Clay County Hazardous Weather Outlook for Irma

What may seem like a perfect rainy sleep-in morning for some should not be taken so lightly. Although Irma has weakened and will no doubt be downgraded to a Tropical Storm later this morning, the Eastern region of the state of Alabama remains under a Tropical Storm warning in anticipation of Irma’s arrival…and ultimately, her welcome departure.

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So, if you’re in Clay County, here’s what you can expect within the next 24 hours, give or take a few:

The highest impact time appears to begin at 12 noon today ( Monday) to as late as noon tomorrow.  This timing is dependent on many factors, such as the speed of Irma and course of track. You can expect wind gusts from 35-45 mph, ranging up to 55 mph and 3-5 inches of rain, with possibly locally higher amounts.

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Downed trees and power outages are likely, so be sure to have a plan of action in place. Make sure your cell phones are charged and you have plenty of bottled water onhand. You can also fill your bathtub with water for necessary household needs, such as toilet flushing.  You will need to have canned foods, or convenient grocery items, batteries, flashlights and candles is a must because you never know how long you will be without power, especially at this time with so many power crews out of state working the hardest hit area, there could possibly be a delay is having your service restored.

There is no tornado threat at this time, however, and this is just me speaking, you can never really rule out an isolated tornado.  Not trying to use scare tactics, just raise awareness.

I know there are many of you who want to help out when the damage starts rolling in, but please remember to WATCH OUT for downed power lines. So, if you see a tree down and want to grab your chain saw to cut, remember that it could be wrapped in live power lines and you could be electrocuted. DO NOT attempt to drive across downed power lines as well. Same scenario.

If you live in a mobile home, don’t wait until the storm is upon you to seek shelter! Remember that precautionary measures saves lives! There are several local shelters that will open after lunch today to anyone in need.

  • Shinbone Fire Dept
  • Delta Fire Dept
  • Hollis Fire Dept
  • Lineville Senior Center
  • Bluff Springs Fire Dept
  • Shiloh Fire Dept
  • Ashland Library
  • Millerville Fire Dept
  • Tri-Community
  • Ashland First Methodist Church
  • Cornerstone Ministries in Jackson’s Gap

If anyone has any shelters to add, please let me know.  Remember to take along any personal items you may need if you choose to use one of these shelters, because they don’t keep any of these items in stock.

The Clay County EMA, in conjunction with the Clay County Commission and Clay County Road Department, has issued a travel advisory for all Clay County Roads effective from noon Monday until 6pm Tuesday. All non-essential travel should be avoided.

PLEASE, PLEASE call your local EMA with any damage reports, so that they can pass the word along to you. 256-396-5886. PLEASE do NOT call 911 for a downed tree or structural damage because that is not an emergency, unless someone’s life is endangered. They will be very busy throughout the course of this storm handling calls.

Be safe, people, and please, be smart.

Here is a list of businesses and industry that will be closing early today:

  • TruCabinetry will close at 11:00 am today. No second shift.
  • Wellborn Cabinets will close at 12 noon today. No second shift.
  • Anniston Army Depot is closed for all Monday shifts.
  • Honda cancels 2nd shift for Monday.
  • Clay County Courthouse closing at Noon today.
  • The Circuit Clerk’s office of Clay County is officially closed Monday September 11th by order of the Governor. There will be no court on Monday.
  • Ashland Municipal Court has cancelled the court session scheduled for September 11, 2017 at 2 P.M. due to the Weather and all cases will be rescheduled for October 09, 2017 at 2 P.M.
  • Wedowee Municipal Court has been canceled for Monday night. All cases have been continued to October 24th at 5pm.
  • The Randolph County Courthouse will be closed Tuesday also due to the weather conditions.

 

 

 

Lineville Water Testing Reveals Slightly Elevated Levels

Lineville residents will receive this letter with their water bill this month. According to the details listed in the letter, standard water testing in the Carver St area revealed slightly elevated levels of  Haloacetic Acids ( HAA5) by .02%. Now, I’m sure receiving one of these letters can be a little scary, but I see no real cause for alarm here. But sending out letters is a standard procedure to keep the public updated even if it is only by .02% over the normal range. 

