Letter to the Editor: DCS superintendent thanks community

It is challenging to describe the amount of support the citizens of Demopolis have for their public school system. If it is a Friday night football game or Tuesday morning Christmas program, you will have parents and grandparents show up in bulk to support the students of the Demopolis City School System.

This overwhelming support was magnified on December 12th when the voters of Demopolis were asked to renew a 3 mill property tax that is earmarked specifically for the public school system in Demopolis. This property tax vote passed with a 76% approval.

The 5 person appointed board of education (Conrad Murdock, Carolyn Moore, Jim Stanford, Olen Kirby, and Floy Mayberry) would like to offer a huge thank you to the voting citizens for making it a point to vote in favor of this tax continuation.  On behalf of the school administrators, teachers, and staff, we too thank you for trusting us as good stewards with your hard earned money, but more importantly we thank you for giving us an opportunity to teach your children every day.

 

Kyle Kallhoff, Superintendent of Education

Demopolis City School System

Tears and Laughter: What makes a good day good? 

We tell people all of the time to “have a good day.” I tend say have an “easy” day. Some people carry it so far as to say “have a great day,” but…I guess that is where I draw the line.  

It is a positive practice to be grateful for all days. Relish every hour you can because it’s all so very temporary, but even with the mindset of gratitude – not all days are great. 

With any luck and careful planning, most days are good. But some will be bad. Some will be awful. Some…you will literally just have to survive. You just have to live through them. 

It is often the bad days that help us recognize the goodness in ordinary days. If you are relatively healthy, not grieving the loss of anyone, and nobody close to you is in pain or suffering – it’s the start of a good day. Time teaches that to everyone. 

And sometimes, when you aren’t planning it and when you are least expecting it, a really great day happens. 

I had one of those days Monday. 

Once a year, for just over 20 years now, a couple of friends and I go Christmas shopping. We pick a city and a date, and we plan the thing all year. We send each other reminders for months in advance and do a countdown waiting for it to arrive.  

On that day, we always leave earlier than any of us are used to functioning, so nobody has enough coffee, sleep, or mascara. That is part of the fun, and so is the drive. We claim we have shopped the full radius around us, including so far south we could practically see saltwater.  

This year it was narrowed down to the Galleria, or Prattville. After much deliberation, Prattville won out because it is closer and we can take backroads the entire way. 

So Monday by noon we had blown through several stores, a flea market, and a few sips of Sangria. It had been so cold at the flea market that two of us began to experience the first stages of hyperthermia. There were still patches of snow everywhere. Our other friend said she would normally have been cold too, but due to hot flashes, she was comfortable. We had walked through old memories and talked our way back again. 

It was at one of our last stops for the day. The afternoon was ticking too quickly along, and I was making final decisions at the jewelry counter when out of nowhere a familiar voice behind me said, “Hey, your mom is in here somewhere.” 

It was my stepdad and he was motioning towards where she was when I saw her. She was just standing there, her back was to me. Sunlight was pouring through the overhead windows around her. 

They live far on the east side of Montgomery. It is not unusual for us to have our own day together, especially now that she is retired and my kids are older. But it was unusual for us to meet in such an unexpected way and place. It struck me later how lucky I was to have had such a simple experience.  

That was my final thought that night after the day was done and the trip complete. Not all days are great and are ever perfect. But every once in a while, like snow in South Alabama, they happen…and those are the ones we treasure forever.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: There is something about a small town Christmas parade 

The Thomasville Christmas parade was this week. We went. We almost always do. It’s tradition. We will go and stand in the middle of a closed-off Wilson Avenue with people we will recognize and know but haven’t seen in years.  

Together we will wait for the heavily adorned floats and firetrucks. Trinkets and beads and candy will rain down around us. We will feel the drums from the approaching marching bands. It all moves quickly forward, yet I like many, drift back in time. 

The sidewalks are very familiar to me in downtown Thomasville. They serve as a portal to what used to be. Part of the parade route was the way I walked every afternoon when I was in elementary school. I would walk downtown to where my dad’s truck would be parked at the old city hall on Wilson Avenue. He would get off from work with the city at 3:30. 

Every day there would be several of us walking together when we left the school, but before we made it to the bank at the corner of Alabama Avenue, everyone would have scattered, turning off on the streets they lived on. 

Sometimes, if I had saved enough break money, I would stop by Spink’s Drugstore and buy pretzels. Other times I would walk on down to the Dollar General and speak to Ms. Kat, the manager. It was still on West Front Street back then, diagonally across from Zeke’s Service Station. 

