BCHS Softball stars, Megan and Morgan Morrison signed athletic scholarships today at 3:25 p.m.
Friday, January 29
By Daniel L. Bamberg
photos by Lane Lightsey
Many members of the community were on hand to celebrate the season that was 2009. Players from that team sat with their dates with a pride gleaming from their expressions. After a meal and a viewing of highlights from every BCHS football game in 2009, Battles began to thank the community and entities, which he suggested, helped make the successful season possible.
He thanked the Board of Education, High School Faculty, Principal Lee Van Fleet, Vice Principal Wes Lawley and Superintendent Dr. Don Elam’s administration. “Success begins at the top and Dr. Elam’s administration have done everything they said they would do. Mr. Van Fleet and Mr. Lawley genuinely care about all of the kids and that is reflected in everything we did this year. Some of these kids needed the teachers to help them, and the instructors helped them realize what it takes to be a good student athlete.” Battles stated.
Coach Battles also thanked Sean Noah and the BCHS band, Lane Lightsey, Ashley Lawley and their cheerleaders for all of their support. “These girls are athletes,” Battles implied.
The head coach went on to thank the members Bibb County Quarterback Club for putting on the kind of Banquet they have, and the creating the kind of awards, which were to be given out. The list was almost endless as Battles thanked every individual on-hand, and those not on-hand for their efforts throughout the season. But this didn’t seem to be lip service. One thing that has shown through the BCHS football program has been tremendous humility and an apparent inability to take anything for granted. Just before wrapping his speech up, Battles thanked his wife. “She doesn’t see me much during the season and takes care of my family and home, but also she is the one who keeps me humble and grounded no matter what.” When he speech was over Battles apologized to anyone he might have left out. “Oh yeah, Jayvon’s (Jackson) grandmother. She made it to more practices than I did,” Battles explained with a smile.
Harper McGee was given a plaque from the BCHS coaching staff and players for his tireless efforts filming each game over the last two years. “You don’t realize how hard that is until it comes time to break all the footage down and send it off. We are losing a very valuable part of are team this year when he graduates,” Battles stated.
Before giving out awards and recognitions Battles went over some of the accomplishments the Choctaws graduating class had achieved. “This is the winningest senior class in school history, and they leave on a high note with the winningest season in school history. Something many of you might not know is that this senior class is also undefeated at home.” Attendees reacted to that statement with enormous applause. “There is much to be said about an undefeated regular season. A lot of football players go an entire career without seeing an undefeated season,” Battles remarked.
Quail Rutledge, an individual whose season will forever be etched in Bibb County sports history was also discussed. “He was an ESPN High School player of the year nominee, made the Alabama Sports Writer’s Super 12, the West Alabama Player of the Year, was a Sideline Player of the Year finalist, and made the 1st team All State. He had 273 carries for 2,242 yards. He also now holds the state record for most points scored in a single season with 286.” Indeed Rutledge was a stud on the field this year, but as Battles suggested, “Any time Quail was being interviewed he was talking about the team never himself. That humility not only honors the team and coaches but the school and his community. He made us all proud,” concluded Battles. Following that Coach Cook came to the podium to present the “Racehorse Award” to Rutledge. This award is given out to who accumulates the most total yards per game.
Other awards given out were as follows:
Chelsea Hill was presented the Scrambler Award for best Offensive Lineman. Andrelle Smith and Diaheem Watkins received the Head Hunter Awards for most tackles. The Big Chief award we goes to the best Defensive Lineman, and was presented to Diaheem Watkins. The Choctaw Award for the best linebacker was given to both, Taylor Morton and Andrelle Smith. The Tomahawk Award for best Wide Receiver was handed to Kannon Johnston. The Scalp Award for best Defensive Back was given to J.J. Rutledge. The Special Teams Award for most outstanding special teams player was presented to Darren Whatley. The Scout Team Award, which is annually given to the player who works the hardest, unselfishly each week to prepare the team for a game was given to Adam Gaddis.
The two permanent team captains were Quail Rutledge and Charles Hubbard. Each year seniors are rotated in and out as team captains, but at the end of the season the underclassman select the “permanent” two for the season. Those individuals receive an award for this recognition by the peers at the Annual Football Banquet.