Water Officials are required to do testing in random areas on a regular basis. But keep in mind that the summer temperatures require a bit more effort keeping those levels where they need to be, and if you throw a good bit of rainfall into the mix in a stagnant area where the water usage is not so high, then it’s that much harder.

The water officials around here really do a good job maintaining these levels, if you ask me. These numbers were recorded for the month of July, and this problem could already be alleviated by now, for all we know. I feel quite confident Lineville Water Department will carefully monitor this situation and do everything in their power to remedy this situation as quickly as possible.

Again, there is no real cause for concern here, it’s actually quite minor honestly. You would have to consume tons of this water, more than one person could drink, to be at risk and there is NO BACTERIA in the water, so you are not required to boil water or anything. Just wanted to set your minds at ease over a situation that might look a little scary.

 

 

Drug Arrests Made Through Joint Effort of Clay County Law Enforcement Agencies

On August 25, 2017,  Officers from the Ashland Police Department, Lineville Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Department, along with Alabama Department of Probation and Parole conducted a search and subsequent arrest of three individuals involved with illicit drugs.

Ashland Police Officer Micheal Harris and Investigator David Martin, working with Lineville Investigator Chris Matthews developed information that subjects living on Country Club Rd in Ashland were manufacturing/using methamphetamine, and that one of the subjects was under the supervision of Clay County Probation Officer Brad McVey. The officers developed enough information for a Probation home visit and upon arrival two of the subjects ran from the scene.

It was later determined that the two that ran was Mitchell Wright of Ashland, and Dalton Wright of Ashland. A third subject was located at the home, and she was identified as Breana Langhorn. All three subjects were eventually taken into custody and charged with the following: three counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance; three counts of Chemical Endangerment of a Child; three counts of Possession Drug Paraphernalia; two counts of Attempting to Elude.

All three subjects were taken to the Clay County Jail for booking. Chief Stanford and the Ashland Police Department would like to thank the officers involved for their hard work and determination in working together to see this case to its end. Without their tireless effort, and ability to work together, nothing would have been accomplished.

Special Called BOE Meeting Summary, Aug. 17

The Clay County Board of Education met Thursday, August 17, 2017 for a special called session. All members were present with the exception of Blaine Lacy.

All agenda items for this session were approved, which included the following:

  • Approval of the 2017-18 salary schedule and supplements
  • Approval to accept the bid of $1.6608 per gallon received from Willingham Oil for diesel fuel. This was the only bid received.
  • Approval of 27 personnel action items which included some of the following:
      Kelly Craven as bus aide
      Julie Wester as bus aide
      Stacey Pitts as bus driver
      Heather Rooks as custodian at Ashland Elementary
  • Informational Items
    The  first home football game is August 25, 2017.
    The next regularly scheduled Board meeting and first budget hearing will be August 31, 2017.
    There will be a called Board meeting and budget hearing on September 7, 2017.

 

ARGIE DARNELL NAMED SOUTHERN REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OFFICER OF THE YEAR

Clay County Sheriff Ray Latham was notified on July 31st, 2017 that an employee of the Clay County Detention Center had been nominated to the Outstanding Corrections Professionals Award Program, in Midway, Utah.

The selected officer from the Southeastern Region of the United States was to be announced on August 2nd, 2017 by the nominating committee. Persons for such a prestigious award would be considered based on previous achievements with the National Institute for Jail Operations, (NIJO)  also headquartered in Midway, Utah.

Sheriff Latham presents Argie Darnell with award

Early in 2012, Sheriff Latham joined the detention center with the National Institute for Jail Operations in an effort to have a more secure facility while providing guidelines and regular up to date training for employees. Requirements of detention certifications, training guidelines and other requirements associated with the NIJO were a challenge in the start. Cooperation by the County Commissioners, necessary upgrades & repairs to the Detention Center were and continue to be made. Work by Detention Administrators, correctional officers and supervisory personnel in the Sheriff’s Office, accomplishments were rewarded.

