Credit union branch proposed at Demopolis High; retirees honored in Monday meeting

Four of seven retirees were present at Monday’s BOE meeting, including, from left, Katie Poole, Paula Bond, Lori Giles, and Tammy Spruell. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Opening a branch of Naheola Credit Union at Demopolis High School and having students earn credit for operating it was proposed to the Demopolis City Board of Education at a called meeting Monday.

Under the proposal, the pilot program would start in the fall and be part of the Finance Academy, under the direction of Kelly Gandy. Students would earn a credit hour for taking it, explained Ashley Coplin, marketing director for the credit union.

“It lines up perfect with the state standards,” added Gandy.

Up to four seniors would be operating the credit union branch two days a week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., if the proposal is accepted. Students would be interviewed by credit union personnel before being hired.

Gandy said that while it would benefit her students, she is pleased with the impact it will have on the rest of the student body by helping them understand finances.

The credit union would be part of a classroom course open to all students at the high school, Gandy continued.

Coplin reviewed the duties and responsibilities of both the students and Naheola Credit Union. She stressed that the credit union would absorb all costs for setting up and operating the facility as well as safety features. All DHS would need to provide is the space.

To that Gandy added that principal Blaine Hathcock already has designated an area that can be used.

Board members and Supt. Kyle Kallhoff asked several questions about how the course would be conducted. No action was taken.

The board honored seven retirees who have contributed 168.5 combined years in the Demopolis school system.

Retirees attending the meeting were Lori Giles, 29 years; Paula Bond, 11; Tammy Spruell, 30, and Katie Poole, 11. Not in attendance were Julie Lee, 28.5 years; Cynthia Whitlock, 25, and Poncho Robinson, 30.

In other personnel matters, the board approved the following:

  • Conditional employment: Robert Wilkerson, DHS history; Matthew Mellown, DHS special education; Lindsey Thorne, Crystal Freeman and Nicholas Seymore, Westside Elementary; Clint Humphrey, DHS paraprofessional, and Kristina Kallhoff, U.S. Jones Elementary.
  • Resignation: Elaine Calvin, USJ; Brittany Dunson, DHS physical education; Ashley Allen, Demopolis Middle School business and marketing; Lincoln Luker, WES physical education, and Andrew Luker, DHS history teacher.
  • Tamyla James was granted a substitute teacher license.
  • William Jackson, WES lunchroom worker, will be employed as a temporary custodian throughout the summer.

In the only other action, the board approved a contract with Michael Randall to provide ground maintenance to all campuses.

The board next will meet on Thursday, June 1, from 2-4 p.m. for a work session.

End of year actions occupy Monday BOE meeting

End-of-year actions took up most of the Demopolis City Board of Education meeting Monday, including personnel matters and summer construction work.

Charles Jones Construction received the bid for concrete and awning work at Demopolis Middle and U.S. Jones Elementary schools for a total of $57,694.39. This is the second phase of capital improvements started last year.

The work at DMS will include installing a sidewalk and awning from the east side of the building to Cherry Street for $30,308.49, and repairing a sidewalk and installing an awning on the west side of USJ parallel with South Front Avenue, for a cost of $27,385.90.

Also approved was a contract with Interquest Detection Canines for drug searches at DMS and Demopolis High at $600 per visit. Supt. Kyle Kallhoff said four searches are planned for the next school year.

The board accepted the state audit of the school system’s finances for Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015, given by Cindy Wilson with the Department of Public Accounts.

The board eliminated two positions in the school system: the physical education paraprofessional at DHS and the gifted paraprofessional.

The board accepted the personnel report, which included:

  • Conditional Employment: Adam Brown as DMS band director and assistant director at DHS; Lisa Lindy as Media Specialist at DHS, and Pam Morrison as Central Office secretary.
  • Resignations: Jessica Dial, Central Office secretary; Logan Colvin, DHS history teacher; Herbert Rice, DMS history teacher, and Carly Mosley, DMS English teacher.
  • Transfers: Charlotte Anne Johnson, from Special Education teacher at DHS to USJ; Amanda Smith, from math teacher at DHS to DMS; Emily Low, PE paraprofessional at DHS to WES; Carrie Goodman, DMS math teacher to DHS, and Meggin Mayben, DMS history/broadcasting teacher to history teacher at DHS.
  • Andrea Johnson, WES first grade teacher, is being reassigned to Library/Media Specialist at WES.

In other action, the board approved:

  • Disposal of used equipment that cannot be repaired
  • Bidding on a used school bus
  • Out-of-state field trip for qualified DHS students to attend the national FBLA convention in Anaheim, Calif., June 27-July 3.

