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Three Hearses and One Funeral…

Last Saturday at this time, I was getting ready to attend the funeral services for the Myers/Burch family with a heavy heart. Pamala Burch Myers, beloved wife and mother, her son, 16 year old Michael Myers and Pamala’s brother, Todd Burch had all lost their lives in a tragic automobile accident on Dec. 26, 2015.

http://www.news4jax.com/news/4-thrown-from-vehicle-after-crash-3-dead

What did I know about this family? Absolutely nothing, although I did very vaguely remember the Burch family from my much childhood. But let’s face it, that was almost 40 years ago, and I have a terrible memory. But still I felt compelled to pay my respects.

I arrived to see the caskets being carried into the sanctuary by the Pallbearers. Three hearses at one funeral…the very thought was just heartbreaking.

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As I entered the sanctuary at Ashland First Baptist, seeing those three caskets surrounded by beautiful flowers hit me like a ton of bricks. What a terrible, unexplainable loss this was to this circle of family and friends. How would they ever overcome this tragedy and fill the void of the presence of these fallen family members/friends once held in their lives? This was a worst nightmare…

My eyes were drawn to the soft glow of lights of the beautifully decorated Christmas trees that stood regally among the colorful flowers surrounding the caskets. And although these symbolic trees stood in essence of the Christmas season, it was also a sad reminder of how this family would never look at another holiday season the same. 

As I sat among the crowded pews during this service, I learned more about Pamala, Michael, and Todd from those who knew them best and just hearing their stories made my heart ache for their loss. It was clear to see that the world had lost some amazing life warriors.

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I learned that Robert and Pam had made the choice to bring Michael into their home at the age of six, and make him one of their own, making a profound impact on his life by showing him how good life could really be. Michael thrived in his new home and it showed. He was always smiling and preferred to be in his family’s presence, even when he reached his teenage years, a time when most kids find it “uncool” to be seen with family. Friends and family say that Michael was always inspiring and saw everything in a positive light.

Pamala was described as nothing short of an Earth Angel. Following in her mother, Shirley Burch’s footsteps, she chose to open her own salon, where she worked side-by-side with her mother every single day. Her presence was a vibrant and brilliant, as her she embraced each day with a new vigor. There was no such thing as a stranger to Pamala, just someone she hadn’t met, and she would waste no time in drawing you into her fold. 

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Her best friend, Lynn Young, shared a remarkable experience involving Pamala that captured the true essence of her life. In September 2015, Pamala witnessed a terrible car accident, involving a mother and her 15 yr old daughter, who was driving the vehicle.  Due to her inexperience,  The young driver had made a gross error in judgement resulting in a head-on collision. Her mother was seriously injured. Wasting no time, Pamala rushed upon the horrific scene and tore open the door where the mother lay unconscious and fading. With one hand, Pamala ripped the deployed airbag from her face and began literally screaming at the woman repeatedly,  “Lady, I don’t know where you are right now, if you’re in that long tunnel or at those Pearly Gates, but you better get yourself back here, because your 15 yr old daughter can’t live for the rest of her life knowing that she killed her mother!” Details about the woman’s injuries weren’t given in this memory, but it was told that she was still alive today. 

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Todd’s  Business partner spoke of how Todd, or James as he called him, had touched his life in the brief time that he knew him, referring to his as his brother. Todd was described as a “unrecognized genius”  who had built an engine that ran solely off of hydrogen and was in the midst of sharing it with the world, instead of making money off of it.

As I left the service, I took one last look at the beautiful slate that sat on a table in the foyer with Pamala, Todd, and Michael’s smiling faces on it and said yet another silent prayer for this family’s journey from this point on. It would be a long, hard road ahead as they struggled to make sense and to cope with such a tremendous loss.

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At the grave site, the three caskets lay side by side in preparation for eternal rest under the tent surrounded by family and friends was a heart-rending sight. The three doves that were released as a symbolic message seemed reluctant to leave as they leisurely strolled around the grave site. One sat atop the tent as those in attendance sang the “Amazing Grace” hymn. Shirley Burch said a tearful good-bye as she kissed each casket that held such precious cargo. She had lost everything, and although the thought that she would be re-united with them one day was reassuring, the painful reality of this moment was almost too much to bear.