Sheriff Ray Latham, Investigator Shanon House, Jail Administrator Argie Darnell, Chief Deputy Henry Lambert

On August 2nd, 2017, Sheriff Latham was notified that Detention Administrator Argie Darnell had received the Southeastern Regional Detention Administrator of the Year award. Darnell’s accomplishments with the requirements set forth by NIJO as it pertains to the Clay County Detention Center was most impressive, stated, Tate McCotter, Executive Director for NIJO in Midway, Utah. Her name stood beside each on-line compliance and certification required by NIJO, and was completed though and timely.  With such a high compliance rating through NIJO, McCotter intends to use Darnell’s accomplishments as an incentive for other jails across the country when he teaches.

Darnell will receive her prestigious award at the NIJO Southeastern Regional Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30th, 2017. “Accomplishments like this are earned by hard work and dedication” states Sheriff Latham.

State Senator Dial to Introduce new Tobacco Tax Bill that would Eliminate County funds

Thursday, July 27, 2017- Just minutes after releasing a statement regarding the controversy surrounding a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Clay County commissioners,  the plot thickened.  Commissioners received an email of yet another new bill to be introduced to the Senate that would take away all the funding to the commission.

The previous bill regarding the distribution of the tobacco tax funds within the county, SB65, passed in March 2017, to be put into effect in October 2017 showed the following percentages as follows:

(1) Thirty-two percent to the Alabama Forestry Commission to be utilized for fire protection in the county, as provided in subsection (b).
(2) Twenty percent to the Clay County Industrial Development Council.
(3) Eighteen percent to the Clay County Animal Shelter. The Clay County Animal Shelter shall annually report 8 to the county commission regarding the expenditure of the 9 funds in the preceding year.
(4) Fifteen percent to the Clay County Commission to be deposited into a special fund in the county treasury and, subject to an application process developed by the county commission, disbursed to water districts in the county for the purpose of installing feeder lines. The county commission shall have the authority to develop guidelines, promulgate 16 rules, and institute an application process to provide for the disbursement of the funds.
(5) Fifteen percent shall be retained in the Clay 19 County General Fund to be utilized as are other county funds.
(b) The funds distributed to the Alabama Forestry Commission shall be payable on a quarterly or monthly basis and will be expended solely for purposes of fire protection, prevention, and fire safety education in order to encourage a strong volunteer firefighters’ network in Clay County.

The New Bill in question, just received today, reads that State Senator Dial will introduce changes in these figures  distributed to show that the Alabama Forestry would now receive 62% of the Tobacco Tax funds, 20% to the Industrial Development Council, and 18% to the Clay County Animal Shelter.

This would completely de-fund the Commission, possibly causing a major water project of almost 10 million dollars to be halted, as well as cut services offered to the citizens and/or put county jobs in danger.

Below is the press release by the Commissioners made earlier today:

In response to the letter from the Clay County Animal Shelter, regarding the lawsuit surrounding SB65.

The Clay County Commission has supported the animal shelter to the tune of $5000 per year. Those funds are included in the 2017 budget and currently there have been no plans made to change any of that. However in response to the commission stance to oppose this bill, let’s look at the whole picture.


Senator Dial took it upon himself to introduce this legislation in Montgomery without so much as discussing it with the commission or any other leaders in this county. As a commission we must make decisions based on what is best for the county as a whole. Funds continue to shrink, people continue to move away, and no new funds become available. We want what’s best for this county. Period. But is it fair for a senator to divert money without discussing it with the people it affects? Now if he wants to put it on a ballot and let the people of the county decide to give that money to the animal shelter, we will gladly back away, even if we have to cut funds elsewhere. Because that’s what will happen. As it stands now, this has been much like taxation without representation. When an elected official just decides to use his office to heavy hand the local government. Does that sound fair?