The board will have a called meeting Monday, May 22, at 4 p.m. and its mandatory Whole Board Training is scheduled for June 1 from 2-4 p.m.

Marengo County Commission moves voting locations, discusses bereavement leave

Personnel issues took center stage at the Marengo County Commission meeting Tuesday. Commissioners updated the personnel policy on bereavement leave and voted on life insurance coverage for both current and retired employees.

In the current personnel policy, employees are expected to take bereavement leave out of their sick or vacation times. Probate Judge Laurie Hall said other counties have separate bereavement leave policies when a member of an employee’s immediate family dies.

After a lengthy discussion, Commissioner Jason Windham moved to allow employees two days of paid bereavement leave. If any more is needed, it will be taken from sick or vacation days.

If an employee doesn’t have sufficient vacation or sick days, the county will loan him the leave until sufficient time is accumulated.

Commissioner Freddie Armstead added a bit of levity to the discussion when he said, “Let me tell you something. Black folks, you die and they lay them out and bury them the next week. White folks you die and they bury you tomorrow.”

The Commission unanimously voted to accept the first of three proposed life insurance policies provided by Minnesota Life Insurance, effective for three years.

The proposal would cost both current and retired employees $18.96 per year, with the county matching the amount. The 31 current county retirees would receive $4,500 in life insurance, and employees, $10,000.

Commissioners rejected the plan that each employee would pay $78.36 per year with the county’s cost greatly reduced or a third option based on age.

In other action, the Commission:

Approved a letter of support for West Alabama Public Transportation.

  • Voted for a Hazard Mitigation Grant Resolution for Thomaston which is planning a community safe room.
  • Approved a resolution changing the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday from August to July in conjunction with state action.
  • Heard Judge Hall’s report on the changing of election dates for the U.S. Senate. The first primary will be Aug. 15, with a runoff Sept. 22, if needed. The general election will be Dec. 12.

After an executive session, commissioners voted to relocate the Taylor voting location to Thomaston, the Putnam site from the Old Store to the Putnam Baptist Church, the Nanafalia site from the Old School to the Nanafalia Baptist Church and the Aimwell site from the Aimwell Baptist Church to Sweet Water Town Hall.

The Commission also voted to allow Frazer Lanier to explore the option of refinancing the county’s current bond issue and look into a new bond issue to support Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital in Demopolis.

Demopolis Singers offer history of Demopolis in White Bluffs Pageant

For 200 years the people who have called Demopolis home have looked over the white bluffs of the Tombigbee River.

To celebrate the history of the city, the Demopolis Singers will present a spring concert of narration, music and photographs highlighting different eras its past.

The White Bluffs Pageant will be held Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. and Monday, May 1, at 7 p.m. in the First Baptist Church. There is no admission to the concert, which was made possible through a donation by the Alabama Power Greene County Steam Plant.

Directed by Ed Rush, the pageant will touch on events in Demopolis history, from the first Native Americans who lived along the river, to the French exiles who tried to start a vine and olive colony, the German Jews who settled in the rough frontier town, slavery and the Civil War, the Rooster Auction, the Depression, World War II, Civil Rights and the 21st Century.

Narrators dressed in period costumes will introduce each section, and the Singers, soloists and musicians will perform songs honoring the era.

As the pageant unfolds, photos of Demopolis and its people will be displayed in a photo montage prepared by Tim Hall. Janelle Baker is the accompanist for the Singers. Other musicians will join her for instrumental compositions.

Narrators dressed in the garb of the time include Bill Baker, Christopher Hoven, Sandra Booen, Jan McDonald, Jaclyn Figeroa, Brian Tripp, Lee Jordan, Tommy Carr, Ann Taylor Wood and Alex Williams. Soloists are Tristan Mullens and McDonald.

County commission learns of new regional drug task force

Brian Forester

Marengo County will be the administrative host for a new regional drug task force that will encompass not only the 17th Judicial Circuit but Tuscaloosa County and the 4th Judicial Circuit.

Dist. Atty. Greg Griggers asked the county commission to take on the position since, thanks to administrative assistant Meredith Hammond and her staff, the county always has had impeccable record keeping. In addition, his staff appreciated the commission’s willingness to serve as the 17th Judicial Circuit host without receiving anything in return.

Taking on the larger role of administrative host for the regional agency would be beneficial not only for law enforcement agencies but for Marengo County as well, said Brian Forester with ADECA. Recent drastic cuts in agency budgets led to the formation of seven drug enforcement regions in the state, which means more resources will be directed into each region.