Every senior football player was presented with his or her personal jersey in a frame and every cheerleader was presented a plaque for their efforts as well. The banquet was reaching its climax when Superintendent Don Elam came up to give his remarks on the season of 2009, the future of the program, and the seniors who were moving on. “Parents you should be really proud, those young men have represented the county well and we know they will continue to do so,” said Elam. Principal Lee Van Fleet came to the podium to give his final thoughts. “Seniors, when I met you in the field house a few years ago I told you then, you’d become leaders. Well give yourself a hand because you are there. We will miss the seniors. We are now one of the elite programs in the state. We have one of the best weight training programs in the state, thank you Coach Mitchell. To the cheerleaders, your stunts, athleticism, and tireless work are deeply appreciated, said Van Fleet. Before the principal sat down he made an announcement, which moved the audience to the largest applause of the night. Alabama High School Coaches Association recently selected Head Coach Mike Battles as 4A Coach of the Year. On Saturday, January 30th he will travel to accept the award.
Battles thanked everyone for the applause and stated, “It is exciting when you are picked by your peers. It is a reflection of how people think about Bibb County’s football program. Parents you should be proud, because your kids played with class.”
Battles concluded the banquet with the most profound encouraging statement of the night. “Seniors in 2009 you had some big shoes to fill. To the upcoming class, those shoes just got a lot bigger.”
Look for the full story on Mike Battles AHSCA Coach of the Year Award in the 02/03/10 edition of the Centreville Press.
Tuesday, January 26
holding my breath tight,
trying to keep my head on right.
There's a chill in the air.
Nobody could care,
how you're caught up in the fight of your life"
- "Heard the World" O.A.R.
Monday, January 25
from press release
The Bibb County Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual banquet, Thursday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Centreville Baptist Church Family Life Center.The Banquet is one of the county’s highlights of the year, annually featuring top speakers and status reports from mayors and commissioners of all cities, towns and districts in Bibb County.
This year’s featured speaker is Linda Swann, assistant director Alabama Development Office and 2010 president of the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) organization. Bibb County is fortunate to nab Swann as she is in high demand. The mission of the ADO is to coordinate economic development resources leading to quality job creation and retention throughout Alabama. During her tenure with ADO, Alabama was named “State of the Year” by Southern Business and Development for a record-setting five of the last seven years. The agency also received top honors with Site Selection Magazine’s National Competitiveness Award in 2005 and 2007 for state-local economic development, among other awards. Swann also brings experience from her earlier role as Director of the Alabama Film Office.
Swann currently serves as President of the Alabama Communities of Excellence, secretary of the Alabama Land Bank Authority, on the board of Design Alabama, Alabama’s Science and Technology Road Map Project and also on the Alabama Commission on Infrastructure. She has run her own consulting firm, served as director of business information with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and was Associate Director of Alabama Power’s Resource Centers in Birmingham and Montgomery. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Alabama and a past president and life member of the Southern Economic Development Council. She has also served multiple terms on the boards of Directors for the International Economic Development Council and the Economic Development Association of Alabama.
Over the past year, the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce has grown in spite of the economy. Many businesses and individuals have come to see the Chamber for what it is - a powerful tool to use for a combined voice. Corporations have public relations departments to do just that. A Chamber of Commerce serves as the focal point for all things business and economic in a state, county, town or community.
Executive Director Tracey Mitchell has made it a point to actively serve existing members and seek new members. She has constantly been on the go promoting Bibb County and has helped develop a new website, www.bibbchamber.org, as well as garnering attention at meetings and functions.
The current officers and board of directors for the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce are made up of a cross section of Bibb County citizens from all over the county, dedicated to representing their home county to the best of their abilities and to promote, preserve and make others aware of what we have to offer.
Officers for 2010 are: Faye Gamble, president; Willie Dunn, vice president; Charlotte White, treasurer; Judy Herron, secretary and Tracey Mitchell, executive director. Board members for 2010 are: Mike Hobson, Chuck Oliver, Mike Oakley, Donna Brothers, Dr. Alesa Judd, Jeff Pierce, Boozer Downs, Pam Gamble, Phil Suttle, Debbie Martin, Joseph Marchant, Matt Kornegay and Linda Renn-Pierce.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce and really making a difference in your county, please call 205-926-5222 for information.