The Commission is challenging the constitutionality of SB65 because:

A. The state constitution states that public money cannot be distributed to a private entity not under the control of the state or any of its subdivisions unless those appropriations were approved by a 2/3rds vote of all members elected to each house. SB65 violates article IV ss 73 of the Alabama constitution
B. Only 16 of 35 members of the senate and 18 of 105 members of the house voted in favor of this legislation. Clearly this is not 2/3rds in either house.

It is important to note that we continue to lose funds from the state and federal government. For instance federal payment in leiu of taxes ( for national forest) dropped from $83,850 in 2016 to just $48,277 in 2017.

As for the statement made by the animal shelter that due to this action by the commission they can no longer accept animals, how is that the case? There have been no funds removed from the shelter. Not one dime. The same funds that the shelter has been receiving will continue. This lawsuit is to stop more funds from being pulled from the county and shifted to the animal shelter. So how does that stop the operation of the shelter? It has been operating until notification of this action. And just so the public knows, even if the action was allowed to stand, no funds would go towards the shelter until NEXT year. How does that affect the shelter today?
The bottom line is this. The money is not there to offer that much support to the animal shelter. Where should we cut services to do so? Because that is what will have to happen if that much is pulled away from the general fund.

For informational purposes here is a breakdown of the county general fund expenditures for 2017 thus far

For 2017, there has been general fund expenditures of $2,397,487.23:

$1,234,956.06 to the sheriffs office and jail. That’s roughly 55% of the general fund
$478,336.36 was For commission office, staff, upkeep of all county buildings
$33,006.50 for board of registrars
$3,470.74 for airport
$9,153.36 for farmers market
$43,465.11 for county maintenance department
$106,161.94 for EMA
$14,262.58 for coroner
$213,747.73 for probate office and staff
$29,115.75 for courthouse (utilities)
$17,761.01 for courthouse security
$14,218.75 for the supernumerary pay (retirement to former Sherriff
$8,072.47 for the recycling center
$34,754.52 for the elderly transport
$5000 for rescue squad
$5000 for animal shelter

Also included in these are the commission responsibilities for state offices located here in the county. We are required by the state to pay these.

$82,160.34 for the revenue commissioner
$3,226.63 for phones in circuit judge
$1,825.28 for phones in circuit clerks office
$5,259.87 for telephone and utilities for district attorney
$316.80 for phone for juvenile probation office
$257.76 for phone for drivers license office
$4,452.32 for utilities and phone for extension office

Clay County Commissioners. Photo courtesy of The Clay-Times Journal

Signed, Clay County Commissioners

  • Bennie Morrison, District 1
  • Donald Harris, District 2
  • Ray Milstead, District 3/ Chairman
  • Greg Denney, District 4
  • Ricky Burney

In a letter released earlier from Sharon Forbus submitted earlier to Senator Dial, who was desperately asking for help for the shelter:

Dear Senator Dial,

I’m certain that you have heard by now that the Clay County Commission, namely Benny Morrison, Ray Milstead and Mary Woods have filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other declaratory relief against Clinton Carter, Dr. Kathleen Baxter and the Clay County Animal Shelter seeking the Circuit court of Clay County to declare SB65 AS unconstitutional and void, for a permanent injunction against providing that CCAS any of the tobacco receipts, plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court. As you know the shelter is run by volunteers and donations are used for it’s survival. In the past, we received $5,000/yr from the Commission, $500/Mon. from the City of Ashland and $150/mon. from the City of Lineville. Our treasurer, Frankie Gravette was informed by Ray Milstead that the shelter would no longer be receiving funds from the County. We are uncertain as to how to proceed. We do not have funding to hire an attorney and even though I practiced law in the Army for 16 years, I am not admitted to the Alabama bar and, therefore, cannot represent the Shelter in court. Without funding this shelter cannot stay in operation. We Don’t know what to do.

Please help our shelter.

Sharon Forbus

The Clay County Animal Shelter is in dire need of funds to ensure the facility can keep their doors open. Anyone wishing to donate the Shelter can do so here:

https://www.gofundme.com/shelter-legal-fund

 

 

Commissioners Respond to Lawsuit involving Animal Shelter Funding

In response to the letter from the Clay County Animal Shelter, regarding the lawsuit surrounding SB65.