Most of the drug enforcement agencies already have close ties with each other. The regional force system being set up across the state would allow them to pursue larger projects, Griggers said.

Forester added that officers now based in their home region would remain there but would be able to cross lines and provide assistance where needed.

The county would benefit from the new arrangement by receiving funds for the time expended on the necessary paperwork.

“I don’t see any negatives,” said Russell Morrison with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. He and two others work Tuscaloosa County, but his duties often require him to be out of the area. With this new arrangement, he would have eight other officers to help.

The regional drug task force system is on a one-year “trial” basis.

“We’re taking on a lot more work,” said Morrison.

The commission directed attorney W.W. Dinning Jr. to draft a petition for landowners along County Road 33 to approve vacating the dirt part of the road known as Sally’s Hill. No action can be taken until all those who own land along the stretch of road sign the petition.

In other action, the commission approved:

  • The reappointment of Curtis King to the South Marengo County Water and Fire Protection Authority Board.
  • Sponsoring the Summer Feeding Program.
  • The bid of $14,500 from Demopolis Delivery Service to provide the Summer Feeding Program.
  • The bid of $14,548.56 from Ozark Striping for work on five roads recently leveled and resurfaced. They are County Roads 54, 36, 21, 7 and Arcola Road.
  • Hiring Mitchell Gilbert for the county Road Department.
  • The appointment of John Scott as county coroner.

Rooster Day comes to town Saturday

Something for everyone is the goal of Rooster Day April 8, and organizers have lined up a park full of events for the whole family.

Beginning with a Cock’s Crow 5K race at 8 a.m. over a new course, activities for the second annual Rooster Day will be centered in the Public Square in historic downtown Demopolis.

Rooster Day commemorates the infamous Rooster Auction held in Demopolis in 1919 to build a bridge across the Tombigbee River between Marengo and Sumter counties completing a highway linking Savannah, Ga., and San Diego, Calif. That road is not U.S. Highway 80.

The Marengo County Historical Society is sponsoring Rooster Day with proceeds going toward the upkeep of the society’s historic homes and toward the its activities during the year.

Col. Bridges, the 20-foot rooster that joined the festivities this year, will be looking over the park as craftsmen, artisans, food vendors, entertainment and “Coop Games” for children get underway.

Booths will have woodworking, pottery, recycled and vintage jewelry, soaps, leather goods, oil and watercolor paintings and glass works. Area crafters and artists representing all parts of Alabama as well as Mississippi and Florida are expected to offer their wares.

Entertainment on the stage will feature a comedian, an Elvis impersonator, singers, dancers and musicians and even a chicken calling contest.

A petting zoo will highlight the children’s section of the festival. Kids also can take part in games and crafts that even adults will enjoy.

Surrounding the square will be local restaurants and organizations offering a range of food items from tamales to hot dogs.

Activities in the park conclude at 4 p.m. Rooster Day will end with a silent and live auction at Lyon Hall beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to the auction are $15 and can be purchased at the door.

For more information on Rooster Day and the lineup of activities, visit www.roosterdaydemopolis.com.

Demopolis in Bloom celebrates six years

From left, Barbara Blevins, Sheryl Cunningham, Amy McGee and Mike Randall. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Transformed into a spring garden, the Demopolis Civic Center Thursday was the setting for the celebration of the sixth year of Demopolis in Bloom.

“Tonight is a big celebration of who we are,” said Kirk Brooker, emcee for the event.

In giving a brief background of Demopolis in Bloom, Brooker said the city started a concentration on for beautification when Barbara Blevins became the head of the horticulture department. She got the city involved in America in Bloom which came to the city “to judge us,” Brooker said. “We actually did really well, and each year we did a little better,” even getting some national awards.

“Barbara took it and grew it into Demopolis in Bloom,” he continued, “We’re here because of what you’ve done,” he told the audience, “your volunteer hours, keeping your grass cut, keeping your yard looking good, keeping your business, doing the extra effort to make where we live look good.”

Volunteers, homeowners, businesses and sponsors received recognition for their efforts to make Demopolis beautiful. The 25 volunteer organizations were surprised with gifts of live trees donated by Green Valley Farms of Montevallo.

A water wall set under a pergola formed the focal point on the Civic Center stage. It was there Demopolis in Bloom earlier in the day held a workshop for gardeners on plants that do well in the Demopolis area, growing a cutting garden and turf building.

Photos of volunteers at work and the results of their efforts played on a large screen. Demopolis City Councilmen handed out certificates to each of the Demopolis in Bloom recipients in their district.