By: Daniel L. Bamberg
67-year-old Terrill Childs of Brierfield was arrested on Wednesday, January 13th after Bibb County Sheriff’s Department performed a search warrant on his property. The arrest was made as the result of a combined effort between BCSD and the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Childs was charged with Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Still. The still, which is used to make bootleg liquor, was not in operation at the time, according to the ABC Board’s determination. 51 marijuana plants were obtained from the property, which were grown and maintained by Childs.
By Daniel L. Bamberg
Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputies while performing a routine traffic stop discovered more than they bargained for on Sunday, January 10th. Gary Fikes, a 39-year old caucasian male of Eoline and Carla Joffrion, a 28-year old caucasian female of Centreville, were arrested for a series of drug related charges.
Both have been charged with 1st Degree Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Precursor Chemicals, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, 2nd degree Possession of Methamphetamines, and Trafficking Methamphetamines.
The Trafficking charge alone resulted in a $1,000,000 bond for Fikes and $1,000,000 for Joffrion. The other 5 charges total to $117,000 in bonds for each of the two arrested.
Friday, January 22
Tuesday, January 19
The Bibb County Schools Foundation will hold its annual banquet, Thursday, Jan. 21, 6:30 p.m. at the Bibb County High School cafeteria. The banquet is a highlight of the social scene in Bibb County, annually featuring talent from county schools, highlighted by a noted speaker. This year is no different.
The talent will be provided by members of the Bibb County Children’s Theatre, with snippets from their upcoming play, Willie Wonka Jr., a musical based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Bibb County Children’s Theatre consists of children from all over Bibb County. Fifty-six children will be featured in this year’s production, the largest ever.
Other talent will consist of a local band, headed up by twins, and Bibb County High seniors, Lesland and Kelton Clinner. The night will also feature students from Glenn Walker’s workforce essentials class at the Bibb County Career Technical Academy.
The featured speaker will be noted meteorologist James Spann of ABC 33/40. Spann can be seen weeknights at 5, 6 and 10 o’clock. He has been a television weather anchor for 32 years. In 2001 he received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was recognized for live coverage of the deadly tornado which hit Tuscaloosa on Dec. 16, 2000, which helped his station received the coveted Edward R. Murrow award for spot news coverage. He has won Best Weather Anchor 12 times from the Associated Press and the ABBY Award for Best Weather Anchor in Alabama from the Alabama Broadcasters Association. He was also one of the first weather anchors in the nation to earn “Certified Broadcast Meteorologist” status from the American Meteorological Society.
The Bibb County Schools Foundation is the 501c3 arm of the county school system and is designed to raise funds for teacher grants that go directly towards helping them in their classrooms. Teachers from every school in the county have received numerous grants to help them in their endeavors.
Officers and board members for 2010 are: Chairman, Lisa Blake, Vice Chairman Boozer Downs, secretary: Stacie Moreland; board members are, Donna Brothers, Matt Hartzell, Mike Culliton, Matt Kornegay, Mike Oakley, Debbie Martin, Ed Patridge, Tracey Mitchell, Candi McKinney, Angela Stevenson, Jan Jamison, Carolyn Caddis and Linda Renn. Ex-Officio members are Dr. Don Elam, treasurer and Beverly Brown, Foundation liaison
Daniel L. Bamberg
The quarterly sales tax revenue report for Bibb County was nearly $110,000 less than it was this time last year. According to more figures last year’s report at this time was not far from the $100,000 mark, less than the previous year. While the economy is certainly part of the blame, many economists believe that people have abandoned the concept of community for the concept of strict budgeting. Economists have further expressed that abandoning spending money within rural or suburban areas has actually made life harsher in those areas rather than increasing the betterment for the families within them.
Commissioners were moved by the numbers and concerned but there is still a degree of optimism in them. “People need to be made aware of this situation and understand they can help change it,” said Commissioner Al Green. “We all need to remain optimistic,” Green concluded.
from 1/12/10 meeting of the Bibb County Commission
For entire story please read 1/20/10 edition of the Centreville Press
from ADPH press release
The Alabama Department of Public Health Office of Primary Care and Rural Health is seeking applicants for a new Alabama State Loan Repayment Program which will assist more than 20 qualified healthcare professionals in exchange for two years of service in a health professional shortage area.
