Polling map, road re-striping highlight Marengo commission meeting

Marengo County never has had a printed map showing its polling places. That has changed, thanks to the work of Board of Registrars member Barry Hunt.

The Alabama Secretary of State mandated that each county have such a map, and Hunt presented his work to the county commission Tuesday for approval before submitting it to the state.

After the unanimous vote to accept Hunt’s map, Commissioner Freddie Armstead complained that the requirement was yet another unfunded mandate by the state.

Probate Judge Laurie Hall thanked Barry for his work that has been ongoing for some two years. She said the map should have been done a long time ago, but the project “slipped through the cracks.”

The commission approved a $2-per-month rate hike for trash pickup by Advanced Disposal. Solid Waste officer John Bell said rates had not gone up since 2014. The increase will bring the rate to $19.72 per month effective April 1, he said.

In response to complaints about unsightly trash being dumped at the intersection of County Roads 19 and 28, Advanced Disposal site manager Tammy Donald said the company would put a dumpster at the site if the county requests it. She also said new trucks have been purchased to better serve the county.

Commissioner Armstead asked if the county roads could be restriped. He said the lack of lane definition is dangerous, especially at night and during rainstorms.

County Engineer Ken Atkins said he was holding on to the $300,000 set aside to use after resurfacing on some of the roads is completed. He said there also may be some money left after the paving of the Gandy Ferry road in Demopolis, set to begin next month.

The Commission voted to have Atkins prepare a plan for striping and present it at the March meeting.

The issue of security at Rangeline Road and County Road 28 prompted an offer by Commissioner John Crawford, an employee of Black Warrior Electric, to install a security light. The county would pay the installation fee and $9 per month in charges.

Marengo County Economic Development Authority director Chris Bontrager reported the county unemployment rate is the lowest in history at 4.16 percent. Since the rate is close to full employment of 3 to 3.5 percent, he said the emphasis now will be on underemployment.

The momentum with Shelton State Community College in Demopolis now will provide training for individuals and companies looking for expanded training.

Bontrager said interest from businesses looking for a location has increased thanks to two developments. The first is the announcement by AT&T to provide fiber optic service at the three industrial parks in the county. The second is the updated website that provides more complete information for companies searching a location.

He said three active ongoing projects started last year are continuing to develop. Each would bring in 15-25 jobs if brought to fruition.

Dr. Bill Ashley, chairman of Board of Directors for Shelton State, spoke of the continuing growth in the number of students enrolled at and courses provided by the Demopolis campus.

Since his background is rural community colleges, Ashley said he is actively engaged in expanding Shelton State’s presence in rural areas such as Marengo County.

“We know we can do good if we work regionally,” he said.

Commission Chairman Calvin Martin announced the county had received a $24,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for the Sheriff’s Department to purchase a new vehicle.

In other action, the Commission approved:

  • Renewal of a tax agreement with Revenue Discover Systems.
  • County levies for alcohol licensing
  • Favorable Grand Jury report, especially, quipped Armstead, “they’re not asking for anything.”
  • EMA and Tobacco Tax CD renewal at Sweet Water State Bank.
  • A resolution to approve a rebid of a water project for Thomaston

Marengo County Schools celebrating board members

Marengo County Schools will join school systems throughout the state to salute their local education leaders during Alabama’s annual School Board Member Recognition Month in January.

The commemorative month is designed to recognize the contributions made by Alabama’s more than 800 local school board members, including the members of the Marengo County Board of Education, who are charged with governing public education under state law.

Alabama school board members are chosen by their communities through election of appointment to manage local schools. They oversee multimillion-dollar budgets which fund education programs for more than 744,930 Alabama schoolchildren. Your local school board members are part of a statewide team that supervises 91,277 employees, including 46,539 teachers, 3,110 administrators, and 35,712 support workers and others in 1,467 schools.

These volunteer leaders also are responsible for formulating school system policy, approving curricula, maintaining school facilities, and adhering to state and federal education law. Legal concerns and the complexities of school finance, including budgeting and taxation, require them to spend many hours in board training programs and personal study to enhance their understanding of these issues.

