Valley Mayor Leonard Riley (at right) was the guest speaker at Wednesday's noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. He talked about a number of projects the city is involved with including a $2.1 million plan to expand Valley Community Center. An additional 13,500 square feet in space will allow for a new senior center and an expanded fitness room. Mayor Riley also talked about what's been going on with the 415-acre site the city recently purchased and announced an opening date for the new Steak & Shake on Fob James Drive: Monday, July 18. At left is Sharon Weldon, the program chair. (Photo by Wayne Clark)
By WAYNE CLARK
VALLEY — The 415-acre site purchased by the City of Valley earlier this year for development as an industrial park is already attracting interest on the part of potential industries, but Mayor Leonard Riley and city officials are in no hurry to start bringing they in.
"We can be patient on this," Mayor Riley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Valley at Wednesday's noon hour meeting. "It's a good location for the future, but it could be 10-12 years down the road before you see anything go in."
Bringing in the first companies interested might mean bringing in low-wage jobs. Riley said he wanted companies to come here who paid their workers $18-$20 an hour or so.
Industrial prospects have expressed interest in both the 50-acre site that fronts I-85 next to Lanier-Carter Mill and the much larger tract of land that's behind it.
The timber has been cut recently on the 50-acre site next to the Interstate. At first, the city looked at grinding the stumps of those trees but with the machinery that does that costing $5,000 a day or $33,000 a month, the stumps have been pulled out of the ground.
The city appears to have gotten a bargain in having purchased the land for around $2.8 million. The infrastructure that's in place is probably worth more than that. There's over two miles of paved roads. This includes a long stretch behind Lanier-Carter that's four-laned. There's around one mile each of eight-inch force main sewer line and a 10-inch water line.
If the city would bear the expense of putting that in today it would probably cost over $3 million.
The city has spent approximately $28,000 in upgrades at the Lakeview Camp, which is on the site. The city is considering whether or not to rent it out to the public for group gatherings.
The mayor also talked about plans for a 13,500-square-foot expansion of Valley Community Center. Most of the new space will be for a new senior center with some of it being for a larger fitness room.
There's a clear need for a larger senior center. The present one on Denson Street in Fairfax is pretty much maxed out at 40 active members. The new center will be big enough to double that kind of participation. A covered drop-off area will make the daily hot meal deliveries much more efficient. More than 100 such meals are being delivered to the homebound five days a week.
The planned expansion will cost in the neighborhood of $2.1 million and will be paid out of cash flow over a two-year period. The city is seeking a $250,000 grant to cover a portion of the cost.
The addition would boost the size of the Community Center up to 71,000 square feet under one roof.
The city is starting to see some pay back from a similar two-year commitment to improve Valley Sportsplex. It's been a very busy year for hosting tournaments and that will more than likely increase as word gets out about the kind of sports facility that's in Valley. One tournament alone, a senior tournament for softball players, brought more than 40 teams to the local area. One of them flew in from south Florida. On one day alone, a staggering 58 games were played in the five-field complex.
"An event like that can have an economic impact on your community in the $150,000 range for one weekend," Mayor Riley said. "We will try to host more of them."
The city is now doing some much-needed street paving. It's a $1.2 million program this year and up to 14 city streets will get new surfaces. Valley and the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District recently cooperated on a $700,000 improvement in some aging sewer lines. The city wrote the grant, and East Alabama got the work done.
Mayor Riley said he'd accomplished most of the goals he set when he campaigned for office four years ago. One glaring problem remains. "We still have some junky-looking yards," he said. "We still have some work to do on this, and we may have to hire people to see that it gets done."
Riley said the city is fortunate to have the Bush brothers here in the form of Henry Hudson LLC. They own the Zaxby's on Fob James Drive, which incidentally does better business than the one they have at Tiger Town in Opelika. They also own the new Steak & Shake, which should be open in mid-July.
The Bush brothers own the Riverdale Mill site. "They are salvaging it, not just tearing it down," Mayor Riley said. Some of the salvaged material is reprocessed in the former Utilization building, which they have also purchased.
Mayor Riley said he's more confident now that he was at the start that Langdale Mill can be redeveloped. "At first, my confidence level was only around 20 percent," he said. "It's up around 60 percent now."
"If it can be done, Peter Hand can do it," he said, referencing the Atlanta-area developer who has taken on the project. Some of the mill will probably be torn down, but much of it can have a new future."
Riley credits the council members and department heads for their role in getting things done in his first administration. "The progress we've been able to make the last few years could not have been made without good working relationship between the council and the department heads," he said.
Things look good for the current year. Mayor Riley said that sales tax is up almost $180,000 from where it was at this point last year. "People are spending their money at home, and that's good," he said.
"My commitment to the citizens is that this money will be going back into the city in such projects as mold removal at city hall, the improvements at the Sportsplex, the expansion of the Community Center and in road paving," Riley said.
The mayor said he was glad the city was able to give some raises for the police officers. "Their pay has gone up, and there's been no turnover in some time," he said.