The Health Resources and Services Administration designate most of Alabama as a health professional shortage area for primary care, dental care and mental health care. The purpose of the loan repayment program is to promote recruitment and retention of critical healthcare practitioners, particularly in rural Alabama.
Program goals are to increase the number of licensed healthcare professionals in HPSA designated areas each year, to increase workforce diversity to better reflect racial and ethnic populations in those areas, and to expand the healthcare workforce in health professional shortage areas by prioritizing applications from those areas with the greatest need and monitoring the locations of awards.
Qualified candidates will compete for awards totaling up to $35,000 per year for two years of service, with 50 percent of the award ($17,500) being funded by a federal grant and 50 percent of the award being matched with payment from the employing public or nonprofit agency. Twoyear contracts are required between the applicant and the employing agency.
Licensed healthcare professionals who may apply are the following:
• M.D. or D.O. primary care physician (family practice, general internist, pediatrician,
• General practice dentist
• Primary care physician assistant
• Licensed clinical social worker
• Clinical or counseling psychologist
• Primary care nurse practitioner
• Psychiatric clinical nurse specialist
• Licensed professional counselor
• Marriage and family therapist
• Mental health counselor
• Certified nurse-midwife
For more information please visit www.adph.org/ruralhealth/ or call Carolyn Bern, 1-800-255 -1992 or (334) 206-5436.
By: Daniel L. Bamberg
Sentencing has been handed down for Timothy Ely, the perpetrator in a Burglary of The Cook Shack, a restaurant in West Blocton. The 17-year old native of West Blocton was given a 10-year prison sentence. This decision was not only determined based on the burglary but also for the theft of an automobile.
According to authorities, Ely could be released in as early as a year to fifteen months, with the remainder of his sentenced to be served as probation. Early release will depend on his progress in a substance abuse program.
“We would like to thank the West Blocton Police Department for the work performed in this case,” said Assistant District Attorney Tim Evans.
By Daniel L. Bamberg
The Bibb County Choctaws and West Blocton Tigers have represented the county well in Aaron Suttles' 2009 West Alabama High School Football All Star List. The list was published in the Tuscaloosa news at the end of 2009.
The most prestigious of Suttles' recognitions went to Bibb County High School's head coach and starting tailback. Mike Battles was recognized as Coach of the Year in Class 4A, while Quail Rutledge was named Player of the Year in Class 4A.
Aaron Suttles is a sports writer for the Tuscaloosa News and pays strict attention to the goings on in West Alabama High School athletics. His decisions come from his knowledge of teams he has seen in person, and of coarse old fashioned, unbiased statistics. He does not exclusively determine his selections, however. West Alabama High School coaches also have a say in who does or doesn’t make the cut.
Other BCHS players making the Class 4A list were Senior Defensive Lineman Courtney Johnson, Senior Offensive Lineman Neil Johnson, Senior Linebacker Kevoris Pratt, Senior Linebacker Andrelle Stacy, and Junior Defensive-End Diaheem Watkins. Rutledge was not only named "Player of the Year" but also made the all-star team in the running back slot.
In Class 3A the West Blocton Tigers, representing the North end of the county also showed up numerous times on that list. The mentioned WBHS players were: Senior Linebacker Bubba Fulmer, Senior Linebacker Keondre Hill, Senior Fullback and Linebacker James Kelser, Senior Offensive and Denfensive Lineman Cody Pate, and Senior Tight End and Linebacker Justin White.
In 2010 Bibb County and West Blocton will both play in the same class as well as the same region. The Centreville Press congratulates these players on their tremendous seasons and with pride we wish them continued success.
By Daniel L. Bamberg
A Greenpond family who were formerly residents of Shady Oaks Estates has sought legal action against Highfield Properties owner Richard “Rickie” Shaw. Tuscaloosa attorney Bret Smith has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Fenn’s.
While currently there is no detailed legal information of what will be sought, this is the first of what may be a series of lawsuits to come against the Trussville native.
Shaw and his company Highfield Properties LLC are the owners of Shady Oaks Estates, a trailer park just off of Highway 5 in West Blocton. Recently Shaw’s ethics as a property owner have come under question by several residents of the area, and even some local media and government entities.