(Please click on green wording below to view the lawsuit in its entirety, along with Senate Bill 65, which also serves as Exhibit A in the suit)

Commission Lawsuit

lawsuit supported document

The Clay County Commission has supported the animal shelter to the tune of $5000 per year. Those funds are included in the 2017 budget and currently there have been no plans made to change any of that. However in response to the commission stance to oppose this bill, let’s look at the whole picture.


Senator Dial took it upon himself to introduce this legislation in Montgomery without so much as discussing it with the commission or any other leaders in this county. As a commission we must make decisions based on what is best for the county as a whole. Funds continue to shrink, people continue to move away, and no new funds become available. We want what’s best for this county. Period. But is it fair for a senator to divert money without discussing it with the people it affects? Now if he wants to put it on a ballot and let the people of the county decide to give that money to the animal shelter, we will gladly back away, even if we have to cut funds elsewhere. Because that’s what will happen. As it stands now, this has been much like taxation without representation. When an elected official just decides to use his office to heavy hand the local government. Does that sound fair?

The Commission is challenging the constitutionality of SB65 because:

A. The state constitution states that public money cannot be distributed to a private entity not under the control of the state or any of its subdivisions unless those appropriations were approved by a 2/3rds vote of all members elected to each house. SB65 violates article IV ss 73 of the Alabama constitution
B. Only 16 of 35 members of the senate and 18 of 105 members of the house voted in favor of this legislation. Clearly this is not 2/3rds in either house.

It is important to note that we continue to lose funds from the state and federal government. For instance federal payment in leiu of taxes ( for national forest) dropped from $83,850 in 2016 to just $48,277 in 2017.

As for the statement made by the animal shelter that due to this action by the commission they can no longer accept animals, how is that the case? There have been no funds removed from the shelter. Not one dime. The same funds that the shelter has been receiving will continue. This lawsuit is to stop more funds from being pulled from the county and shifted to the animal shelter. So how does that stop the operation of the shelter? It has been operating until notification of this action. And just so the public knows, even if the action was allowed to stand, no funds would go towards the shelter until NEXT year. How does that affect the shelter today?
The bottom line is this. The money is not there to offer that much support to the animal shelter. Where should we cut services to do so? Because that is what will have to happen if that much is pulled away from the general fund.

For informational purposes here is a breakdown of the county general fund expenditures for 2017 thus far

For 2017, there has been general fund expenditures of $2,397,487.23:

$1,234,956.06 to the sheriffs office and jail. That’s roughly 55% of the general fund
$478,336.36 was For commission office, staff, upkeep of all county buildings
$33,006.50 for board of registrars
$3,470.74 for airport
$9,153.36 for farmers market
$43,465.11 for county maintenance department
$106,161.94 for EMA
$14,262.58 for coroner
$213,747.73 for probate office and staff
$29,115.75 for courthouse (utilities)
$17,761.01 for courthouse security
$14,218.75 for the supernumerary pay (retirement to former Sherriff
$8,072.47 for the recycling center
$34,754.52 for the elderly transport
$5000 for rescue squad
$5000 for animal shelter

Also included in these are the commission responsibilities for state offices located here in the county. We are required by the state to pay these.

$82,160.34 for the revenue commissioner
$3,226.63 for phones in circuit judge
$1,825.28 for phones in circuit clerks office
$5,259.87 for telephone and utilities for district attorney
$316.80 for phone for juvenile probation office
$257.76 for phone for drivers license office
$4,452.32 for utilities and phone for extension office

Clay County Commissioners. Photo courtesy of The Clay-Times Journal

Signed, Clay County Commissioners

  • Bennie Morrison, District 1
  • Donald Harris, District 2
  • Ray Milstead, District 3/ Chairman
  • Greg Denney, District 4
  • Ricky Burney

 