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So, what do we take from this senseless tragedy? We know that God’s plan is never something we should question, but at times like this, it was hard to do. But somehow, some way, there was a reason behind this tragic loss that is just a small piece of the Grand Design. Please remember this family in your prayers, as they take on a new existence. Their grief of this sudden loss will be a mountain to overcome. If anyone is interested in donating to the burial expenses, you can click on this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/gmhgt9z7

I would like to recognize Ellen Sewell, owner of the beautiful Brown Gables in Ashland, who so graciously took in the Burch/ Myers family during this time free of charge. Also, to Clay County  Funeral Home for such a warm, lovely service.

 

LPD take second person in custody in Marathon Robbery

Update:  The second suspect, Marquee Devon Lollar,, wanted for the robbery of the Marathon Convenience Store is no longer at large. Lollar was taken into custody by the Lineville Police Department earlier today.

 

 The following press release was issued by Lineville Police Chief Monty Giddens:

On December 29, 2015 at approximately 9:42 PM, two black males, both wearing face covering, entered Lineville Food Shop, located at 89395 Hwy 9, Lineville, Alabama. One of these men was armed with a handgun. One of the males jumped the counter and assaulted the cashier while the other male went around behind the counter. The two males stole money out of the cash register and other items behind the counter and exited the store.

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Lineville Police Department responded to the scene, along with Clay County Rescue Squad, who transported the cashier to Clay County Hospital. Once the cashier was taken care of and clear of the scene, the police department began their investigation. Ashland Police Department and Clay County Sheriff’s Department both assisted Lineville Police Department at the scene.

Over the course of the next few days, Lineville Police Department continued their investigation and on January 4, 2016, secured a warrant for a residence at 60 McCrary Street Apt E7 and arrest warrants for Marquee Devon Lollar, a 20 year old male, for Robbery 1st Degree and Dequarrius Earl Lollar, a 21 year old male.

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The morning of January 5, 2016, Lineville Police Department served the search warrant at 60 McCrary Street E7. Several items of evidence were seized at that time.

Dequarrius Earl Lollar was arrested the morning of January 5, 2016 by Hoover Police Department and arrangements were being made to transport him to Lineville Police Department, where bond was set at $100,000.00. Lineville Police Department have been unable to locate Marquee Devon Lollar at this time. The arrest warrants for him have been entered into the National Crime Investigation Center and all surrounding agencies have been notified.

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Chief Giddens wanted to thank all agencies that assisted them in the investigation, but went on to explain this is a crime that should have never taken place because Marquee Devon Lollar was charged in Jefferson County in 2013 for Robbery 1st, Burglary 1st, and Theft of Property 1st. State Probation filed to have his probation revoked, but he was released and in June 2015, plead guilty to those charges and was released pending sentencing. October of 2015, he was arrested for Domestic Violence 2nd degree, which is a felony also, by Ashland Police Department and was released and ordered to re-appear in January 2016 and be drug tested again. Again, I emphasis, we should not be looking for this suspect, he should be in jail.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I understand this is not the only example of a person who should be in jail committing another crime and someone getting hurt. At some point, people have got to have enough and put pressure on our politicians and make them do something about the problem. It is the Police’s responsibility to protect the public, but it makes it really hard when there are no longer consequences to criminal behavior.

Lack of Fleet Renewal Funds could Cost New School Buses in the Future

BOE accept resignations, open positions, and make new hires

 

The Board of Education met Thursday, December 17, 2015 for the monthly session.  All members were present: Arthur Oliver, Greg Denney, Donald Harris, Blaine Lacy, and Shane Davidson ( Chairman), along with Superintendent Billy Walker.

A small  group of concerned individuals were present to express their interest in attaining the former Vocational School Building on Oak Grove Rd. This was their second time to address the Board on this matter.

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Rev. E Tramaine Solomon, Doris Allen, and Terry Heflin addressed the Board with their thoughts and outline of prospective plans for the building. Solomon served as Spokesperson on behalf of the Washington Heights community. Solomon stated the people of this community were hoping to see this historic building turned back over to the community because these citizens felt that it was at the heart of their community. Doris Allen also reiterated her reasons for wanting to see the building returned to this community. Davidson  stated they would look at all avenues concerning this building and contact them in the future.