Following a morning where the entire park lost water due to an unpaid bill, residents of Shady Oaks approached the press with a complaint. Upon investigation it was revealed that each family is responsible for paying a $35 monthly fee to the Shady Oaks Office for water service. It is the responsibility of the owner, Ricky Shaw to pay the bill to the city of Greenpond in order to service the park. When the water was shut off in late November, Shaw owed water nearly $7,000.
During an investigation the press was able to visibly confirm apparent violations of tenant’s rights according to Alabama law. Some residents were without heat, hot water, or proper plumbing. Some places were dealing with a hard to control roach problem. Most trailers had an even harder to control black mould problem. In several spots throughout the area raw sewage was depositing itself onto the surface due to unattended septic problems. Shady Oaks had been undeniably neglected.
In a very brief initial discussion with Ricky Shaw he explained that many residents were behind on their rent, and that several had not paid their portion of the water bill. Immediate investigation into these facts proved an inaccuracy in Shaw’s claims. Less than five of the twenty plus residents were behind on their rent, and only one of those behind approached the press in the beginning. Most of those who did approach the press initially were also able to provide receipts proving that they had given money to the property manager for water service.
While this investigation was being conducted Michael and Tabitha Fenn were already in the process of filing a lawsuit against Shaw. The Fenn’s were displaced to Alabama during Hurricane Katrina and eventually came to find affordable housing at Shady Oaks Estates. The series of events, which occurred during the Fenn’s stay, is hard for many to imagine. It is something some public officials have claimed “should never happen in this county, this state, or this country.”
“We were treated less than human. Nobody should have to live in what we lived in. It was the worst possible living condition you could imagine,” said Michael. By the time the Fenn’s had discovered how bad the conditions in Shady Oaks were, someone had already contacted the Departed of Human Resources, who forcibly helped the Fenn’s to relocate.
One of the guidelines in the DHR Individualized Service Plan for the Fenn’s urges “Mr. and Mrs. Fenn will move from their residence at Shady Oaks Estates due to the cockroach infestation that is diminishing the sanitation in the home and posing as a potential safety threat.“ Had this guideline not been followed the Fenn’s could have lost their daughter Briana.
Briana’s skin had been damaged with roach bites. These scars are visible to this day, several months after the Fenn’s left Shady Oaks. As unusual as a roach bite seems, it is actually common with German Cockroaches, which an exterminator on the property confirmed them to be. German Cockroaches are also notoriously hard to rid. When asked how to guarantee a complete extermination of these particular pests the exterminator replied, “Burn the place down.”
According to the Fenn’s roaches were not visible until a few weeks after moving in. Tabitha’s personal theory is that an exterminator must have come just before they moved in. By the time these roaches did show up they nearly flooded the place. The infestation grew large quickly and damaged several items belonging to the Fenns. “They were in the refrigerator, the microwave, the television, the light fixtures, my stereo speakers, in everything we owned,” said Michael. When we ate we had to take it out of the sealed container and eat it immediately if you sat your food down for a second you had no choice but to throw it away. The Fenn’s captured video evidence of the roaches. If a cabinet door was opened they poured out like spices from an opened shaker. Black mold also consumed the Fenn’s trailer. Several portions of the woodwork appear solid to the eye, but touch reveals rottenness. “It was bad enough that the my husband and I were living in this, but our kids were in this. Who cares so little about children to let them live in such a mess,” Tabitha expressed, almost crying.
“I have lived in or around Detroit my whole life. When I came down to help them move out of that place I couldn’t get out of my car. I didn’t even want to touch my grandchildren. The conditions of that place are by far worse than those in the Detroit and you probably won’t hear someone say a home is worse than the Detroit ghettos again in your lifetime," said Michael’s father, who refused to let his name be printed. He is a former law enforcement officer who served in Detroit, Michigan. Detriot’s slum conditions are nationally notorious for being among the worst in America.
There are further aspects to the Fenn’s case, which will be revealed as the lawsuit reaches a greater maturity. Of the many aspects of this slumlord situation, Tabitha’s might be the most gut wretching of them all when she summed up their entire journey to this point. “We survived that mess during Katrina. That complete collapse of human character in our politicians was practically nothing compared to what we went through with Rickie Shaw and that trailer park. I am not sure which situation was worse for us. Imagine that the biggest natural disaster in recent American history and the corruption which came with it almost equals in terms of horrific experiences to that of some Bibb County land lord,” concluded Tabitha.
