State Attorney General addresses Demopolis Rotary

Mayor John Laney, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese.

Alabama ranks No. 1 in the country for the number of prescriptions written per capita for opioids state Attorney General Steve Marshall told the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday.

Opioid use is one of the most pressing issues facing the nation today, he said. Some 147 people die daily from opioid overdose, more fatalities in three weeks than died in the 9/11 disaster.

Marshall said he is among those appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to a task force to determine what actions can be taken to stem the use of addictive prescription drugs, what he said is more a public health issue than one of law enforcement. He is firmly convinced of the need to actively take steps to solve the problem rather than just talking and studying the issue.

He referred to previous success in curtailing meth labs in the state. Because of steps taken, the number of meth labs plummeted 90 percent in just five years.

Law enforcement officers are becoming mental health professionals today, Marshall continued, and jails are more often than not turned into detox facilities. He said the country has to get over the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Marshall to become Alabama’s attorney general to finish out the term vacated by Luther Strange, the former AG, who Bentley appointed to the U.S. Senate. Marshall said he already had been planning to run for the post and is expected to campaign for the job in the next regular election.

The attorney general post is the last state elected job he will strive for, he promised. “I don’t want to be your governor. I don’t want to be your senator,” he told Rotarians.

When he took the AG post, Marshall asked people what they expected of him.

“Don’t embarrass us,” was the response he got most, which he said was very sad.

“We should be held to a higher standard,” he stated.

Calling himself a storyteller, Marshall related three cases he tried in which he learned lessons that have stayed with him since his start in Marshall County. The first concerned a young woman who was an addict and drug dealer murdered by an irate client. While the prevailing attitude was that the community was better off with one less dealer, Marshall treated her case the same as any other, and the murderer received a 108-year sentence.

The woman’s mother said her daughter had made some bad mistakes in her life, but her murder “took away her chance to change.”

Through his actions, he said, the community began to see law enforcement in a new way. Distrustful residents began to cooperate with police officers. “We saw a safer place.”

The second case saw Marshall prosecuting a respected police officer who offered to make tickets or arrests disappear if certain women he cited would do him a favor. His accusers were a stripper, drug addict, thief and body piercer, none of whom ordinarily would gain sympathy from a jury.

“I have a responsibility to enforce the law,” said Marshall. “I did the right thing for the right reason,” and the officer is serving jail time.

Every day we get to change lives, he said, as he told a third story. A 12-year-old girl testified against her step-grandfather for sexual abuse, which he denied. After the man’s conviction, the young girl looked into Marshall’s eyes for the first time and thanked him for believing in her when no one else would.

Among those attending the Rotary meeting were three Demopolis police officers, including Marshall’s good friend Chief Tommie Reese. When Marshall was asked if law enforcement is as well respected around the state as the officers are in Demopolis, the AG said, “I don’t know of anyone more respected than Tommie Reese.”

Smaller communities have a kinship that can be lacking in larger cities, Marshall continued, and added he is willing “to work with those who are willing to risk their lives for total strangers.”

Nominations sought for COTR St. Nicholas

He could be your next-door neighbor or your baseball coach. She could be your Sunday School teacher or your Girl Scout Leader. Who are we talking about? The 2017 St. Nicholas is a Demopolis resident who best portrays the spirit of Christamas all year long by being involved in the development of the lives of children in our community. This person is someone who has made a positive impact on your life or the lives of your children. He or she is someone who brightens your day when you see them or goes the extra mile when you need a little boost. This person is drawn to children and children are drawn to them. He or she seeks ways to help, teach, guide or lead children to become the best version of themselves. Who comes to mind when you think of the next St. Nicholas?

The Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and the Christmas on the River Committee are seeking nominations for this year’s 2017 St. Nicholas. There is no greater compliment than for someone to sit down and write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. All of us know someone who has made a difference in our community and the lives of the children in our area. Take a few minutes and write a letter of recommendation of behalf of someone who has made a lasting impression on you.

Nominations must be submitted in written form and received by the Chamber of Commerce no later than November 17, 2017. Remember to sign your letter. Without a signature we cannot accept your nomination. You may send your letter to PO Box 667, Demopolis, AL 36732; drop off at the Chamber at 102 E. Washington St; or email your nomination to director@demopolischamber.com.

The crowning of St. Nicholas even will be held on Thursday November 30th in the Public Square, Downtown Demopolis at 6:00pm.

For more information, contact the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at 334-289-0270.

UMW Bazaar kicks off Christmas Season Nov. 8

Eleanor Park shows an afghan made by Jackie Brooker that will be given away at the Bazaar. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

For more than 60 years the women of the First United Methodist Church of Demopolis have unofficially started the Christmas season in the city with their annual bazaar.

It is time again for the UMW Bazaar, an event that is anticipated—and worked on—throughout the year.

The bazaar will be held Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the Methodist Church education building, and all the favorites will be back: baked goods, Attic Treasures, silent auction, handmade gifts and, of course, the luncheon featuring the traditional chicken salad plate.

Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the luncheon will be served beginning at 11 a.m.

UMC Demopolis to hold open house Thursday

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

LHS celebrates homecoming (gallery)

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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.”

