesday demonstrated to the Marengo County Commission the new electronic poll book that will be used next week during the primary election for the U.S. Senate race.

The commission approved the purchase of 12 poll books at its July meeting for use at the polling places that have the most voters. The rest of the needed poll books will be purchased before the mid-term elections in 2018.

Hall explained the new electronic system will eliminate the black book and the need for poll workers to write down each voter’s name. The system also will prevent voters from crossing party lines in the primary and runoff elections, she said.

Training for poll workers on the use of the new system already is underway.

Public comments took up most of the meeting as commissioners heard economic updates, concern over roads and a request for support for the Liberty Learning Foundation.

Paul and Kim Duhe, who moved to the county almost six years ago, expressed their concern over the condition of County Road 33 and asked when it would be repaired.

Kim Duhe said the “Band-Aid” approach to fixing the road hasn’t worked. Traffic cones have been set up at one spot, and traffic now is forced to one lane since the cones take up most of the roadway. The situation is especially critical since the site is on a hill.

“It makes my stomach hurt” at the thought of a head-on collision with a log truck,” she said.

County Engineer Ken Atkins said the cones had been moved since his crew placed them. He said they would be relocated. Work on the road cannot be done until the rains slack off, he added.

This year 750 students in second and fifth grades throughout the county will take part in the Liberty Learning Foundation program. LLF representative, Becky Saunders, told the Commission that the program now is in 45 Alabama counties and has been a part of the Demopolis school system for five years.

The program provides 12 weeks of lessons and support in sponsoring what Saunders called a “rock star approach to teaching civics.”

Total cost for the county students in $25,000, or $36 per child, she continued. The foundation, a non-profit organization, receives generous corporate funding but still needs local help.

“We want support from the community because it means so much to the children,” she said. The Liberty Learning program is a way to “teach, inspire and empower” future citizens of the United States “to be the next great Americans.”

Saunders asked the commission to consider financial support for county schools. Commissioners familiar with the program in Demopolis said it was a worthy program, and the Commission will consider including it in the budget for next year.

Economic Development Authority Chris Bontrager said during his first four months in the position he has been evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the office and how best to promote the city.

He revealed a new logo for the county that shows prospective businesses where Marengo County is located and said a new website is being developed that will provide links to local sites.

Bontrager said he has been talking with major industries in the county to find out their problems and concerns and solve some of their problems.

“It’s been very enlightening,” he said.

While new business recruitment is just getting started, one out-of-state prospect is excited about expanding to the county if internal conditions can be met.

The commission voted unanimously for a tax abatement for an expansion of Two Rivers Lumber Company as the initial construction is completed. Bontrager said the developers realized such expansion was in the fledgling company’s best interests.

The new project will add another 35 jobs, bringing the total to 90. It reflects a capital investment of $5.76 million. The abatement covers all non-educational taxes and all sales and use taxes on new equipment purchases.

In other action, the commission accepted the low bid of $6,485.52 from Phillip Myers to pressure wash the courthouse, annex and jail. Members also appointed Fred Moore to the West Alabama Mental Health board, filling the spot vacated by Al Garrett.

A budget hearing was set for Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 4:30 p.m.