The Clay County Animal Shelter has stated that without these funds, they may be forced to close their doors and have established a Gofundme account. Click here to donate:https://www.gofundme.com/shelter-legal-fund

 

 

A letter to Senator Dial Regarding County Funds not Being Allocated to Shelter

Below is a letter filed by Sharon Forbus, on behalf of the Clay County Animal Shelter to Senator Gerald Dial about the $50,000 the Senate Bill 65 which would allocate funding to the Clay County Animal Shelter. In this bill, 18% of the tobacco tax collected in Clay County would go to the Shelter. However, there is a lawsuit in place at this time regarding this allocation. And because this is a pending lawsuit, it is going to be very hard to get any comments from the Commission on this subject. I am going to attempt to get a statement of some kind though from the Commissioners and from Senator Dial. 

 

Dear Senator Dial,

I’m certain that you have heard by now that the Clay County Commission, namely Benny Morrison, Ray Milstead and Mary Woods have filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other declaratory relief against Clinton Carter, Dr. Kathleen Baxter and the Clay County Animal Shelter seeking the Circuit court of Clay County to declare SB65 AS unconstitutional and void, for a permanent injunction against providing that CCAS any of the tobacco receipts, plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court. As you know the shelter is run by volunteers and donations are used for it’s survival. In the past, we received $5,000/yr from the Commission, $500/Mon. from the City of Ashland and $150/mon. from the City of Lineville. Our treasurer, Frankie Gravette was informed by Ray Milstead that the shelter would no longer be receiving funds from the County. We are uncertain as to how to proceed. We do not have funding to hire an attorney and even though I practiced law in the Army for 16 years, I am not admitted to the Alabama bar and, therefore, cannot represent the Shelter in court. Without funding this shelter cannot stay in operation. We Don’t know what to do.

Please help our shelter.

Sharon Forbus

BOE Approves Hires for AES Teachers; Discuss Important Dates

In a special called session, The Clay County Board of Education met Tuesday, July 18 at the Central Office. The sole purpose for this meeting was to approve a few priority personnel action items that needed to be addressed for the upcoming school year.

The following personnel actions items were unanimously approved:

Resignation:
  • Donna Medforth, Janitor – Ashland Elementary School
Employ:
  • Anita Harris – Teacher at Ashland Elementary School
  • Jessica Burney Hammonds – Teacher at Ashland Elementary School

BOE Member Chris Jackson was excited to announce that Clay Central now had a Fishing Team. There will be six teams that  represent school in a bass nation tournament.  Les Robinson was instrumental in the establishment of this team, generously donating his time and efforts by Coaching this team until someone else can step in and take the reins. “This team will provide additional opportunities for both male and female students who are not interested in other extracurricular activities, such as football, baseball, cheerleading, band, etc., ” said Jackson. Members of this team will also be eligible for scholarships.

The 2017-18 Clay Central High Fishing Team

 

Discussion before the closure of this meeting included important dates to remember regarding the kickoff of the new school year:

August 2nd,  4th, 7th– Teacher InService days

August 3rd– Open House for all schools:

  • Ashland & Lineville Elementary: 1:00-7:00 PM

Special Information for Lineville Elementary:

*Tuesday, August 1: Parents’ Night – Kindergarten at 5PM and 1st Grade at 6PM (This is for Kindergarten and 1st Grade ONLY)
*Thursday, August 3: Open House (1-7PM)
*Tuesday, August 8: First Day of School

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  • Central Jr. & Sr High- 8:00 am-3:00 PM

    12th​ 8:00-9:30​​​​​​
    11th​ 9:30-10:45​​​​​​

    Lunch 11:00-12:00

    10th​ 12:15-1:30
    9th​ 1:30-3:00

    Schedules will be issued in the CAFETERIA LOBBY. Students are to pick up schedules upon arrival.
    Lockers may be rented in each homeroom for $25.00

    Jr High Schedule
    8th​ 8:00-11:00 (Jr High Building)
    7th ​12:15-3:00 (Jr High Building)
    Lockers may be rented in 1st period class.