DCSF awards $38,000 in classroom grants

Every year, hundreds of private donors and businesses in West Alabama give to the Demopolis City Schools Foundation to invest in public education excellence. This year is no exception, and through those generous gifts and investments, the Demopolis City Schools Foundation has been able to award classroom grants totaling more than $1.2 million since 1993.

For fall 2017, the 33-member board of the Demopolis City Schools Foundation is excited to announce that $38,000 in classroom grants will be awarded. These grants will be put to immediate use at ALL schools in the Demopolis City School System – Westside Elementary, US Jones Elementary, Demopolis Middle School and Demopolis High School.

“Our grants this year really exemplify our strategic approach to grant making within the school system. We will always continue to fund unique teacher ideas, giving them an opportunity to test ideas.  Susan Browder’s grant for math manipulatives is a good example of this type of grant,” explained Paul Miller, the Chairman of the Grants Committee.

“But we also want to focus on three strategic areas – Collaboration, Continuity and Equity.  Deborah McAfee and Kim Browder’s grants for Chromebooks for the history departments at the middle and high school are great examples of a collaboration grant – both of them are working with other teachers to share resources and ideas.  Carly Turner’s grant at the middle school ensures Continuity with the computer programing and coding education that began last year at US Jones.  Amanda Smith’s grant to provide scientific calculators to every class at the middle school is a great example of Equity – no matter what math teacher your child has, they will have access to the same technology in the classroom.”

“We had grant requests of over $111,000 this year and the committee had to make some hard choices about what projects to move forward.  I want to thank our donors who trust the Foundation each year to research, evaluate, and invest in these grants to make the biggest impact on all of our children’s futures,” concluded Amanda Barnes, Executive Director of the Foundation.  For more information about how you can donate to the Demopolis City Schools Foundation, visit www.demopolis.org.

2017 Fall Classroom Grants – $38,000

Demopolis High School

$2,000 to Lisa Lawrence for the DHS library

$2,500 to Demetrius Scott as a challenge grant to refurbish instruments for the River City Blue Marching Band

$7,000 to Kim Browder for a classroom sets of Chromebooks for the history department

Demopolis Middle School

$5,831.75 to Carly Turner for robots and iPads to support the vertical alignment of coding between US Jones and DMS

$798 to Julie Foster for to begin a middle school scholars’ bowl team

$1,903.77 to Susan Browder for manipulatives and resources for her sixth grade classroom to have a hands-on experience mastering math skills

$2,031.56 to Amanda Smith for scientific calculators for every math classroom at DMS

$2,000 to Ginger Godwin to increase the middle school library’s collection of books

$7,000 to Deborah McAfee for a set of Chromebooks to use across the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade history department

US Jones Elementary School

$2,628 to Dana Hill for SPHERO robots to discover how simple programming can solve daily problems

$2,000 to Emily Windham to purchase books and an ebook subscription service for the school library

$599.10 to Jami Webb for fidget seats and fidget bands for student desks

Westside Elementary School

$2,000 to Andrea Johnson for fiction and information library books to enrich our library collection.

Demopolis will host 2019 Southwest Regional Baseball Tournament

Commissioner Joe Featherston of Babe Ruth Baseball, Inc., has awarded Demopolis Youth Baseball as the host league for the 2019 Babe Ruth 13-15 Southwest Regional Baseball Tournament. The tournament will take place at the Demopolis Sportsplex in late July 2019. Exact dates have yet to be announced.

“Our Sportsplex is an ideal site for tournaments such as this one, but that’s just the first step. For Commissioner Featherston to commit and honor us with this selection is a leap of faith that our city, our county and our many volunteers will rise to this new challenge,” Art Evans, Alabama District 10 Commissioner, said. “Fortunately, our outstanding tradition as tournament hosts in years’ past weighed favorably on his decision.”

Since 2006, Demopolis Youth Baseball has hosted eight state tournaments and two regional tournaments for its Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken leagues, each of which have had a positive impact on the local economy. It is anticipated that the 2019 Southwest Regional will bring seven teams from leagues in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi, in addition to the host team from West Alabama, and will be played over five days.

“I want to thank Commissioner Featherston for the honor of hosting the 2019 Southwest Regional.  On behalf of our Board and staff, we accept the challenge and look forward to providing facilities worthy of this event,” Walker Reynolds, Director of the Demopolis Parks and Recreation Department, said.

“I want to commend the Demopolis Youth Baseball Board and the Demopolis Parks and Recreation Board for their efforts in recruiting the 2019 Southwest Regional, and I want to thank Commissioner Featherston for placing his trust in us to host this event,” Demopolis Mayor John Laney said. “Since becoming mayor, I’ve emphasized the City’s willingness to host more events at our beautiful Sportsplex, acknowledging that it takes many years to build the relationships, reputation and trust necessary to be named a host.  This award is just another validation of the work that Walker Reynolds and his staff does at our Sportsplex, and a testament to the dedication of our many volunteers that have made our prior tournaments successful.”

Demopolis Youth Baseball, Inc., is a volunteer, 501(c)3 organization that provides the Demopolis-area youth with opportunities to play the game of baseball.  For more information, please contact our website at www.demopolisyouthbaseball.com.

Information on the Southwest Region of Babe Ruth Baseball, Inc., can be found at www.brlswregion.com.

Information on Babe Ruth Baseball, Inc., can be found at www.baberuthleague.org.