By Daniel L. Bamberg
As the New Year becomes a reality, many will reflect on the year that was. In 2009 Bibb County made state headlines on several occasions and even in some instances, national headlines. There were strange occurrences, moments of triumph, and unique stories. The following are the most memorable twenty stories covered by The Centreville Press in 2009 (reverse order).
20. Two Earthquakes Shake Bibb County
In February Bibb County registered an Earthquake, which as one expert stated, “could not be felt.” On two days in April a pair of earthquakes were not only felt but alarmed many citizens. This gave Bibb a very short-lived media nickname “Earthquake Central” and caused many citizens to become interested in Geology and Seismology.
While earthquakes are not commonly felt in most areas of Alabama, experts claimed Bibb County’s 2009 seismic activity was normal and geologically healthy. In short, there was no reason for any alarm, but it was all the talk for a time.
19. Major Drug Bust
Following a nearly year long sting operation performed by the 4th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, Grand Jury Indictments were handed down in October. In early November 16 arrests were made for several drug charges which included selling drugs near school and distribution of a controlled substance for many of the suspects. The Investigation resulted in the seizing of $2000 in marijuana, $10,000 in crack cocaine, $2000 in cash, some fire arms, and illegally distributed prescription medication.
18. Out of Towner Rescues Local at Cahaba Lilly Festival
During the Cahaba Lilly Festival in June, a Tuscaloosa resident came to the event with no expectations. Roy E. Grose had been encouraged by friends to witness the celebration. Eventually he gave in and came to West Blocton along with several other out-of-towners.
Grose said he enjoyed the event but eventually it was time to leave.
Their departure was halted as Grose began to look in his truck for his missing cell phone. Not long thereafter a voice from the distance yelled, “Oh my God, he is under, someone help him.” An elderly man had fallen into the current and was drowning. Grose emptied his pockets and jumped in the water. He grabbed the man’s cane, asked him to hold on and pulled the elderly man to safety. It was later discovered that Grose was the only person nearby who could swim. The visit that Grose never wanted to make became a moment one citizen could not have afforded for Grose to miss.
17. Dr. Meigs Flies with the Blue Angels
Local family physician Dr. John Meigs was given the rare and distinct honor of flying with a member of the Blue Angels Squadron in one of their jets. This was just before Tuscaloosa’s first ever Air Show which was a successful venture for that community. Meigs was like a kid at Christmas and yet never seemed nervous during this unique experience.
16. Several Local Cemeteries Vandalized
One of the most disturbing occurrences this year happened repeatedly. Several local churches and cemeteries were vandalized this year. Arrests were made, but new acts continued to surface. The most significant of these was perhaps the desecration of the Centreville-Cooper Street Cemetery known by some as “Four Points Cemetery.”
Twenty-five tombstones were disrupted in some way. Not long after, several churches were broken into and wrecked. This most notable of these occurred when copper wiring was stolen from one church allowing gas to seep out which could have easily resulted in an explosion had nobody noticed.
In a story that the press is still investigating, vandalism apparently occurred again at Four Points Cemetery on Christmas Eve. More will come on that story next week.
15. Bibb County Flooded
In September of this year several days of rain, including a day where the bottom fell out, resulted in a mild but visible flooding in the area. A portion of Deer Creek Road was washed away leaving two vehicles trapped in the water. Nobody was killed during this event and the community seemed to rally around one another as several stories of heroism were revealed in the aftermath.
14. West Blocton Canoe Trip Disaster
In October several citizens were shocked to discover 13 West Blocton High School students had turned over on multiple occasions while on a canoe field trip. Two teachers and two members of the Cahaba River Society were with the kids. After law enforcement showed up to aid in the recovery, Bibb County Sheriff Keith Hannah and West Blocton Chief of Police Keith Whatley were horrified and disgusted with the situation. Whatley found the actions of the teachers and the Cahaba River Society to be irresponsible and careless. The following week the Board of Education ruled a ban on all trips to the Cahaba River until further notice and at least one teacher was placed on administrative leave.