When Lanier Memorial merged with the East Alabama Medical Center the city lost approximately $400,000 in annual revenue. "We've made that back up and then some," he said. "The stock market is in the seventh year of a bull run. That won't last forever. We will have a downturn sooner or later. We have $2.8 million in reserve. That will help us in the event something like that happens."
One thing the city's department heads have learned over the past four years is the importance of cash flow. "It's the name of the game," Riley said. "It's important in government, too. Our department heads have learned what it is."
By CY WOOD
LANETT — Congressional candidate Drew Ferguson IV was candid with his neighbors Thursday when he spoke at the Rotary Club of West Point's noon meeting.
Ferguson said until recently, he was running for the Third District seat in Congress because he wanted to serve the people of the district. Now though, he realizes it's important that he defeat his opponent, former State Sen. Mike Crane, who led Ferguson by a couple hundred votes in the May 24 primary that featured a seven-candidate field for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.
"He's not the type person we want representing us," Ferguson said.
According to Ferguson, his campaign is going well. Polls show him running a couple of points ahead of Crane. Ferguson has earned the endorsement of all the other candidates in the original field, but he said turnout would determine the winner come July 26.
"If we can drive turnout, we'll come out OK," he said.
Ferguson said his campaign spent about $360,000 in the first primary and will have to spend around a half million in the runoff. What drives up the cost is Atlanta television advertising rates.
He said he is often asked about the presidential race and like a lot of Americans, can't believe it is down to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Ferguson said, "Donald Trump was not my first choice, he wasn't my second choice, he wasn't my third choice …"
Ferguson said he managed to come from political obscurity (he had two percent name recognition in the district when the campaign began) to securing a spot in the runoff because of what he called "our story." He noted that throughout the district there are communities like West Point that have faced hard times and wanted to know how West Point had rebuilt.
"That's our story, a community that had lost almost everything and is now rebuilding. They want to know how we did it."
Ferguson said his answer is teamwork, building relationships built on confidence and trust, which is what he wants to do in Washington.
He said while the nation is ideologically split, "Eighty percent of us are closer together than we can imagine." It's just the fringe elements on both sides that make the most noise.
Ferguson said people need a job, a decent place to live, an acceptable education system and to be left alone.
Ferguson said it is distressing to see so many major problems facing this country — the economy, a crushing federal debt, foreign policy issues — being ignored while wrangling offer partisan hot-button issues.
"Collectively, we (the voters) are to blame for that," he said.
When asked how the mayor a city of 4,000 can expect to change Congress, Ferguson said he responds by doing the same things in Washington that were done locally to get the job done with the Kia project.
"Congress has to take the leadership," Ferguson said, saying that Congress had abdicated its legislative role and allowed the fourth branch of government — regulatory agencies — to play too large a role in the affairs of people and businesses.
Responding to questions, Ferguson said a good way to institute term limits would be to penalize elected officials who stayed in office once their pension benefits were vested. For each year they served beyond vestment, they would lose pension dollars.
On gun control, Ferguson pointed out that assault-type weapons are the same as the rifles used by many hunters, and he couldn't see banning weapons just because they looked like military weapons. "I have no faith in the federal government once we start down that road," he said.
By DAVID BELL
LaGRANGE — Following through on a promise, Troup County Probate Judge Donald Boyd told The Times-News in an interview this week that he plans to pursue legal action against the county board of commissioners as a whole and Commissioner Richard English individually for recent accusations of racism against him.
Boyd appeared before commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday and demanded both verbal and written apologies for public statements made by English, claiming that Boyd was bias against African-Americans because he did not hire them to work in his office. The most recent accusation came during a vote on the upcoming county budget, in which English made a motion to approve the spending plan "with the exception of the Probate Judge's office, because he doesn't hire my folk," meaning African-Americans. English himself is African-American.
English's motion died for lack of a second, but he insisted that his comments be reflected in the official minutes "so that a hundred years from now people can read what was said."
Boyd countered the attack by saying that he had "hired blacks and other minorities" while formerly serving as the county's elections superintendent, and recently tried to hire "a black female" in the probate office. However, Boyd said the woman declined the job because it would have been a pay cut.
The Probate Judge further told commissioners that unless he received apologies from each of them by the end of the day, he would pursue legal action, and also demanded that "unfounded statements" made by English be stricken from the record.
Boyd also claims that his request for a grade-level salary adjustment for his employees during the recent budget process was denied, in part, on the racial bias of Commissioner English. Boyd provided salary rates from surrounding counties and those from others of comparable size to Troup, all of which were higher. Nevertheless, he was told by commission Chairman Patrick Crews that individual offices could not be singled out for grade-level raises. Instead, commissioners approved an across-the-board two-percent raise for all county employees.
"They have approved these types of individual salary adjustments in the past, and I plan to request proof of those actions under the Open Records Act," Boyd told the The Times-News. "The precedent has already been set."
Boyd contends that the board's refusal to consider his request, along with statements made by English, give him grounds for a lawsuit claiming reverse discrimination.