Candace Dorriety, executive director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, and John Scales, a member of the Demopolis in Bloom committee, conducted door prize drawings throughout the program.

Guests also visited the displays set up by more than 20 local vendors in the lobby of the Civic Center.

Volunteers recognized were the BWWMH Auxiliary, Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, First United Methodist Church Children’s Ministry, Pilot Club, 17th Judicial Circuit Court/Livingston, West Alabama Watchman, Woody Dinner Jr., Kiwanis Club, Cemetery Board.

Also, Beautification Committee, DHS Football, DHS Baseball, DHS Community Endorsement Program, Advanced Disposal, Rowley recycling, Collins Communications, U.S. Corps of Engineers, WestRock, Boy Scout Troop 41, Cemex, Greene County Steam Plant, Rotary Club, Alabama Power, Demopolis Food Pantry, Lions Club.

Demopolis in Bloom recipients were:

  • District 1: Lisa Compton, Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Dial, Alabama Power, Robertson Bank Downtown, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Wallace, Teresa Monroe, Theo Ratliff Center, Willie Kennedy, Stay & Play Nursery.
  • District 2: Spiller Furniture, Mrs. Johnny Scott, Thelma Williams.
  • District 3: First South Farm Credit, Patsy Akins, Sonic
  • District 4: Mr. and Mrs. David Turner, James Nelson, Larry Stratton, Richard McDonald and Gerald Gilbert; Jennifer Overstreet and Ellen Hardy.
  • District 5: Demopolis Animal Control, Rex Flowers, and Mr. and Mrs. Billy Traeger, Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Pickle and Mr. and Mrs. Elliot.

Demopolis Rooster Day to end with evening auction

“And the next item up for bid…”

The words used may not be those exactly, but bidders will hear something similar as they gather at Lyon Hall the evening of April 8 to conclude the second annual Rooster Day.

The event began last year to commemorate the infamous Rooster Auction held in Demopolis in 1917 to raise money to build a bridge between Sumter and Marengo counties. The bridge was the last gap in the Dixie Overland Highway stretching from Savannah, Ga., to San Diego, Calif., now U.S. Highway 80.

The modern celebration is a fund-raiser for the Marengo County Historical Society to help pay for the upkeep of its two historic homes and sponsor events throughout the year.

Lyon Hall, one of the two homes, will be the site for both a silent and a live auction with scores of items to tempt bidders. Admission to the event is $15, and heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for guests to gather. Bidding on silent auction donations by individuals and businesses in the community will be from 7-8 p.m.

Among them are a case of wine, wool area rugs, a handmade rustic barnwood mini bar, a farmhouse table, chalk-painting party for up to 10 people, coolers, local services, and assorted rooster-themed items such as a stained-glass sun catcher, planter and hand-carved cutting boards.

After the winners of the silent auction are announced, the live auction kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Several hunting trips are up for bid. Sportsmen can choose from trips that offer deer, hogs, turkeys or quail. Skeet shooting lessons for six also will be offered.

For those who prefer more quiet pursuits, the auction has a stay at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, a Gulf Shores condo, painting class for 16 with cupcakes included, a catered party and a dinner at Sherrod Forest. A hand-crafted desk is yet another exclusive item offered to bidders.

This year those who cannot be on hand to bid for items in person may place their bids on line. Information on how to take part in distance bidding can be found at www.roosterdaydemopolis.com.

Once the bidding is over, guests can enjoy listening and dancing to the music of the Rexton Lee Band, an Alabama country/party band from Alexander City, as is performs on the Foster Farms Fowl Play Stage.

New Demopolis football coach addresses Rotarians

Demopolis football fans will have to learn to keep up with Coach Brian Seymore’s rapid-fire speech.

In a talk before the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday, the new DHS football coach reintroduced himself to Demopolis – he served as an assistant under Coach Tom Causey for a year – but also told stories of his wife and three children, explained the core values he stresses for his players, told how he plans to ready the team for stiff competition and shared some of his strategies.

He also asked for help.

“Somebody find me a kicker,” he pleaded.

Seymore spent the 2007 season as the defensive coordinator of the Tigers before leaving to become the head coach at Andalusia for seven seasons. He has spent the last two seasons leading the Class 7A Mary Montgomery program in Mobile where he began the process of building up a “rock bottom” program.

It was his mentor and friend Causey who encouraged him to apply for the DHS job when it opened, and he and his family welcomed the idea of returning to Demopolis.

“I understand what people expect,” he told Rotarians.

Growing up in Sumter County, Seymore said he always wanted to study beyond the high school level. He enjoyed playing sports under excellent coaches, but his father, who was also a coach, discouraged him from following in his footsteps because of the pressure on family life.

