BY GENA HUFF, Editor
The year of 2018 has come and gone but the memories remain. As with all years, there were good times and bad times. Following is a brief review of select news items from the past year, found in the pages of the Pickens County Herald.
BOE and Aliceville Attempt Compromise on Closing
Much concern was raised after the Pickens County Board of Education (BOE) voted to divide grades from Aliceville Middle School (AMS) between Aliceville Elementary School (AES) and Aliceville High School (AHS), essentially shutting down AMS.
Because Pickens County schools are under the Lee v. Macon act, parents of Pickens County school students have a group of plaintiff attorneys in Montgomery representing their interests. The BOE and the plaintiff attorneys must agree on any decisions concerning the reconfiguration of schools. If they do not agree, a court hearing must be held.
On July 2, parents, citizens, board representatives, Pickens County School Superintendent Jamie Chapman, and lawyers for both sides met in Birmingham for a Federal Court hearing. The judge at the hearing urged representatives of both sides to meet and try to come to a consensus regarding the future of the Aliceville city school system. That meeting was held on July 5 and was closed.
On July 10, an open meeting was held. After much discussion, Chapman made his recommendation to the Board. “My recommendation is that we propose, as a compromise the judge ordered, a remodified reconfiguration plan,” he began. “That we start the school year with the K-6 at Aliceville Elementary School. We will start the school year with the seventh and eighth graders under the umbrella of Aliceville High School. Mr. (Fred) Young is principal. There will be an assistant principal at the middle school who will report to Mr. Young. When the facility (AHS) is ready and the Board is satisfied with it and we’ve addressed the concerns that we heard, we will make the transition.”
The vote to follow Chapman’s recommendation was unanimous.
Carrollton Projects Get Recognition
In April, the Carrollton town council voted to spend up to $125,000 on paving for the town’s worst streets. At the July 12 town council meeting, Mayor Mickey Walker said, “I am tickled with the way things are going in town.”
The summer season brought in the beginning of paving projects, renovated buildings, a new Carrollton Police Department location, the removal of the one and only street light, and handicap-accessible sidewalks. The Alabama Department of Transportation has changed the flow of traffic around the courthouse, widened the turns, and set the lamp posts on the corners further away from the curb.
Burglar Plays Hide and Seek
The Food Fare grocery store in Aliceville had a strange incident occur beginning in the early morning hours of July 17. A 911 alarm call went out around 2:30 a.m. and after viewing video surveillance footage from the building, officers could tell someone had fallen through the roof of the building and made an attempt to break into the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) located in the store. After two perimeter searches and a search using a tracking dog, the suspect could still not be located. The offender was recognized from the video surveillance by Aliceville Police Chief Tonnie Jones. Still, the suspect could not be located.
That night, around 10 p.m., the alarm at Food Fare triggered again. Again, police were on the scene. Again, the suspect could not be located. Unwilling to give up without an arrest, the officers searched every nook and cranny in the store, eventually discovering Jermaine Peoples, 33, of Aliceville, hiding in an attic space behind the duct work. He was charged at the time with two counts Burglary 2nd Degree, Criminal Mischief 1st Degree, and Theft of Property 1st Degree.
Missing Aliceville Man Found Dead
Charles T. Manning, 68, of Aliceville, was found July 22 off County Road 22 (also known as Lewiston Road) after being reported missing by the Aliceville Senior Citizens Center on July 18. A concerted effort between Aliceville Police Department, Pickens County Sheriff’s Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, and Aliceville Fire Department was vital in the success of finding Manning. “I want to thank all those who helped with the search and worked the scene,” said Aliceville Police Chief Tonnie Jones. “I especially want to thank the Greene County Sheriff’s Department for coming all the way into Pickens County on four-wheelers.”
Funeral services for Manning were held July 26 at New Wright Baptist Church.
Parker Victim Files Lawsuit Against School
A lawsuit filed August 3 in the circuit court of Pickens County named Pickens Academy, the Pickens Academy Board of Trustees, and Pickens Academy headmaster Brock White as defendants. The suit was filed on behalf of one of the victims of Charli Jones Parker, former teacher at Pickens Academy currently serving out a three-year imprisonment for improper sexual contact with two students under the age of 19 years.
The complaint included negligence, wantonness, recklessness; negligent, wanton and/or reckless supervision, hiring, and training; and general negligence, wantonness, and/or recklessness.
The plaintiff was identified only as E.M.
