North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

December 27, 2012

Year in review: A look at north Jefferson County in 2012

From staff reports
North Jefferson News

NORTH JEFFERSON — North Jefferson County has had a busy year, with elections, hometown heroes, economic growth and even heartbreak.

The following are a few highlights from 2012:


• Jan. 18: Oscar Mann, of Gardendale, qualifies to run for a seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education. Mann is the only person to run for the position, which is held by Karen Smith Nix of Gardendale. He takes office in November.

• June 20: After Dr. Phil Hammonds announces that he will retire when his contract expires in February 2013, the search is on for his replacement. A public meeting is held in Garden?dale and other communities so the search committee can gather input from citizens.

• Oct. 3: The William Burkett Center for the Multi-Handicapped hosts an open house at its new location at the former Mortimer Jordan High School campus in Morris. There are about 165 students at the school.

• Oct. 17: The Jefferson County School Board selects Dr. Steven Nowlin, head of the Lee County School System, as the new Jefferson County Schools superintendent. Dr. Phil Hammonds will retire in February when his contract ends.


• Feb. 15: The Shell gas station being built in Morris is scheduled to open this summer. The store, off of U.S. Highway 31, is expected to be a boost to the town.

• March 28: Construction begins on a new Dollar General store at 4809 Phillips Drive in Gardendale.

• April 18: The Gardendale City Council approved the business plan of developer Kerry McAdam to build a retail center on Fieldstown Road between Waffle House and The Plaza.

• May 23: Dewey Barber Chevrolet considers a move to Gardendale from its long-time location in Warrior. In preparation, Barber & Barber Properties LLC purchases 47 acres off of Mary Buckelew Parkway, which Gardendale annexes into city limits.

• May 30: The Gardendale Farmers Market moves from the K-Mart parking lot to the corner of Main Street and Mt. Olive Road across from Gardendale High School. Later this year, it will move across the street to the Gardendale Civic Center for the remainder of the season.

• June 20: The city of Fultondale gets its own farmers market, the Fultondale Fresh Market, set up in the Ashley Furniture parking lot.

• Nov. 21: DQ Grill and Chill is opening soon in Gardendale on Fieldstown Road, and will employ 50 people full-time.

• Nov. 28: Jeff Dennis Jewelers of Gardendale is to refund about $50,000 to customers who bought items from his store from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23. In an Iron Bowl promotion, Dennis said he would refund money to customers who shopped during that week if either team shut out the other; Alabama skunked Auburn 49-0. Lloyd’s of London insured the promotion.

• Dec. 5: Gardendale offers incentives for Dewey Barber, including spending up to $500,000 to build roads and infrastructure, and tax incentives.



• March 21: An FBI probe into illegal gambling activities and bribery of elected officials in Kimberly results in a plea agreement for Daniel “Boone” Stone of Morris, thanks in large part to a wire worn by Kimberly Mayor Craig Harris. Evidence reportedly showed that up to nine people were a part of a scheme to offer bribes to Harris to keep city police away from several locations where illegal slot and electronic bingo machines would be housed.

• March 21: The Gardendale Police Department is searching for two suspects following the burglary of Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church.

• March 28: Armed gunmen are arrested by deputies after a robbery attempt near Morris, where the homeowners fought back by firing a pistol at the men.

• April 25: Gardendale Police Chief Mike Walker graduates from the FBI Academy.

• May 9: Robert Taylor Jr. is charged with one count each of conspiracy, federal programs bribery and operation of an illegal gambling business. His indictment is the first of several expected in an ongoing investigation of illegal activities in Kimberly.

• May 16: Three more people reach plea bargains with federal prosecutors in the Kimberly illegal gambling and bribery investigation: Christopher Adam McGraw, Carl Scoggins and John L. Taylor.

• May 30: In the above case, four people are arraigned in U.S. District Court: Adam McGraw, Carl E. Scoggins, Kyle Sloan and John Lynwood Taylor.

• June 27: Birmingham Police Officer Curtis Thornton is charged with arson involving fires hear his home in Warrior.

• July 25: Two masked, armed men were caught on camera robbing Peoples Bank of Alabama in Morris. Police are searching for the suspects, who escaped in a silver or gray car.

• Aug. 8: Mark Butler of Gardendale turned himself in at a Georgia sheriff’s office. He is charged with transmitting sexually explicit images via the Internet.

• Aug. 15: Crystal Ann Taylor, 28 of Kimberly, pleads guilty to one count of first degree theft of property in a case involving the Gardendale Flea Mall.

• Sept. 26: Heroin deaths are on a sharp rise. In the past year, five people in north Jefferson have died after using the drug.