“Our deepest appreciation is extended to the dedicated men and women who make it possible for local citizens to participate in education in our community,” a release from Marengo County Schools announcing the observance, read. “We salute the public servants of the Marengo County school system whose commitment and civic responsibility make local control of public schools in our community possible: Mr. Freddie Charleston, Mrs. Lynda Joiner, Mr. Mike McAlpine, Mr. Chester Moore and Mr. Randy Smith. Please join us by saying ‘thanks’ to our school board members during Alabama’s 25th School Board Member Recognition Month.”

Marengo, Linden, Demopolis schools closed Wednesday

With a winter storm system settling in over much of the state Tuesday afternoon and an expectation of icy roads and frigid temperatures well into Wednesday, school systems are again facing decisions regarding hours of operation. The first local system to declare its schedule for Wednesday is Marengo County, which will be closed.

“Due to high probability of bad weather for Marengo County, which includes icy roads and temperatures in the teens along with Governor Ivey’s declaration for a State of Emergency, there will be no school Wednesday for the Marengo County School system,” Superintendent Luke Hallmark told The Watchman via text message. “The school system will be open on Thursday.”

The decision follows suit with the Marengo County Courthouse, which will be also be closed Wednesday. Demopolis City Schools and Linden City Schools each confirmed their Wednesday closures as well at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday.

The West Alabama Watchman will update closings on its website, Twitter, and Facebook page as more information becomes available.

Thomaston woman killed in Hale County crash

A two-vehicle crash Tuesday, Jan. 2, claimed the life of a Thomaston woman. Shaqilia Moni Jones, 24, was killed when the 2016 Hyundai Accent she was driving collided with a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Charlie Lee Tubbs, 62, of Marion. Jones was pronounced dead at the scene. Tubbs was transported to DCH Regional Medical Center for treatment. The crash occurred at 9:05 p.m. on Alabama 61 near the 15 mile marker, four miles south of Greensboro. Nothing further is available as Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate.

Merry Christmas from WAW

Thomaston holding town-wide yard sale

Sweet Water at No. 2 to open ASWA preseason football poll

(Photo by Johnny Autery)
Sweet Water coach Pat Thompson instructs his team during the first day of fall practice Monday. The Bulldogs are the highest ranked squad in the county, debuting at No. 2 in the ASWA preseason poll.

Changes abound as Marengo County high schools ready for the 2017 football season. A year marked by turnover at the top, four of the six high school football teams in the county have welcomed new head coaches.

In Class 5A, Brian Seymore is in from Class 7A Mary Montgomery and his Tigers debut in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll on the outside looking in. The Tigers, who were 7-4 a season ago, are the highest vote getter in the classification not to make the Top 10. Joining them in the “others receiving votes” category are notable powers Russellville, Jackson, Charles Henderson and Mortimer Jordan as well as region foe Calera. Topping the Class 5A ranking is reigning champion Beauregard, which received 23 of 31 first place votes. Briarwood Christian is No. 2 and garnered three first place votes. St. Paul’s received two first place votes and sits at No. 3.

Reigning champ and perennial power Maplesville tops the Class 1A poll with 29 first place votes. But Marengo County is well represented in the AHSAA’s smallest classification as three school populate the Top 10. Sweet Water sits at No. 2 off a 9-3 season saw them finish in the quarterfinal round. They tallied 261 total points, putting them just ahead of Linden. The Patriots, who are in their first season under new head coach Demetrice Jackson, were 13-1 a season ago and ended their campaign in the semifinals. Marengo High pulls in at No. 9 in the preseason poll, just one point ahead of No. 10 Notasulga. Eberne Myrthil’s Panthers were 6-5 last season and lost a thrilling first round playoff game to Brantley.

Marengo Academy has been a dominant force in the AISA and looks to continue that trend in 2017. New coach Lebo Jones and his team will have to earn every bit of respect they get this season as the Longhorns are well outside of the Top 10 in the “others receiving votes” category following an offseason permeated with coaching questions before the late hire of the new head man.