13. Board of Education Superintendent Assaulted
If you want a bizarre story look you need look no further than May 6, 2009. After the Board of Education chose to demote Brent Elementary School Principal, Dr. Cheryl Fondren, her husband Tony went to the residence of Superintendent Don Elam. What happened while he was there has yet to be determined by the court system. Fondren did however turn himself in to authorities shortly there after on assault charges. Then he posted $10,000 bail. A Grand Jury indicted Fondren in October. According to court documents he faces two counts of assault. One count was for assaulting Don Elam and another was for assault Elam’s wife, Mary.
12. South Bibb Dixie Youth Wins State Championship
On July 18th the South Bibb Dixie Youth AA baseball team won the State Championship in Athens, Alabama by defeating Mobile’s Municipal American team. The team, which is made up of 7 and 8 year-olds, made the front of the News Courier in Athens and the front page of the Centreville Press.
11. Teenager Drowns in the Cahaba River
The saddest story of the year occurred in April, when a student from Tri-Wil Porta Cras (West Blocton) drowned in the Cahaba River. A group of teens were on an outing with two house parents at the Cahaba Rive National Wildlife Reserve, commonly referred to as “Piper.” While walking along the shoals, a 13-year-old slipped and fell between the rocks. One of the other boys attempted to rescue him, but unfortunately the teen eventually slipped and went under.
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, with aid from Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Department and Rick Lecroy, searched for the boy until it was too dark. The BCSD Dive Team discovered the boy on the following day near noon. Tri-Wil Executive Director Jim Brown spoke highly of the child’s character and called the death a surreal and terrific loss.
10. Local National Guard Unit Deployed to Iraq
The most touching and patriotic display of the year came in June. The 129th Medical Company of the Alabama National Guard (one of the local units) was deployed to Iraq. During the Deployment Ceremony emotions were high as families came to see their loved ones off. On hand for the ceremony were Senator Hank Erwin, Brent Mayor Dennis Stripling, Centreville Mayor Tom Bamberg, West Blocton Mayor Jabo Reese, and Probate Judge Jerry Pow. Senator Erwin spoke saying, “ Remember where you come from. You come from the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth. Take care of it so you can pass it on to the next generation.” Children of the Unit’s members were given pins and American Flags and mothers of those in the unit were given a banner by the Blue Star Mothers of America. The 129th Medical Company of the Alabama National Guard is set to return home in June of 2010.
9. Local Slumlord Exposed
Trussville resident and owner of Highfield Properties, Ricky Shaw has been exposed as a potential slumlord in the media. Shaw is the landowner for Shady Oaks Estates, a trailer park in West Blocton.
Following the entire trailer park losing water, the media was contacted and an investigation to further claims of “unsafe living conditions” went underway. During the investigation several major sewage leaks in the general area were discovered. Also some residents were without hot water and were given no intent from the landowner to fix the problem. Black mold, holes in the floor, faulty wiring, roach infestations, leaking roofs and windows were also common problems. The Centreville Press broke the story in December. WVUA-TV followed with another report. Currently other media sources claim to be investigating the landowner as well. Other properties in other areas are also being investigated following accusations that Shaw suggested Shady Oaks wasn’t the worst place he owned. A follow-up to this story is currently in the works.
8. Bibb County High School Opens New Facility
In May, Bibb County High School opened its doors to a brand new state of the art school facility. Several conditions of the old building resulted in the beautiful and technologically adequate new building. 9th graders currently attend school in the newest portion of the old building while the rest of it is utilized for special events, and the old lunchroom is the new weight room. Of the many strides made by the present Board of Education administration this was their landmark achievement.
7. Six Mile Gets a Fire Department
After years of trying to do it on their own the Six Mile community were finally able to get their own community volunteer Fire Department. It came with help from their big brother, Brierfield Volunteer Fire Department. BVFD Chief Spruce McRee spoke to the Six Mile Community in early March presenting them an offer to become a second station for Brierfield. This action would allow Six Mile residents to serve fire protection to their own community without having to pay out the high cost of it all. The only negative would be the loss of exclusive identity. Following a 41 to 2 vote in later March, among Six Mile residents a momentous decision had been made. The Six Mile Community Center now hosts Brierfield Volunteer Fire Department – Station II Six Mile. The two groups train together, co-host events, and combine their efforts in fund raising.