Seymore, who went on to get an undergraduate degree from Auburn and his master’s from UWA agrees, but his wife Nicholas provides a strong foundation for him and their children: daughter Mary Taylor, a ninth grader; son Drew, in the seventh, and fourth-grade daughter, Maggie.

“I’ll be happy when everybody gets here,” he said. “They’ll be a big part of what I do here.”

The Tigers face a tough schedule this fall, “which it should be,” Seymore said. The new coach has definite plans to bring in new assistants and evaluate those that already are here.

“Every good program has a solid weight program,” he continued, and he will be stressing strength work especially for hips and core. He also will be pushing the team mentally to play through fatigue. “The fourth quarter is where you lose football games,” he explained.

Seymore shared the five core values he has posted in the weight room.

First, “You’ve got to earn everything,” he said. “I want our kids to be proud of what we’ve got.”

“Project positive energy” is the second value, he continued. “I come in every day. I’m jacked up,” and he wants his players to be just as positive as he.

Third, “Be honest and use good judgment,” he said. He told members that the first day on the job a student lied to him. That student is no longer with the program.

He also encourages his team to “compete daily.” Seymore is not a coach who believes in giving a trophy simply for participating. “Someone’s trying to beat you every day,” he shares with the players.

The fifth core value is to “Live up to the expectations.” DHS always has been in the top 10. “That’s awesome. That’s the expectation I have for myself,” and he expects every student to act like they are members of a top 5A program.

As for his playing philosophy, “We’ll spread it out a little bit,” he hinted. “We want to be physical.”

He plans on drilling the team on different options to be ready for any opportunity.

As for defense, “We’ll change depending on who we play,” said the coach.

“We’re going to take a lot of chances,” including fake punts or on-side kicks that his team was known for in Mobile.

He also added that no player is assured of a position. “At spring training everything’s up for grabs.”

Spring practice begins May 3, and the team has a Spring Jamboree game against Northridge on May 19.

There’s a new rooster in town

Shown with Col. Bridges are (from left) John Scales, Sheryl Cunningham, Barbara Blevins, Woody Collins, Rachel Walker and Lane Averett. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

When the big bird appeared on the scene, he caused a lot of open-mouthed stares, a grin or two and some outright chuckles.

The 22-foot rooster quickly has become one of the most photographed sights in Demopolis, with families posing children in front of him and friends posting his picture on social media.

Located at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 80 E and South Cedar Street, the rooster is the latest symbol of Rooster Day. The second annual event celebrating the infamous Rooster Auction in 1919 will be held April 8 in the Public Square.

The notion for the two-story bird began shortly after the inaugural Rooster Day in 2016. John Scales first thought of a large display, and he and Woody Collins knocked around some ideas.

At first they envisioned a lighted rooster on a metal frame, but when they consulted Barbara Blevins, director of the Demopolis Horticulture Department, “she told us what we needed to build,” said Scales.

Blevins, Collins and Scales became friends when the two men served on the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce board and often worked with Blevins. Whenever the Chamber needed something, she would come up with the solution. In exchange, Collins Communications provides the sound system at no charge to various city functions.

After the rooster was designed came the fun of building it.

Rachel Walker, who has worked with Blevins for about six months, said creating the bird was more “play by ear” that any structured plan.

Blevins and her crew salvaged materials to make the framework from old Christmas light pole decorations that had been damaged. The only item that had to be purchased – with Collins’ help – was threaded pipe.

The frame is covered with Dacron used to repair airplane wings. Blevins said she had some left over from decorations used during Christmas on the River. Landscape fabric forms the tail that ruffles in the wind, a project Walker did whenever she had time.

Construction took about two months with all of Blevins’ crew lending a hand during lunch breaks or after hours.

The biggest challenge was mounting the rooster on the flatbed trailer. The crew discovered that, as originally constructed, the bird was too tall to transport. It wouldn’t fit under utility lines that crossed the streets. The rooster’s feet had to be sacrificed. Even with no feet, it still took some effort to get the unwieldy fowl into place.

To keep the structure stable, the legs are set over 10-foot pipes mounted on the trailer, and then it is held in place with guy wires.

From the time the rooster went up people have talked about it.

There have been a lot of good comments, said Blevins.

“I have not heard anything but complements,” added Collins.

The Rooster Day Committee held a name-the-rooster contest, and it drew 71 entries. On March 8 the tall bird officially became known as Col. “Cold Cock” Bridges.

Col. Bridges will travel to the Public Square for Rooster Day to add even more fun to the day’s activities.