A.L. Johnson, which saw the departure of Johnney Ford two weeks ago and the hiring of Roosevelt Moore late last week, is the lone Marengo County team not mentioned in the preseason poll.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL POLL Preseason – Aug. 9, 2017

(First-place votes and 2016 record in parentheses)

 Class 7A
1. Hoover (29) (12-2) 366
2. Central-Phenix City (1) (10-2) 261
3. Thompson (5-5) 229
4. Hewitt-Trussville (1) (11-1) 191
5. James Clemens (8-4) 179
6. McGill-Toolen (13-1) 171
7. Spain Park (8-3) 114
8. Bob Jones (7-4) 83
9. Auburn (8-4) 64
10. Enterprise (10-2) 56
Others receiving votes: Gadsden City (7-6) 22, Mountain Brook (8-3) 10, Vestavia Hills (5-5) 8, Lee-Montgomery (0-9) 5, Murphy (6-5) 5, Sparkman (4-6) 3.

Class 6A
1. Ramsay (18) (13-2) 297
2. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (4) (11-1) 233
3. Blount (1) (10-3) 201
4. Austin (2) (10-4) 194
5. Opelika (13-2) 184
6. Pinson Valley (5) (8-4) 180
7. Oxford (10-1) 155
8. Daphne (1) (9-3) 108
9. Muscle Shoals (7-6) 76
10. Park Crossing (13-1) 44
Others receiving votes: Spanish Fort (10-3) 43, Gardendale (8-4) 12, Hazel Green (6-4) 8, Jackson-Olin (8-3) 8, Clay-Chalkville (6-5) 5, Sidney Lanier (8-3) 5, Wetumpka (8-3) 5, Decatur (10-2) 4, Saraland (6-5) 3, McAdory (8-4) 1, Pell City (6-5) 1.

Class 5A
1. Beauregard (26) (13-1) 350
2. Briarwood Chr. (3) (12-2) 270
3. St. Paul’s (2) (9-4) 260
4. Vigor (8-4) 183
T5. Alexandria (5-4) 127
T5. Carroll (12-1) 127
7. Central-Clay Co. (9-3) 97
8. Wenonah (11-3) 90
9. Eufaula (8-3) 87
10. Brooks (9-3)56
Others receiving votes:  Demopolis (7-4) 25, Russellville (8-4) 19, Jackson (9-4) 15, Charles Henderson (7-4) 11, Mortimer Jordan (10-3) 10, Scottsboro (12-1) 10, Etowah (9-3) 9, Calera (8-4) 7, Guntersville (6-5) 6, Fairfield (7-5) 5, Pleasant Grove (4-7) 2, Moody (4-6) 1.

Class 4A
1. Handley (29) (13-2) 365
2. Andalusia (12-2) 257
3. Madison Acad. (11-4) 188
4. UMS-Wright (1) (9-3) 172
5. Rogers (12-1) 162
6. Leeds (1) (8-4) 142
7. St. James (10-2) 101
8. Hokes Bluff (9-5)  80
9. Cordova (9-3) 74
10. Fayette Co. (5-7) 61
Others receiving votes: Tallassee (9-4) 54, Cherokee Co. (10-3) 26, Wilson (8-3) 25, Madison Co. (6-5) 19, Thomasville (9-3) 12, Bibb Co. (8-4) 7, Dale Co. (7-4) 7, North Jackson (6-5) 6, Munford (6-5) 4, West Blocton (6-5) 3, Haleyville (9-2) 2.

Class 3A
1. Piedmont (27) (15-0) 351
2. Mobile Chr. (3) (13-2) 271
3. Gordo (1) (13-1) 268
4. Ohatchee (12-2) 165
5. Montevallo (10-2) 162
6. Opp (9-2) 110
7. Oakman (8-5) 109
8. Pike Co. (9-3) 85
9. Weaver (9-4) 72
10. Randolph Co. (10-3) 59
Others receiving votes: Clarke Co. (4-6) 43, Hillcrest-Evergreen (5-7) 24, Lauderdale Co. (7-5) 12, T.R. Miller (8-3) 12, Fultondale (8-3) 9, Bayside Acad. (8-5) 5, Plainview (6-5) 4, Wicksburg (8-4) 4, Lexington (8-4) 1, Straughn (4-6) 1.