James Parker Sentenced
James (Jamie) Franklin Parker III was sentenced on August 14 for the charge of a school employee engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19 years. The sex acts involved a former female student at Pickens Academy. Parker pleaded guilty before going to trial.
Parker received a 10-year split sentence and is serving 18 months in prison followed by five years of supervised probation. Parker must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Arrested in Aliceville Homicide
Capital murder warrants were signed August 23 on two suspects in the June 2018 murder of Daniel Perez, 31, in Aliceville. Tommie Terail Jones, 29, of Aliceville and Jessica Shari Long, 28, of Sapps, were both charged with capital murder during the commission of a burglary, capital murder during the commission of a robbery, attempted murder, and felon in possession of a firearm. Both suspects were already in custody on unrelated charges.
“Help from the Aliceville Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, District Attorney Investigator Jordan Powell, Sheriff’s Investigators Debra Abston and Greg Carr, Chad Harless and the Pickens County Coroner’s Office, and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Gann all worked together to make these arrests possible,” said Pickens County Sheriff David Abston.
The murder was Pickens County’s first and only of the year.
Westervelt Relinquishes 70 Percent
A September 6 press release from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada stated Pinnacle Renewable Holdings Inc., had a “definitive agreement to acquire a 70 percent interest in an operating industrial wood-pellet production facility located in Aliceville, Ala., (the ‘Aliceville Facility,’ from the Westervelt Company (‘Westervelt’)), a diversified land-resources company. Westervelt will retain a 30 percent interest in the Aliceville facility.”
“Our acquisition of a majority stake in this facility will increase our production capacity and establishes a platform for Pinnacle’s future growth in the U.S. Southeast, one of North America’s key fibre (fiber) baskets,” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pinnacle, Robert McCurdy.
Lack of Federal Funds Postpones County Projects
At the September 11 meeting of the Pickens County Commissioners, County Engineer, Clint Terry, informed the Commissioners a letter was received stating the federal money had been suspended for the year. “The state cancelled all projects that are left,” said Terry.
“They get their money the same way we get our money, in monthly increments,” Terry continued. “And they have as many projects already in the works as they are going to have allocated until after December. So, they have to push projects back.”
Reform City Employees Receive a Raise
The Reform City Council voted to give city employees a seven and a half percent raise across the board at their meeting on September 18 while discussing the upcoming budget. All council members were in favor of the raise but there was some disagreement as to what the percentage of the raise should be. “Now is the time,” said Councilman Charlie Taggart. The vote passed three to one with Councilman Charlie Hagan as the dissenting vote. Councilwoman Pat Wheat abstained from the vote because of a possible conflict of interest.
EMA Hosts Active Shooter Class
Lakitha Bell, Director for the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) in Pickens County, hosted an Active Shooter Class at the Carrollton Service Center, September 27. The guest speaker was Chance Corbett, Associate Director for Emergency Management at Auburn University. Corbett was also an EMA director for Russell County, a deputy for the Sheriff’s department, and on the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team for five years, three of those as team leader. Corbett has taught the class to over 40,000 people, well over 400 times. He says there is no difference between this class and the “Run, Hide, Fight” tactical class. The principals are basically the same.
Patrol officers were taught until the 1990s to set up a perimeter and call the SWAT team. The 1999 Columbine atrocity changed all that. Two kids, who went to school at that school, wanted to kill as many people as possible before the end of their plan. The shooting only stopped because the shooters killed themselves. “I don’t say their names,” said Corbett. “I know all their names, I know their background, where they come from, everything. But I don’t say their names. Because that is what they wanted you to do.” They wanted the notoriety. “I’m not going to give them that credit,” Corbett continued. “It was horrific.”
It was 45 minutes before the first police officer, a SWAT member without the whole team, made entry into that building. “That day changed everything for law enforcement,” said Corbett. “That day changed to what we call Active Shooter Response. What that means is when the officers get on the scene, they are coming through the door. … Their job when they come through that door is to stop the threat. Whatever it is. … Police officers are not trained to kill people, they are trained to stop the threat. Sometimes they have to take it to the next level, to stop the threat.”
“Then you have to transition yourself to, ‘I don’t have to wait 45 minutes, but we need to buy ourselves three minutes, or four minutes, or five minutes,’” explained Corbett.
“It’s a natural reaction to get down and take cover, it’s what you do next that counts,” Corbett continued. Take for instance in a movie theater. “Pop your head back up and find where that person is. Start screaming, ‘Everybody run!’ And that guy is going to eat my shoes, my popcorn, my drink, anything I can throw at him until I get to him. I may get killed before I get to him, but if I get to him, now it’s on because where is my family? In the car.”