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All financial statements for the month of November were approved. The end of month report  showed Revenues were under expenditures by $94,000, leaving an unreserved balance of $547,000, which 46% of required one month operating expenses.

Discussion of these financial figures included being hopeful that Title II money coming from forestry that was never received last year would be in soon. The approximate amount was $50,000.

Meanwhile, Transportation Supervisor Michael Wayne Jordan reported the flex fuel allocation funds were helping cushion the financial losses in the general fund in other areas. Bishop asked the Board members to reach out to our Legislators about the lack of fleet renewal funds, which will eventually lead to being unable to purchase any new buses for a long time. ” Our fleet is old and we can’t afford to buy buses” said Bishop.

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Last year, CCBOE bought only 8 new buses, which wasn’t even a quarter of how many were needed. At present time, the transportation dept. is receiving fleet renewal for 16 of the 36 buses in the fleet now.  “None of old buses were sold last year declared surplus, which turned out to be a good thing”, Jordan explained,  due to several major issues that had arose and they were having to put them all back in rotation, leaving no spare. Jordan also reported there were no spare handicapped buses with ramps, if a problem arises. ” Until the fleet renewal is fully funded, we’re kind of dead in the water as far as making any new bus purchases” said Jordan.

Fleet renewal funds only cover buses up to 10 years old, so as the buses age, funding for the older buses is no longer gotten. So, in turn, those buses older than 10 years lose $5000-$7000 dollars a year that could go towards buses that are supposed to be bought.  There will be five buses rolling off the fleet renewal in the next five years, with no money to replace these buses.

“They’re not fully funding transportation. When your legislators say there’s money for education, they’re lying. Because if there is money there, then they wouldn’t be under-funding transportation.” said Walker, “We’re not the only county dealing with this issue either.”

Bishop did state that the state was making steps in the right direction in this area, but they’re not big enough steps.

On another note, Jordan said they  had gotten a good report from State Inspections last month.

The following 19 personnel action items were approved with no discussion that included the following:

Resignations

-Jeanette Lett – Teacher at Lineville Elementary School

 – Jhon Vise – Technology Coordinator
  • New Employees:
 -Elda Pumpelly -as Title I Long Term Substitute – January 5, 2015 through May 26, 2015
-Sonya Hurst – as teacher at Ashland Elementary
-Jennifer Ann Smith as Bus Driver beginning January 5, 2015
-Bruce Willis as Bus Driver beginning January 5, 2015.
  • Open Position:
-Technology Coordinator
Informational Items:
 Board members  will be given the Policy concerning service animals for review and will be voted on at the next meeting. There are no students enrolled at present time who require a service animal at this time.
Christmas Holidays begin Monday, December 21, 2015. Teachers will return to school on Monday, January 4, 2016 and students on January 5, 2016.
The next Board meeting will be January 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm.
The next webinar for Board members will be February 11, 2016. No set time was given at the time.

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Two die in separate accidents on Sunday

As the holidays are upon us, we are hearing more and more about tragic accidents. Of course, there is never a good time to lose a loved one, but when it happens during the Christmas season, it mars future holiday seasons forever because this should be a special time with family. Our prayers go out to the each of the families of these fine men during this difficult times.

A Wedowee man passed away Sunday as a result of injuries sustained from a one-vehicle crash that occurred at 1:19 am at the 163 marker on U.S. 431, just north of LaFayette. James Eric Gunnells, age 56, was killed when the 2003 Chevrolet Silverado he was driving overturned, ejecting him. Gunnells was a former Nurse Practioner at Wedowee Hospital back in the early 2000’s. He was employed at Woodland Clinic.

Also, a Delta man was killed Sunday in Bessemer, AL when he attempted to cross the Interstate 20/59 on foot after reportedly having car trouble. He was struck by a car and pronounced dead at the scene. The identity of the victim has not yet been released.