    Parking permits will be sold in Room 156 for $25.00 for students who must drive to school. (Must have a valid Alabama driver’s license and proof of insurance to purchase).

    ALL STUDENTS GRADES 7-12 WILL HAVE SCHOOL PICTURES MADE ON THIS DAY. AS SOON AS SCHEDULES ARE PICKED UP PLEASE GO TO THE JR HIGH LUNCHROOM TO HAVE YOUR PICTURE MADE. This is taking the place of fall pictures and is required for INOW and the yearbook. There will be a make up day but students are encouraged to have them made at this time. ALL SHIRTS MUST BE IN DRESS CODE FOR PICTURES.

    All students must see their teachers for fees due.
    All checks are to be made out to Central High School of Clay County and a receipt will be issued. ALL CHECKS MUST HAVE A PHONE NUMBER. CHECKS MAY NOT BE WRITTEN AND CASHED BY THE SCHOOL.

    New students needing to enroll or students needing to withdraw must see the school counselors at the given times per grade.

    Any problems or issues with schedules will be addressed by grades beginning the first day of school. Please follow the schedule you are given until your grade is called if you have a problem with the schedule.

    Students may also put money in their meal accounts during Open House by going to the Cafeteria. All checks for meals must be made out to CNP. Forms for free and reduced lunch can be picked up at this time.

August 8– Students first day

The next Board meeting will be held July 27, 2017, during which time the 2016 Audit Report will be presented.  BOE member Blaine Lacy was absent from this meeting.

 

 

 

Bunner Receives 52 Year Sentence for Murdering Ex- Girlfriend

July 13, 2017- In a Clay County Courtroom today, Loren Daniel Bunner withdrew his Not Guilty Plea and entered in a plea of Guilty  for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jolee Nicole Callan, age 18. After an hour and half of testimony and hearing state’s evidence, Judge George Simpson handed down a sentence of 52 years incarceration to Bunner. The murder took place on August 30, 2015 in a densely wooded area along the Pinhoti Trail of  Cheaha State Park.

Bunner had originally been granted youthful offender status by Judge Simpson, which only carries a maximum of three-year sentence and goes off your record at age 18. However, Simpson revoked this status is November 2016. Bunner was released on a 150,000 bond after serving just a few days in jail.

After Bunner’s youthful offender status was revoked, his attorney, Greg Varner, made a motion requesting Simpson reinstate the youthful status, claiming no new charges or additional evidence have been filed against Bunner. Simpson denied Varner’s motion in December 2016.

Bunner’s story at the time of the murder was that he and Jolee had a suicide pact. They were supposed to jump off the cliff together Romeo and Juliet style, but when they got there, neither could go through with it. So, Bunner had said that Jolee wanted to be shot in the back of the head, so she “wouldn’t see it coming.” A story that would prove to be false after autopsy proved Callan had been shot not only once in the back of the head, but point-blank between the eyes as well before Bunner threw her body off the cliff. Bunner then left the scene and called 911, confessing to the murder shortly afterwards.

The State’s Defense stated that Bunner had confessed to the murder many times, through a 911 call, several law enforcement agencies, and had even bragged about it to his cell mates.

One cell mate account was that Bunner said he had killed his girlfriend and he wasn’t sorry, because if he couldn’t have her, no one else could. Another  story from Bunner said he had killed his girlfriend, shot her and threw her off the mountain and he would have gotten away with it if he hadn’t confessed.

Clay County Law Enforcement take Bunner into custody. Photo courtesy of the Clay Times Journal.

Allison Davidson, Jolee’s English & Theatre Teacher at Vincent High, gave her testimony. Davidson stated that Jolee took Theatre classes for two years, during which time, she got to know Jolee very well. Davidson described Jolee as very intelligent, funny and bright, compassionate and kind. Davidson referred to Jolee as an excellent student, who was also in the gifted program. Davidson said she became very fond of Jolee, and soon they became friends outside of the classroom. Even after Jolee graduated from Vincent, She kept in touch with Davidson through texts, calls, and visits. Davidson stated Jolee came to see her three days before she was killed, and they had a nice visit. “She was the happiest I had seen her in awhile. She looked good and was in a great mood. She told me she was dating a new guy named Matt, but was still getting numerous calls from Loren threatening suicide, and when this would happen, Jolee would go ‘talk him down from the ledge’. I advised her that Loren was a grown man and could take care of himself and that she needed to move on with her life.”