I used to love being downtown during Christmastime, especially on cloudy days. I’m sure it was just the colorful lights and the reflecting tinsel, but I always thought the spirit seemed especially bright when it was cloudy. I still tend to feel that way. 

For a game, we would try and avoid the cracks in the sidewalks. Over time, the repetition committed to memory the cracks, the streets, the houses, buildings, and storefronts. We knew the shortcuts, which buildings to cut behind to come out where we needed to be.  

The Christmas Parade used to be on a Thursday afternoon, shortly after school was out. That day, was the only day the sidewalks would be brimming with people. Everybody’s mama would be there, some of them trying to keep the little brothers and sisters we never saw while we were in school out of the street. 

Several dads would be helping drive the floats and keep everything and everyone moving forward in an orderly fashion. Grandparents would be there too, including my own from both sides of the family.  

I can’t remember when the parade moved from Thursday afternoon to Saturday before evolving into an evening event that includes a downtown stroll. It has been a nice change. It allows for more mingling…and shopping at downtown businesses. 

But every year, when we all line up shoulder-to-shoulder on Wilson Avenue waiting, it’s just like they are there again. At moments, their energy feels as strong as the beat of the drums in the band. 

I guess that is why most all small towns have a Christmas parade. They allow for memories and feelings and festive walks back down the sidewalks of time.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: What Wilcox County can learn from the allegations against Roy Moore 

Well, I for one completely underestimated Roy Moore. I mean, I figured once he was elected Senator that he would keep Alabama in the headlines and popular with the late-night comedy circuit, but I never imagined it would begin so soon. 

I’m still not sure what to make of Brother Roy with his cowboy hat and his little .22 short he seems to like to showoff, riding to the polls on his horse…it was all a bit much for me, but I’m a fairly conservative girl. And honestly, I was put off by the Ten Commandment saga years ago. I’ve always been a Christian. I love Jesus. But Moses was able to carry the first copy of the Ten Commandments down the mountain. Roy Moore’s monument weighed over two tons. There may have potentially been a hint of overcompensation. He had it installed during the dark of night. A Christian television ministry videoed the entire event, but he failed to mention it to any of the eight associated justices. 

It all came down to the August deadline, and by late August it is very hot in downtown Montgomery – but there were men laid out on the hot asphalt in protest wearing suits and ties. Other men were up praying, women were standing around holding signs and sweating and fanning. Many of them had their children with them to witness this huge spectacle. 

I was watching from my kitchen on a TV on top of my refrigerator, and I just remember thinking how Chief Justice Moore was not being asked to destroy the monument. Nobody was telling him he had to go sink it in the river. There were no requests to make the words on it null and void. He was simply ordered by a federal judge to move it out of the state Supreme Court Building because it endorses religion in a government establishment which is not permissible. 

The monument now rests in a hallway of The Church at Wills Creek for the residents of Gadsden to visit and appreciate. Time will tell how the people of Alabama will judge the Judge in this most recent controversy involving allegations of inappropriate contact with underage girls back in the 70’s. But there is a lesson in this for Wilcox County. 

When the Washington Post article was first published there were immediate calls for Roy Moore to step down. Maybe some of the calls were too quick because there, of course, should be some form of investigation rather than a rush to judgment – especially taking into account the concerns of some regarding timing and the current political climate. Roy Moore continues to say he has no plans to quit. He claims he is an innocent man, and that he will be suing all of the women involved, including the latest who he denies even knowing.  

The calls for him to disqualify himself came because anyone who has had sexual involvement on any level with an underage girl is disqualified from serving in public office. In other words, if the chairman of your county commission was a teacher who had a relationship with a student – and after an investigation, his teaching certificate was revoked and he was fired – that simultaneously disqualified him to hold public office, even if his name stayed on the ballot. 

That kind of behavior says a lot about a man. It says a lot about the men who serve alongside him too. Their prior knowledge, their acceptance, and their silence speak for them. Only weak people follow a disqualified leader. Strong ones demand accountability. 

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

BLACK WARRIOR BOARD MEMBER: Dispelling misnomers about BWEMC

As a member of your board of trustees, I want to make sure all Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation members know the facts about Black Warrior’s upcoming Annual Meeting and board election. Over the past two months, Black Warrior Electric has taken a number of steps to provide factual information to members explaining the process of electing board members.

These steps included mailouts to all Black Warrior members about how to qualify as a candidate for the three board seats up for election this year, and how to be eligible to vote for those board candidates. The Official Notice of the meeting and ballots were mailed to all members in good standing with instructions on when to return the ballots in order for them to be counted. Members can also bring their certification card or proper ID and vote in person at the Nov. 2 Annual Meeting.