6. WWII Era Guns Found in Creek
During a routine bridge inspection in April members of the Alabama Department of Transportation discovered some guns in Shultz Creek just off of a bridge on Highway 219 in Centreville. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Department was notified and the Dive Team discovered more guns after searching for a few hours. A total of ten weapons were discovered including a Thompson .45 Caliber Semi-Automatic, a pilot’s survival gun, and a Japanese anti-tank cannon. These weapons were all from the World War II era, making them very valuable and historically important.
In a combined effort between the A.T.F. and the BCSD the guns were donated to museums and the Thompson was donated to the Sheriff’s Department. The story made state headlines, some national headlines, and was featured in a handful of magazines published for gun enthusiasts.
5. Zac Stacy Makes Waves at Vanderbilt
Former Bibb County football standout Zac Stacy made a splash in major college football early this season. Before suffering a knee injury he had become the ‘go to’ back for Vanderbilt’s new offense. His personality and charm thrust him into the media spotlight, as he became one of the most often interviewed players on the team. Coaches and players alike have been raving about Stacy’s talents since he arrived. Nashville’s weekly newspaper “The Tennessean” and the Tuscaloosa News both included major write-ups on Zac this season.
The Centreville Press was given the honor of covering a reunion of former teammates, however, when Georgia faced Vanderbilt in October. Ben Jones, former teammate and starting center for Georgia, suggested, “I am so proud of him.” So, this season was the community.
4. Sammie Hill and Matt Downs Go Pro
Former West Blocton High School stud, Sammie Lee Hill was drafted earlier this year into the NFL. The Detroit Lions picked up the former Tiger in the 4th round in what some referred to as “a steal.” Sammie’s successful summer workout resulted in a starting position on the Lions defensive line. He has been impressive thus far and appears to have a bright future ahead with a 3-year contract signed not long after pre-season began.
Native of Centreville, Matt Downs became the talk of the town earlier this year when he was called up to the San Francisco Giants. During a brief stint he didn’t post an impressive average but accomplished many things. Downs has major league hits, a major league stolen base, major league RBIs, and a major league home run. Giants’ management spoke highly in regards to Downs’ ability and character. He was called up one more time in an even shorter trip before the season ended. Perhaps there will be more of Downs as a Major Leaguer in 2010.
3. Willie Gardner Jr. Memorial Bridge
Willie Gardner Jr., a local Vietnam hero who died in the war, was given a distinct and historic honor in May. He became the first black soldier in Bibb County to have a memorial dedicated in his honor. Following a ceremony in front of friends, family, and brothers in arms, Haysop Creek Bridge was permanently changed to Willie Gardner Memorial Bridge. State Representative Cam Ward, who had a lot to do with the moment becoming, spoke at the ceremony. “It is very seldom that I have the opportunity to really be as honored and humbled as I am here today. God is indeed shining down on us with his arm around Willie Gardner,” said Ward.
2. One of Arkansas Most Wanted Discovered Living in Centreville
One of the most peculiar stories this year was that of Tim Dehart. The man locals referred to as Chris Sullivan, a member of the Bibb County Airport Authority, was actually Tim Dehart of Paragould, Arkansas. Also unknown to local residents he was a wanted man. Dehart had disappeared off the coast of Mississippi five years before being arrested in Centreville. At the time of his disappearance he was in violation of probation and owed a large sum of money for bank fraud. His arrest came just days before his wife would have received full payment on an insurance claim for his “staged” death.
The story made state and national headlines and became one of the most talked about stories of the year here in Bibb County.
1. BCHS Undefeated for First Time in 24 years
The Bibb County High School football team became the talk of West Central Alabama after finishing the regular season undefeated. This happened for the first time in 24 years. There were other accomplishments however. Running Back Quail Rutledge led the region in rushing and the Bibb County defense never fell from the top 4. For the first time in the program’s history the Choctaws made it beyond the second round of the playoffs but lost valiantly in the third round to Jackson.
Many members of the community were inspired and enthusiastic about the success, which came from the efforts of a solid team. With that community pride came a community bonding and with that came Bibb County’s greatest story of the year.