“You’ve got to have a plan. If nothing else, make yourself a harder target,” said Corbett. You have a split second to make a decision. You have to be ready to get away if you can. If your first reaction is to drop to your knees and cover your head, what are you giving the shooter? An easy target. “Turn and run, zig zag,” advises Corbett. “If I am unarmed, I would rather get shot trying to get away from this person, zig-zagging away, than lay right here and let him shoot me in the head.”
Uncommon Conflict Tests Gordo Council
The October 1 meeting of the Gordo City Council began as most others. However, when Councilwoman Floy Goode was asked for her thoughts from the previous month, she read a letter instead. In the letter, Goode said she was unhappy with the way the city was looking, that “when someone comes to Gordo, the first sight they see is a town that is in decline, neglected, and uncared for.”
Street and Sanitation Department Supervisor Toby Kelly took some offense to the letter which detailed areas of the city which Goode felt had been neglected. “… I bend over backwards to do my very best. To do better, to do more. And the mayor and I a couple of weeks ago had a long talk about this and changing some things, and we have. The mayor will tell you I take work personal. And I do feel like it’s personal. I feel like that, and I’m sorry,” Kelly told Goode.
“I’m sorry you feel like it’s personal,” Goode responded. “When I was campaigning for this job, I had I don’t know how many people said, ‘Can you get them to clean up some around here.’ A ton of people said that to me. I’m not the only one that feels this way. I may be the only one that says anything to you but I’m not the only one that feels this way. And I told the mayor a couple of weeks ago, there is a quiet revolution in this town going on and people are upset about it. About how bad it looks.”
The tension escalated during the rest of the meeting resulting in the following exchange:
“Well, I tell you what. I’m taking it personally too. And I don’t appreciate it,” said Goode, slamming her hand on the table. “This is my job as a councilperson to bring up things that need to be done. And if you’re offended, I’m sorry about that. But I’m not the only one that feels this way. But I’ll do my best in the future, if anybody asks about it I’ll tell them you need to see this guy. You go talk to him, because I tried to talk to him and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. No, I’m through with it!”
“You have not come to me and I have not done anything,” said Kelley. “That is not true. And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Well you have offended me, and you’ve upset me,” said Goode. “Well, we’re both offended and upset!”
At this point, Mayor Craig Patterson called an end to the open meeting. “That’s it,” he said. “I will entertain a motion to adjourn.” The motion was made by Goode, seconded by Councilman Terrence Williams, and all were in agreement.
Convicted Sex Offender Arrested in Pickens County
Adam Naramore, 40, of Starkville, Miss., was arrested by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department October 4 and charged with two counts of sodomy first degree. Naramore arranged a meeting with a teenage girl through an app called “Whisper,” which advertises itself as an anonymous app to “Share, Express, Meet.” Users are encouraged to share their innermost secrets. The meeting took place at an undisclosed location in Pickens County and the girl was assaulted, sodomized, and beaten.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, the Pickens County District Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service Task Force arranged another meeting with Naramore. “Adam Naramore, a convicted sex offender in Mississippi, came to Pickens County to meet this young girl for the second time where he was arrested by the Sheriff’s office,” said Pickens County Sheriff David Abston. “We feel that Mr. Naramore has more than one victim.”
Naramore has 25 previous convictions out of Greene County, Miss., for the exploitation of children. According to the Mississippi Sex Offender Registry, Naramore has also been known to drive a green Ford F150 truck, a blue Harley Davidson motorcycle, a tan Jeep Cherokee, a blue Ford F450 truck, a white Pontiac G6, and a maroon Ford of unknown model.
If you have been a victim of Naramore, contact the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office at (205) 367-2000.
Face in the Window Fest
Carrollton held its annual Face in the Window Fest on October 6. The festival is one of Carrollton’s biggest events and the town pulled out all the stops with much success.
Boss Hogg’s Destroyed by Fire
Boss Hogg’s Bar-B-Que, a long-time staple in Reform, was destroyed by fire on October 10. Boss Hogg says he will rebuild.
County Election Tallies Some Surprises
The general election held on November 6 saw the state of Alabama vote in an almost all-encompassing red wave. While some counties had a Democratic majority, the norm was a Republican voted into each desired position.