In addition, Black Warrior ran articles in Alabama Living magazine, which is mailed to all members, providing information about the board election and Annual Meeting. Plus, information is posted on Black Warrior’s website explaining the election and urging members to vote.

Yet, despite these efforts by Black Warrior, some groups continue to spread misinformation about Black Warrior, the board election and the Annual Meeting.

The board of trustees and General Manager Daryl Jones have tried to dispel some of the falsehoods and myths presented by these groups. These falsehoods include the claim that Black Warrior has a $72 million surplus, that our rates are high and that we charge different rates for different residential members.

All those claims are false, and we addressed them in a “Myths Vs. Facts” article in Alabama Living. I am especially proud of the fact that Black Warrior electric rates are among the absolute lowest in Alabama.

Unfortunately, now the groups are spreading even more misinformation, which could hurt members’ ability to choose board members.

Flyers are being circulated in some areas claiming that more than 2,000 members must be present at the Nov. 2 Annual Meeting in order to reach a quorum for the meeting to be official. They warn that the board of trustees will cancel the meeting if less than 2,000 attend.

That is false on two fronts. Let me explain.

First, while a quorum is required for an Annual Meeting to be official, reaching a quorum doesn’t require 2,000 people. According to Black Warrior’s bylaws, a quorum is 5 percent of members in good standing. Black Warrior has a little more than 14,000 members in good standing, so a quorum would be a little more than 700.

More important, however, is this: You don’t actually have to be at the meeting to count toward the quorum. But you must vote. The new Bylaws adopted this year allows members from across our large service area to have a voice and vote on any items listed in the Official Notice of the Annual Meeting without being present.

Please note, however, that the only item of business to be voted on at this year’s annual meeting is the election of trustees.

As I said earlier, all members in good standing were mailed ballots for the board election. You can mail those ballots back in, and they will be counted toward meeting the required quorum. My wish is that you, if you haven’t already, send in your ballot by the Oct. 30 deadline. That way, you get a say in who sits on your board of trustees AND you ensure there is a quorum for the Annual Meeting.

If you do plan to vote at the meeting, bring the certification card that was mailed to you or a picture ID. Registration and voting will be from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the day of the Annual Meeting, with the meeting beginning at 10 a.m. The meeting will be at the Demopolis Civic Center.

Here’s the bottom line: We are giving members MORE SAY in choosing board of trustees members.

Let’s face it, getting more than 700 people to a meeting is a tall order. Not being able to hold an official Annual Meeting hurts Black Warrior Electric, members and the board of trustees.

I close with this. On Nov. 2, I would love to see you at our Annual Meeting so you can meet your very capable and dedicated board of trustees. And, of course, I want to personally greet each of you from across all of our service area, especially those who are my neighbors in District 8.

More important, though, I want you as a member to exercise your right to choose who sits on your board of trustees. I emphasize your board because Black Warrior was created and operates to serve you, our members.

You are Black Warrior Electric. Exercise your right to vote!

Ottice Russelle of Belmont is the District 8 member on the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation’s board of trustees. Black Warrior Electric is a member-owned cooperative serving parts of 12 counties in West Central Alabama.

Tears and Laughter: Talking trash in Wilcox County 

Several residents in several areas of the county had their trash picked up late this past week. Some didn’t have it picked up at all. Some had neighborhood dogs strew it all along the roadway and many at this point are wondering exactly what in the hell is going on with the garbage.  

Wilcox is not known for being good at managing water and trash services. Lamison still doesn’t have county water, but there has been progress overall. When I first moved here in 1996, there was no trash pick-up. There were huge dumpsters placed throughout the county and that is where everybody took their garbage. The county would empty the dumpsters on a routine basis, but not before they were overflowing and you could tell when you were passing them in the dark. 

So it was a great day in Wilcox County when pick-up service started. There have been different contracts along the way with different companies. The county of course also made an unsuccessful attempt at handling it themselves, but the latest contract is with Advanced Disposal.  

In last week’s column, I mentioned that Advanced Disposal was threatening to suspend services if payment was not made. The county owed Advanced $266,000, not including what they will be billed for October. They paid $80,000 on Friday, October 13 and another payment of $40,000 was expected to be paid as of Friday, October 20. In an email, Advanced Disposal communicated to the county commissioners, “The money should be on hand as customers have been paying for services.” 

Chairman of the commission, John Moton, Jr. responded, “I do understand his stance and agree that the money should be on hand but due to their over-billing and 18 to 20% nonpayment on the west end of the county; unfortunately the money is not on hand. In the past we’ve had to use monies from the general fund to cover short falls in solid waste. Our general fund can’t afford to do this and continue to make payroll til January.” 