• Dec. 12: Timothy Stewart, 31, of Brookside, is found dead inside a car outside of Brookside Town Hall. He had sustained a gunshot wound to the chest during an incident at a convenience store in Pratt City, according to police, who would release no further details because the incident is still under investigation.


• Jan. 24: Fultondale junior quarterback/free safety ArDarius Stewart is named Class 2A Back of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, and places fourth in the balloting for “Mr. Football,” the top prep player in the state.

• Feb. 28: Mortimer Jordan loses to Athens in the Class 5A boys basketball regional at Wallace State-Hanceville. It’s the first time the Blue Devils have reached the regionals since that playoff format was introduced in the 1990s.

• April 20: Brent Smith resigns from his second stint as head football coach at Corner. He is later replaced by Zac Willis.

• May 18: Mortimer Jordan ends an improbable run to the AHSAA Class 5A state championship game, losing to Chelsea. It was the sixth straight trip to the final game for the Blue Devils, winning three.

• Sept. 5: Josh Roberts of Morris is in London competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games. He has qualified to race in the men’s 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter races.

• Oct. 10: The nationally-known Warrior Dash brings more than 8,400 runners to north Jefferson. The race was hosted at The Hitchin Post in Kimberly.

• Nov. 15: After resigning as head boys basketball coach at Hayden, Mike Dutton turns up again — as a volunteer assistant to Lynn Elkins at Mortimer Jordan.

• Nov. 21: Hayden head football coach Steven Kerby resigns after a disappointing 2-8 season. Kerby coached the Wildcats for four seasons.

• Nov. 24: Fultondale loses to eventual Class 2A state champion Tanner 14-0 in the quarterfinals of the AHSAA playoffs. It’s the second year that the Wildcats reached the third playoff round.


• Jan. 11: Hunter Alexander, 9, of Smokerise, is receiving a tremendous amount of community support as he battles for his life after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. The community is devastated later, in August, when Hunter dies.

• Jan. 25: Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley makes an appearance in north Jefferson County as the guest speaker for the Greater Gardendale Chamber of Commerce banquet.

• March 21: The American Rosie the Riveter Association, whose vice president, Mabel Myrick, lives in Kimberly, is seeking new members nationwide who filled industrial, farm and other slots while most able-bodied men were fighting in World War II.

• April 4: Jo Griffin, owner of The Little School in Gardendale, is honored by Woodmen of the World for more than 50 years of service as a teacher.

• April 4: Maj. Ross Cline of the Alabama National Guard surprises his daughters at North Jefferson Middle and Mt. Olive Elementary schools. He has been serving in Afghanistan for a year.

• April 25: A year after a devastating tornado ripped through Fultondale and surrounding cities on April 27, 2011, the community reflects and remembers.

• April 25: The city of Fultondale opens Fire Station No. 2 on Walker Chapel Road. It is the third fire station in the city, and the first one on the west side of Interstate 65.

• May 2: Gardendale temporarily closes a portion of Phillips Drive in an attempt to decrease traffic and other construction while the new Dollar General is being built. Residents in the area are lodging numerous complaints about traffic and safety concerns.

• May. 9: The annual Gardendale Magnolia Festival is a huge hit, drawing about 25,000 people into the city, according to organizers.

• May 23: The annual North Jefferson Relay For Life raises $45,000 for the American Cancer Society; the goal was $40,000.

• June 20: A Civil War Confederate soldier, Arthur Malone Belcher, buried at the Friendship Cemetery in Gardendale, receives a grave marker 148 years after his death. The marker is revealed during a ceremony sponsored by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Cpt. Mortimer Jordan Camp No. 84.

• June 27: The New Castle community is finally getting a park, thanks in large part to resident Shirley Godwin, who has lobbied the city of Gardendale for a park to be built there ever since the community was annexed into the city during the administration of former mayor William Noble.

• July 4: West Blount County kicks off its own chamber of commerce, which 60 businesses and individuals joined even before the first official meeting.

• Aug. 1: The American Legion facility in Fultondale, reportedly the city’s oldest building, is demolished. It was heavily damaged during the April 27, 2011, tornado. The post is moving to New Castle Road.

• Aug. 29: The city of Gardendale breaks ground on the future city center, which will house city hall, restaurants, retail space, a hotel and movie theater, according to city officials.

• Oct. 31: Blount County residents say their names were fraudulently added to a petition that supports legalizing the sale of alcohol in Blount County.

• Oct. 31: St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church hosts its annual food festival. The authentic Russian fare is prepared by hand by members of the church, and the festival draws people from throughout Alabama and from surrounding states.

• Dec. 5: Pvt. Hunter Stanley arrives home from U.S. Army training, to see his son for the first time. Brayden is 3 months old. The next week, the family — Hunter Stanley, Ashlyn Stephens and Brayden Stanley — is in a car accident in Cullman County. Brayden is having brain surgery to relieve the pressure.