In Pickens County some of the main races had been fought in the primaries, leaving those elected without opposition. However, the Pickens County Sheriff’s race between incumbent David Abston and Aliceville Chief of Police Tonnie Jones had intense interest well before the primaries in June. It was a well-fought race but Abston came out the winner with a 56.38% majority vote. Abston received 4,676 votes and Jones came in at 3,606 votes.
The District 1 Pickens County School Board position also saw the Republican candidate, Gene Dawkins, defeating incumbent Lasonja Richardson by a margin of over 350 votes.
Republican candidate and sitting District 1 Pickens County Commissioner, Bobby Bain, kept his seat in a race with Independent candidate Ricky Richardson. The margin between the two was a matter of just over 500 votes.
Jerry Fitch, a Democrat and sitting Pickens County Commissioner for District 4, was an anomaly as the winner of his electoral race. A split vote between the two Independent candidates, Willie Dean Colvin and William Petty, gave Fitch the majority at a comfortable 450 vote lead over the closest candidate.
In District 21, the run for state senator saw incumbent Republican, Gerald Allen, win comfortably over Democratic opposer Rick Burnham. With 74.13% of the votes, Allen maintained his seat and sent newcomer Burnham to try again another day.
The District 61 State Representative seat was another Red v. Blue choice. The Republican candidate Rodney Sullivan won in a closer race with 56.71% of the votes over the Democratic choice, Tommy Hyche.
Voter turnout for the 2018 General Election was 59.17% for Pickens County. The total number of ballots cast was 8,352.
BankFirst to Acquire FNB Bancshares of Central Alabama
BankFirst Capital Corporation, parent of BankFirst Financial Services, announced the signing of a merger agreement with FNB Bancshares of Central Alabama, Inc., parent of FNB of Central Alabama, under which BankFirst will acquire FNB Bancshares. The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, subject to customary closing conditions.
After the merger is complete, the combined company will operate under the BankFirst brand, have 22 offices serving Mississippi and Alabama, and have assets in excess of $1.2 billion.
Aliceville Annexation Possible Solution for Expansion
Edgar Pruitt, Aliceville Chamber of Commerce Director, brought to the council once again the prospect of annexing three communities into the city limits of Aliceville. The goal is to increase Aliceville’s population and thereby earning more federal grant funding.
John Russell III, Aliceville’s City Attorney, was the first to annex his property near Aliceville Country Club into the city limits. “I’m willing to start it, to start making some orderly growth.” Russell said at the November 28 council meeting.
For annexation, each property must adjoin the city limit property. This mean annexation depends upon each resident signing off on the annexation. If one property does not become annexed, the growth comes to a halt.
Also under consideration for annexation is the Baptist Line community and the Oak Street/Pine Street area.
Local Career Tech Teacher Wins National Honor
Natalie Lavender, educator at the Pickens County College and Career Center, won the Teacher of the Year in the Health Sciences division at the national conference meeting of the Association of Career and Technical Education held in San Antonio, Tex., on November 29.
Letters to Santa
Each year, the Pickens County Herald publishes Letters to Santa from first-graders throughout the county. Here are a few favorites from 2018:
I want you to know that I have been very good this year. I want a black, pink, red, and gray power rangers. I will also like a bike and swords. Lastly, I would like for my older brother with special needs to be able to play with me.
For Chrimas I want real diamonds from Chrimas. I also want a pack flash lights for Chrimas. I also want 2 pack of hand sanitizer.
I was very good this year and all I want for Christmas is a playstation 4 and a Iphone 6. My mom said I wasn’t good but I know I was. I didn’t make a good grade on one of my test and she said I might not get anything. Is that right? I know that is not right. Please bring the Playstation 4 if I can’t have both.
This year I would like a Santa costume. My brother wants an elf costume. We will leave you milk and cookies.
With love and gratitude,
I want $10,000 and I want a car and a iPhone. I am in Ms. Johnson’s first grade class.
Local Officer Gives Children a Merry Christmas
Local Carrollton police officer, Sergeant Jamie Doss, has been taking less fortunate children from the Head Start program in Carrollton shopping for Christmas the past two years. Doss asks the teachers to pick the students they feel are most in need. He has breakfast with the selected children, lets them sit in the police car and work the lights and siren, and takes them shopping where he spends $100 on each of them. If he does not receive donations to cover the expense, he takes it from his own pocket. This year, Doss took 14 children shopping.
The program, called “Shop with a Cop,” is a big hit with the kids. Doss makes sure, besides toys, each child gets a new coat, underwear, socks, and t-shirts.
Donations may be made year-round at Carrollton City Hall in care of Sgt. Doss, or by calling (205) 367-8711.