He described it another way in a private message sent to me by a reader who had both been questioning me and messaging Chairman Moton. I don’t know that she meant to send me his reply, but in it he was more than generous in explaining the math behind the money. “I am the chairman of the commission and have no more access to county funds than you do. The Advance Disposal account is behind because: 1.They have been over-billing us by 700 customers @ $14+ per customer and we just found that out after we got a new solid waste officer to finally do a house count. 2. There are also 714 nonpaying customers that we pay for every month because they refuse to pay and we have not been able to force collections.  3. There are over 400 SSI customers exempted from payment and we are forced by law to pay $14+ per month for them. Now let’s do the math: 1114 nonpaying customers + 700 customers overbilled by Advanced Disposal = 1814 payments per month by Wilcox County (you following me?) 1814 x $14.35 = $26,030.90 x 12 months = $312,320.80 per year extra payment by Wilcox County. So as you can see; the only thing that’s being misused is Wilcox County. Point Blank. Period!!!” 

The vice-chairman, Bill Albritton, wishes to assure the public their garbage service will continue and that Advanced Disposal has no plans of discontinuing pick up as long as the county is making an effort to get current and keeps in communication.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Wilcox didn’t get near first at everything last without poor leadership 

In all of the years I have been writing about Wilcox County I have learned that no matter how low the county ranks or how obvious the ineptness becomes, there will always be somebody wanting to speak in defense of local leadership. Everybody seems to be related, and there may be an unhealthy mix of cronyism. All anyone who is curious needs to do is look around. 

Every school in the county has challenges on some level. Two public school students have taken guns to school in less than a month. A fifth-grader at J.E. Hobbs Elementary threatened to shoot her teacher, and a 17-year-old was arrested for carrying a deadly weapon at Wilcox Central High School – for protection.  

Last week four vehicles were broken into at Roland Cooper Boat Ramp and a bomb squad out of Montgomery was called in to check out a suspicious package in a car parked at a gas pump at the QV. It was not a bomb and the QV did not blow up. It was drugs. Just the week before the QV had its glass doors shattered in the night for a pack of Newport’s. There was also a fatal hit and run in McWilliams, a man found dead beside his car on Highway 5, and two men found dead from gunshot wounds in Pine Hill. 

All this was happening while the entire country was flying flags at half-staff and the Wilcox County courthouse didn’t have one. There was a public outcry and a flag was erected the next day and has flown sporadically since, but leaders in a county where Uncle Sam pays for half of the groceries shouldn’t have to be reminded to fly the flag in front of the courthouse. 

Advanced Disposal is threatening to discontinue garbage pick-up starting next week if the county doesn’t pay the approximate $200,000 owed for services already rendered. There are questions as to where collected funds were distributed if not to Advanced, but even with all of this going on the Wilcox County Commission is yet to meet in October. 

The last meeting was a called meeting held back on September 29 – a Friday – at 5:00 pm, the time set by Chairman John Moton, Jr., who then did not show up. It was a necessary meeting because a county budget had not been a priority, yet had to be passed by the October 1 deadline. 

Three of the four commissioners who did attend the called meeting adopted the same budget as last year, minus the salary for the license inspector. This move eliminated the job held by current Wilcox County coroner, Mark Ramsey. It was a needed position for the county in that one of the responsibilities was to require mobile home owners to purchase current decals, but no citations have been written in over a year. The position held an annual salary of over $40,000 and no money was coming in to offset the cost. Past attempts to fire Ramsey were unsuccessful due to the saving votes of Chairman Moton together with Commissioners Ricky Powell and Charles Lawson. 

A regularly scheduled commission meeting should have been Monday, October 9, but since it was Columbus Day the chairman again changed the meeting to Tuesday at 5:30, and again he was a no show. Powell and Lawson weren’t there either. They are balking. They want the decision to remove the license inspector position reversed. Their absence was no coincidence. It was just another shining example of their poor leadership.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Tears and Laughter: Bunches of banana spiders hanging out in Alabama this year

Just to be clear, I am writing about the banana spiders found in the southeastern region of the United States. They live as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas.  

I am not referring to the banana spider of Central and South America that is venomous and will chase people. 

There are those who believe the banana spider arrived to our area aboard banana boats as they docked at the port of Mobile years ago. But experts claim Mobile had banana spiders long before the banana boats sailed. 

The banana spiders we have in Alabama are also called Nephila, or golden silk orb weavers…among other things. 