Davidson knew all about the troubled relationship between Bunner and Jolee because Jolee confided in her throughout the life of the relationship. “Jolee said he played video games a lot, and they argued frequently. Loren isolated her from her friends, only allowing Jolee to hang out with his friends.” Davidson recalled prom night where they seemed to be a lot of tension between the two. Davidson said that Jolee was not suicidal, that she even told her on that last visit that she had decided to go to Montevallo, a college which she had been accepted in when she graduated. But not knowing exactly what she wanted to do with her life, Jolee had taken a babysitting job over the course of that summer, giving herself time to really think about what she wanted to do with her life. “She was very excited about the prospect of going to college. The last thing I told her on that visit was that I was proud of her for cutting ties with Loren and that I knew she would have a bright future,” said Davidson.

Photo courtesy of The Clay Times Journal.

Jolee’s father, Michael Callan was next on the stand, dressed in a purple oxford button down, with a beautiful purple ribbon adorned with an angel on the pocket in honor of his daughter. Callan described his daughter as just a great kid, who never got into any trouble. ” I never had to spank her. Everyone who knew Jolee liked her. She had lots of friends and dearly loved animals. We had a great father/daughter relationship,” said Callan.

Callan’s description of Bunner mirrored what her former teacher had said. ” He played video games a lot, was quiet and kind of controlling”, said Callan,” They pretty much did whatever he wanted to do. He said he got the same texts and had the same conversations that Davidson talked about. ” She would tell me about him threatening suicide all the time, and I tried to tell her just to move on. But everyone who knew Jolee knew that if they were in trouble and needed a friend, she would be the first one there, and he knew if he called her and threatened to take his life, she would be there, and she was. She was always helping others.”

Callan spoke briefly about the tremendous impact that losing his daughter had had on not only him, but his family. ” It’s been terrible. My Mom and Dad’s house burned two weeks after Jolee’s death. I lost my Dad a little later, due to a stroke. I firmly believe that if Jolee hadn’t been killed, my Dad would still be here today. It’s just taken a toll on the whole family. Everyone loved her.”

Callan said that he too, suffered a stroke a year ago from the stress of losing Jolee. ” I celebrate Jolee’s birthday at her grave site with balloons every year. I think he should get life in prison or the electric chair.”

The 911 Recording was entered in as state’s evidence and played, which included a clear confession from Bunner: “I want to turn myself in for the murder of my ex-girlfriend, Jolee Callan that happened just a little while ago on Cheaha Mountain.”

Bunner’s court appointed Attorney Greg Varner felt that a reasonable verdict would be 20 years incarceration, a consistent judgement with prior sentencing of the Clay County District Court and also that Bunner had no other priors, other than a traffic ticket for running a stop sign.

But District Attorney  disagreed, using words such as cold-calculated and pre-meditated to describe Jolee’s murder. ” There are three cases of homicidal violence in this case. First, he lured her to the mountains for a symbolic hike, and then he shoots her in the back of the head while she’s looking at the view. Then, he flips her over and shoots her point-blank between the eyes, I think, because he wanted to look at her in the eyes, if she was still alive. Then, he drags her body to the edge of the cliff and throws her 40 feet off the cliff. Not to mention, two days before the murder, he tried to take Jolee’s new boyfriend out by soliciting a friend to kill him.”

When Bunner was given an opportunity to say something to the courtroom before hearing his sentence, he declined.

Bunner’s 52-year sentence includes 10 years for the use of a firearm in the commission of murder. He will also have to pay restitution of $9, 255.00 to the Alabama Crime Victims Commission, attorney fees totaling $1500, and court costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nitty Gritty – Clay County News and Events