Class 2A
1. Fyffe (28) (15-0) 354
2. Aliceville (1) (13-2) 272
3. Lanett (1) (11-3) 230
4. Elba (10-3) 225
5. G.W. Long (1) (12-1) 154
6. Tanner (9-4) 128
7. LaFayette (12-1) 125
8. Leroy (8-4) 110
9. New Brockton (7-5) 52
10. Sand Rock (9-3) 43
Others receiving votes: Reeltown (6-5) 17, Sheffield (9-3) 13, Goshen (8-4) 12, Southern Choctaw (10-2) 12, Cleveland (8-4) 5, Washington Co. (6-4) 5, Horseshoe Bend (6-5) 4, Cold Springs (5-6) 2, Westbrook Chr. (3-7) 2, Luverne (7-4) 1, Red Bay (8-3) 1.

Class 1A
1. Maplesville (29) (14-0) 365
2. Sweet Water (9-3) 261
3. Linden (2) (13-1) 246
4. Pickens Co. (11-4) 210
5. Brantley (7-5) 166
6. Addison (13-1) 110
7. Cedar Bluff (8-4) 107
8. Spring Garden (10-2) 79
9. Marengo (6-5) 50
10. Notasulga (7-5) 49
Others receiving votes: Hackleburg (9-3) 30, Houston Co. (6-5) 22, Loachapoka (3-8) 13, Georgiana (12-1) 12, Wadley (10-1) 12, Decatur Heritage (10-3) 10, Isabella (10-2) 10, Ragland (7-4) 5, Sumiton Chr. (9-3) 3, Hubbertville (10-2) 2 South Lamar (6-5) 2, Millry (4-7) 1, Talladega Co. Central (4-6) 1, Woodville (5-6) 1.

1. Autauga Acad. (28) (13-0) 353
2. Bessemer Acad. (2) (13-1) 283
3. Escambia Acad.  (8-5) 247
4. Monroe Acad. (1) (11-2) 215
5. Glenwood (8-4) 185
6. South Choctaw Acad.  (8-3) 139
7. Chambers Acad. (12-1) 127
8. Abbeville Chr. (7-6) 77
9. Pike Liberal (6-5) 49
10. Lee-Scott (7-5) 41
Others receiving votes: Clarke Prep (4-8) 21, Patrician (5-6) 14, Cornerstone Chr. (8-3) 5, Marengo Acad. (11-1) 5, Southern Acad. (4-7) 4, Lakeside (5-6) 1, Lowndes Acad. (8-3) 1.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association prep committee members are: Paul Beaudry (Chairman), Alabama Media Group; Lizi Arbogast, Alexander City Outlook; Josh Dutton, Andalusia Star-News; Joe Medley, Anniston Star; Andrew Garner, Atmore Advance; Gary Estwick, Birmingham News; Rob Rice, Blount Countian; Shannon Fagan, Cherokee Herald; Ross Wood, Clarke Co. Democrat; Jake Winfrey, Cullman Times; Johnathan Bentley, Daily Mountain Eagle; Justin Graves, Decatur Daily; Nicholas Finch, Demopolis Times; David Mundee, Dothan Eagle; Lee Peacock, Evergreen Courant; Craig Thomas, Florence TimesDaily; Cody Dowler, Fort Payne Times-Journal; Jeremy Smith, Freelance (Demopolis); Chris McCarthy, Gadsden Messenger; J.J. Hicks, Gadsden Times; Daniel Boyette, Huntsville Times; Ben Thomas, Mobile Press-Register; Stacy Long, Montgomery Advertiser; Scott Fields, Opelika-Auburn News; Shannon Allen, Sand Mountain Reporter; Jason Bowen, Scottsboro Daily Sentinel; Thomas Scott, Selma Times-Journal; Alec Etheridge, Shelby County Reporter; Lavonte Young, Talladega Daily Home; Joey Chandler, Tuscaloosa News; Evan Dudley, Wetumpka Herald.