• Dec. 12: Church 29:11 of Mt. Olive is considering a move to the former IGA grocery store in Kimberly, which has been closed for two years.

• Dec. 19: Schools and law enforcement react to the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., by installing officers and deputies in schools throughout Jefferson County. Twenty-seven people, including the gunman, were killed; 20 of them were children.


• Jan. 11: Fultondale City Councilman William “Billy” Howell steps down because he and his family are moving to Gardendale. The city is taking applications to fill the position. Later this month, the council appoints Josh Bryant, a lieutenant with the Fultondale Fire Department, to the seat.

• Jan. 18: Blount County and the city of Warrior settle a lawsuit that stemmed from December 2009, when Warrior attempted to collect a use tax on the portion of Blount County that fell within the city’s 1.5-mile police jurisdiction.

• Feb. 15: The city of Fultondale donates a total of $51,500 to Fultondale Elementary and Fultondale High schools.

• Feb. 22: The Kimberly City Council votes to demand Mayor Craig Harris’ resignation, after they learned he had taken advances on his mayoral salary. They also called for Harris to immediately repay the money and they adopted a resolution of no-confidence.

• Feb. 29: Kimberly cuts employees’ hours to 32 a week in response to increased city expenses and declining revenues from business licenses and sales taxes.

• March 14: Rep. Spencer Bachus wins the Republican primary for the Sixth Congressional District, where he will run for re-election. Local men running against him were Sen. Scott Beason, of Gardendale, and Blount County Probate Judge David Standridge.

• March 14: The Morris Planning and Zoning Board gives a favorable recommendation regarding the controversial issue of rezoning property that would allow Enon Baptist Church to expand its parking lot. Affected homeowners strongly oppose the expansion because the parking lot would come between their houses, both of which are historic. The homeowners say the parking lot would damage the historical integrity of their homes. In April, the Morris City Council approves the rezoning.

• April 4: Warrior Mayor Rena Hudson announces she will not seek re-election. She has served a total of 24 years as mayor.

• May 30: The Fultondale City Council approves a loan of $300,000 from the city to the city’s Commercial Development Authority for the possible purchase of land for businesses to locate to Fultondale. The CDA is required to pay back the loan.

• June 6: The Kimberly City Council votes to require Mayor Craig Harris to prove that he lives in city limits, or resign. The resolution stated that the council has reason to believe that Harris had moved outside of Kimberly. Later this month, Harris announces he will resign on July 15.

• June 13: The Department of Justice approves the city of Gardendale’s new voting districts. The city was required to redistrict following the 2010 census because the population had grown by 19.5 percent and there was an uneven distribution of voters in each district.

• July 18: Sixty-six individuals qualify to run for mayor or council in north Jefferson County elections; the municipal election is in August.

• July 18: The Kimberly?City Council elects Mayor Pro Tem Bob Ellerbrock to fill the mayor position after Harris steps down. For the August elections, Ellerbrock becomes the new mayor for the next term by being the only one to qualify for election to the position.

• Aug. 22: The Kimberly City Council denies a request by Kimberly Church of God to vacate an alley. Neighbors Tim and Leslie voiced strong opposition to the measure.

• Aug. 22: Residents file a lawsuit against the city of Gardendale to keep Phillips Drive open; the lawsuit is later dropped.

• Aug. 29: After municipal elections, Gardendale and Fultondale keep their incumbent mayors; Othell Phillips and Jim Lowery, respectively. Other mayoral winners are Joe Pylant in Morris, Johnny Ragland in Warrior and Larry Armstrong in Hayden. In Trafford, Robert Niblett and Clint Daniels will be in a runoff election on Oct. 9.

• Oct. 10: Runoff election results: Clint Daniels is the new mayor of Trafford; Allen Jerkins defeats incumbent Peggy Tumlin for the Gardendale Council District 1 seat; in Fultondale, Darrell Hubbert was re-elected to Place 3 after beating Jimmy Lay in a close race and Greg Morris defeats Thomas ‘Tip’ Blizard in another close race.

• Oct. 17: Gardendale City Hall moves next door temporarily to the multi-purpose building owned by Gardendale First Baptist Church. The city hall building will be demolished soon to make way for a CVS Pharmacy. Plans call for a new city hall to be built at the future city center on Mt. Olive Road.

• Nov. 21: Fultondale is approved for more than $1.2 million in federal funding for two storm shelters that will house a total of 700 people.

• Dec. 5: Morris Mayor Joe Pylant decides to not reappoint Police Chief Brian Cochran, which draws a firestorm of protest from the community. He does not give specific reasons, but says Cochran was not fired and did not quit. Later this month, the town agrees to compensate Cochran more than $8,000 for vacation time and other benefits.