When the sun is shining right, you can see the yellow hue of their webs. And they don’t build shabby webs. I saw a small limb dangling from one after the last rain. This year they seem to be everywhere. 

I have been keenly aware of one in particular because I had been playing limbo with one of them since early July who had built a face-level web on the porch off the side entrance of the garage. 

I don’t know why I didn’t just get rid of it. But I didn’t, and wouldn’t you know it, an even bigger one built another web higher above the first in the far right corner. They became known as Spider #1 and Spider #2. I would go out just to speak with them and check out their webs. 

Spider #2 must have been from a long line of fine web weavers. She didn’t just build a sturdy flat web. She built lean-tos off each side. This was maybe a way to catch more food, because you could tell by looking at her that she liked to eat.  

I suppose the extra webbing could have also served to protect her center web from the wind, yet what it did not shield her from was certain other predators. I got out of my car one day and Spider #3 had abruptly arrived. I don’t know the full story, but bad things happened. All that was left of Spider #2 were eight legs still floating in her well-built web. 

After that I felt hard toward Spider #3. I wouldn’t even speak. I would walk underneath her stolen web like she wasn’t even up there. I even warned Spider #1 – who I had become friendly with at that point – to be very leery of Spider #3 – especially when she started adding on another addition to the web in #1’s direction. 

Then it happened. I went out to see Spider #1 and she was gone. Just gone. No sign of struggle. No evidence of foul play. No note. 

That is when I really started being more open to getting to know Spider #3. The new routine became for me to walk out to see her, and then I would reach up and tap her web a couple of times. Sometimes she would just keep picking at her weaving, and sometimes she would charge down the web at me and I would run off squealing. 

So really, it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to miss her quite as much as I have noticed I do since I went out Friday morning and found she was gone.  

I feel like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

PSA: Marengo E-911 urges residents to clearly post addresses

Marengo County E-911 would like to remind the citizens of Marengo County the importance of having your address not only posted but also posted properly. Locating you quickly in your time of emergency without delay is our goal.

When a Marengo County E-911 Telecommunicator dispatches any emergency service unit whether it is Fire, Ambulance, Law Enforcement or First Responders to your residence in your time of need, having your address posted clearly and visibly allows them to find you much quicker. In most of Marengo County, a GPS does not provide accurate directions to an emergency scene and can lead responders to the wrong house address. As a result, responders rely on proper and visible placement of home addresses.  We recommend that you post your address in a minimum of a 4inch reflective numbers.  So that your address may be seen during the day and/or during the night, and will be reflected by headlights as well.

In your time of emergency, the responding units will be trying to locate you near the address of your home and not where you receive your mail.  Having your address displayed on your mailbox for mail purposes is important but may not be enough for us to locate you in an emergency. Therefore, it is recommended that you post your address not only on your mailbox but also on your residence and driveway. Having your address posted in several places in very important.  Mounting your address high enough to avoid weeds is important as well as not being blocked by bushes, flowers or branches.

Your address should be visible from the road coming from either direction as responders could be coming from either direction. Also, remember Script numbers or numbers that are spelled out in words may be aesthetically pleasing but are difficult to read quickly from the street. Brass or bronze numbers are difficult to see. Use numbers that contrast with the background. If you live in an apartment, duplex, or mobile home park your address should also be posted with the street address and the apartment or lot number.  If the numbers on your house are not visible or easy to read, it will take emergency personnel longer to reach you.

Those extra minutes spent trying to locate a property can mean the difference between life and death, so take the time now to be sure your house numbers are able to be seen from the street to help emergency responders find you faster.  If you would like to see an example of the correct way to post your address please visit our website at marengocountye911.org, click on services and then click on addressing.

Letter to the Editor: Marengo Shrine grateful for Langley donation

On Saturday August 12, 2017 the Marengo County Shrine Association had the pleasure of presenting Mr. Rod Langley, of Langley’s Shell, with a plaque expressing our gratitude for his generous donation to the Abba Shrine Transportation Fund in Mobile. This fund provides transportation for Shrine kids and their families to their medical appointments at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Shriner’s hospitals provide a “family-centered environment that is focused on maximizing a child’s quality of life, regardless of the families’ ability to pay,” making fundraising and donations of utmost importance. Mr. Rod has issued a challenge to other businesses to continue in this good work and help the Shriners help the kids. Thank you, Mr. Rod Langley and God bless!

If you have any further questions or would like to make a donation, please contact the Marengo County Shrine Association.

 

Charles Wingfield, MCSA President

334-654-0989

MarengoShrine@gmail.com