Marengo County 4-H S.A.F.E. shooting sports programs begin new year

School is back in session and the new 4-H year is in full swing!  Youth ages 9-18 have several opportunities to participate in 4-H Shooting Sports in Marengo County.  We offer 4-H Clubs in the areas of Rifle (BB and Air Rifle) and Archery.  Certified instructors lead the clubs, and equipment is available for use. There is no cost for the clubs. 4-H Youth will learn basic firearm safety as well as life-skills such as teamwork, patience and personal discipline.  At the end of the season, club members will have the opportunity to compete with other 4-H youth from across the state. Clubs will meet at the Marengo County Extension Office in Linden, AL.  The address is 2400 East Coats Avenue. For more information, call Beth Yates at 334-750-4964.

Opportunities include…

4-H Basic Rifle Class– Mondays in September from 5:00 pm-6:30 pm. This class will cover the basics of rifle safety and marksmanship.  Call 334-295-5959 to sign your 4-H youth up for this class and find out more details.

4-H BB Rifle Club– First Monday night of the month from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm when school is in session. (October-March)

4-H Air Rifle Club– Thursday nights from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm when school is in session (October-March)

4-H Archery Club– Tuesdays in January after school from 3:30 until 5:00.

Pepper Jelly Festival – April 29, 2017

The Alabama Rural Heritage Center and The Town of Thomaston invite you to its annual Pepper Jelly Festival on April 29, 2017. This event centers around the restoration of the Marengo County High School grounds. It is a family-friendly event with plenty of food, entertainment by local talent, arts and crafts, as well as a time to visit with friends and family. Come enjoy the famous Thomaston Bar-b-cue! Get your jar of the most delicious pepper jelly this side of the Tombigbee. Entertainment includes Mitzi Gates, Trey Webb, Kayla Gill, Dana Thompson, Rebecca Vick to name a few! Excitement is in the air! The Town of Thomaston extends an invitation for all to come and experience a real down-home, old fashioned small town event! We start at 10:00 a.m. and the fun lasts through 3p.m.

In Memoriam: Thomaston loses hidden gem in William Gebhardt

By Bruce Gwin

William Gebhardt.

Many people won’t recognize that name. Some knew his face and never knew exactly who he was or what he did.

Pool table man. Rock-Ola man, or machine man was what some called him. Many would say he was a recluse since he didn’t mingle with the Thomaston locals, or any locals, for that matter.

At age 13, he stopped me as I was walking home from school one day in the one-stoplight town of Thomaston. He said he’d seen me around town doing my odd-jobs…delivering papers, cutting grass, really anything I could find to do to make a dime. He told me he needed some help and of course I was willing since I needed money, being an ambitious teen.

My job would be the real work—unloading and loading Pac-Man machines, moving equipment, assembling new machines—all the stuff he didn’t want to do. We would make rounds to the locations where he had machines in the juke joints of Marengo, Greene, Perry, and Sumter Counties to count coins, refill cigarette machines, fix pool tables, and put the latest 45s on the jukebox…and sometimes, we wouldn’t roll back into Thomaston until 2 a.m.

I soon learned William was not only a shrewd businessman, but an electronics genius. Often, he’d get a call from the Rock-Ola factory technician to find solutions for a problem they couldn’t fix, and William not only knew the problem, but knew exactly how to fix it.

He was raised in Orrville by his grandparents and quit school in the 10th grade to become the local TV repairman as a teen.

Rumor has it that he accidentally set his grandparents’ porch on fire while making fireworks.

He told me his teacher sent him home early one day because he wasn’t paying attention in class. When she asked him why, he told her he already knew everything she was lecturing on—and truthfully, as we all learned, he probably did.

William was a walking encyclopedia, had a photographic memory, and still managed to stay current on modern technology till his death.

While he was a relatively unknown law-abiding citizen of Thomason, Gebhardt’s expert knowledge and keen mind will be missed by all those who were fortunate enough to know him.