"My character and reputation have been called into question, and I have a right to defend myself and set the record straight," said Boyd.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
BEULAH — It’s been an amazing run for the Beulah Recreation Department 11-12 Dixie Majors baseball team as the squad remains unbeaten heading to district play this weekend at Dadeville.
It’s very rare when any youth sports team goes unbeaten but even more so when it’s an all-star baseball team and the top-notch competition they face locally and as they advance in district and state tournament action.
The local all-star baseball team has not lost a game all season, capturing the regular season championship and sub-district title in Valley last weekend, team representative Kim McCool, told The Times-News Thursday.
In order to win the district, they’ll need to win three games in the double elimination tourney.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
LaGRANGE — He’s only a rising sophomore but Troup quarterback and strong safety King Mwikuta already has six Division I scholarship offers on the table, Tiger coach Tanner Glisson told The Times-News this morning.
“King has six offers from Division I schools at the present time,” Glisson noted. “Furman, Louisville, Georgia State, South Alabama, Jacksonville State and one other school I can’t recall right now have offered him. He’s also attended summer camps at Georgia, Alabama and will go to Auburn’s soon as well,” said Glisson.
Mwikuta has grown from 160 pounds to 205 since last spring when he played on the Tigers freshman team, Glisson noted.
At 6-4, 205 with three years left in high school, Mwikuta could be one of the nation’s premiere players in the 2018 high school football season.
•Troup will compete today in 11-on-11 action at Harris Co. and will have more events next week at the Tigers practice field.
Troup will face rival Callaway at home Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET in 11-on-11 action and host a three-school workout Thursday vs. Jordan of Columbus and Marion Co. also at 10 a.m.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
BEULAH — Coach Jarrod Wooten enters his fourth season as head coach of the Beulah Bobcats football program with optimism as the team opens it summer camp program today.
The Bobcats will have workouts Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-11:30 CT, Wooten told The Times-News.
A member of AHSAA 3A-Region 3, Beulah is one of a seven-school region which includes traditional state powers in Pike Co. and Montgomery Academy.
“I'm looking forward to getting our summer program rolling,” Wooten said. “We had a good spring and we're pleased that several of our key players have been showing up regularly for voluntary workouts.”
A challenging summer camp is essential to the success of any program in the fall and Beulah is headed in the right direction.
“We’ve got scheduled workouts and we're jumping right into the weight room full swing,” Wooten says. “We're excited to have coach Chris Aninye on board as a full-time strength and conditioning coach. I feel like this is a great opportunity for Beulah to make a huge step forward and I am also appreciative of what it does for us in terms of taking a huge workload off our staff. I'm really impressed with his credentials and the energy he's bringing to our entire athletic program.”
Like all team sports, you get better or get worse and Beulah is committed to making changes to improve the program.
“We made some changes in the spring and I feel good about the way our kids picked up those changes,” said Wooten. “We’re really looking forward to getting everyone back in one place and time to get this year rolling.”
The Bobcats have several players on both sides of the line that have excellent skills sets, lots of game experience and will be leaders for what should a Beulah team that can challenge for a postseason berth.
“Hunter Bowling, Gekari Cochran, Sam Sanabria and Chris Aron are doing a great job of setting the pace for the team this offseason,” Wooten said. “Those guys are seniors and are committed to working our program and setting the bar high for this team. Hunter has been our most consistent guy in the weight room and Gekari had a great spring with only one week in a brand new system after competing in the state track meet. Chris can be a difference maker for us while Sam has battled through a rough off season, but we are confident that he will be a major contributor for us as well.”
The Bobcats have not won a region title in 21 years. The 1995 season was the last time Beulah captured a region championship.
Confidence is huge for Beulah and several early season wins is crucial to build momentum for the region schedule and a run for a postseason berth.
“I would love to have a breakout year and make it to the playoffs for these kids,” said Wooten. “They deserve that opportunity to be successful.”
WEST POINT — Mr. Stacy Clark Adams, 48, of West Point was called home to be with his Lord and Savior Wednesday, June 22, 2016.
Funeral services will be held Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m. at Gray Hill Baptist Church (Bartley Road, West Point) with Brother Lamar Womack officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home of Valley is in charge of arrangements.
LaFAYETTE — Ms. Vera Lee Bailey, 59, of LaFayette passed away Friday, June 17, 2016, at her residence.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, June 25 at 2 p.m. CDT at Chosen Generation Worship Center International in LaFayette with Pastor Willie Eva Hicks officiating and Apostle Leroy Floyd, eulogist. Burial will follow at Handy Memorial Cemetery in LaFayette.
Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.
LANETT — Mrs. Carol Hicks Snider, a gifted artist and beloved wife, mother, grandmother and friend passed away Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at her home in Lanett.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, June 25 at 2 p.m. at Lanett First United Methodist Church with the Rev. Russell Williams and the Rev. Reid Turner officiating. Burial will follow at Fairfax Cemetery in Valley.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home of Valley is in charge of arrangements.