 

 

 

APD see spike in drug activity: make arrests

December 18, 2015

Over the last few weeks, the officers of the Ashland Police Department have seen a spike in drug activity, and have been able to recover several amounts of illicit drugs. Because the cases are ongoing investigations, we will not divulge names or parties involved. Drug activity is always going on, even in our small town. Our officers work diligently to continue the eradication of drugs in our city. Over the course of about four weeks the Ashland Police Department has made three arrests, and recovered the following drugs:

  • Approximately 2 grams of methamphetamine
  • Approx. 8 grams of synthetic marijuana
  • Approx. 2 ounces of Marijuana
  • Several pills, later determined not to be controlled substances.
  • Varying paraphernalia used to consume the above listed drugs

The places where these drugs were confiscated varied. Most were obtained from traffic stops, where the officer used his training and experience to locate the drugs. Others were found by private citizens and reported to the police department. As mentioned before, these cases are still ongoing investigations. Also, we have made several alcohol cases, including an arrest for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, and recovered a lot of alcoholic beverages.

During this time of year we see a spike in this type of criminal behavior, and expect it to continue through the holiday season into the New Year. We want all of our citizens to have a safe and fun holiday season, but would like to war of driving this time of the year, while intoxicated. It is always a good practice to have someone to drive you home if you have been drinking or using illicit drugs. Having a designated driver can, does, and will continue to save lives. Our officers will be out in force, looking for those who choose not to use a designated driver, and will enforce the laws of the State of Alabama on those caught doing wrong. In closing we would like to wish all a Merry Christmas, and a safe and Happy New Year.

911 Building Purchase turns into heated discussion at Commission meeting

The Clay County Commission met Monday, December 14, 2015 for their December session. All Commissioners were present: Wayne Watts, John Wheeles, Ray Milstead, Roy Johnson and Ricky Burney.

911 Board members Monty Giddens and Mark Carr were present at the Planning session to update the Commission on the status of their new building purchase of the former Benefield Monument Company on South Park Rd in Lineville.

911 Board Officer Monty Giddens
911 Board Officer Monty Giddens

Giddens stated he felt the move was necessary to better secure 911 Operators and equipment.  The building will be updated and renovated. The moving process will take some time, as contractors will begin working soon on the renovations.

Giddens explained there would be no lapse or down time in 911 Operations during this move, as one station will continue to operate as normal in the Farmer’s Market facility, where 911 is housed now.

911 Board Officer Mark Carr
911 Board Officer Mark Carr

The same towers will be used for the new location, as the move will only be approximately a quarter-mile from the Farmer’s Market and are still in the line-of-sight with the same quality without being moved.

New renovations that will take place at the new facility will include a safe room/bunker for the dispatchers and a fenced in area. Although this purchase process is still in the works, the 911 Board was hoping to get the Commission’s blessing on this move. This subject got a little heated at the general session, when a vote was taken to approve the move, although this was not a unanimous vote.

Future home of Clay County E-911
Future home of Clay County E-911

Johnson stated he was not necessarily all for the move, but since it was already in the works, he did make the motion to authorize the move to the former Benefield Monument Company location. Wheeles concurred that he felt the same way, but did move to second. Burney wanted it put on record to state that the County Commission and would not be funding this move, as the 911.

Johnson inquired of Administrator Woods if this move would have any bearing on the monthly utility bill at the Farmer’s Market. Woods stated the county would miss the $500 in rent paid monthly by 911, but would make up for it in utilities.

Burney explained 911 and EMA were normally together in a centralized location, and wondered if there would be any lapse in emergency situations. Burney said EMA Director Daughtery would still be able to attend these meetings, as stated in the bylaws,which should suffice.

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Commissioner Watts was against this move and voted “No”. When asked by Burney to explain his reasoning behind his vote, Watts stated he would not elaborate at this time, but he would address the subject in due time. Watts did however, explain that 911 and EMA agencies should be together in a Central Dispatch in order to ensure citizen safety with prompt reporting of any ongoing emergency situation.

” I have other reasons I will address soon, but I’ve been behind the scenes for a long time and I don’t think this will flow right. I do my best to keep everyone informed with what’s going on from reporting downed trees and answering phones. I do whatever is needed at the time. This won’t work”, said Watts, “My other reasons will soon be made public.”

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The following items on the agenda were approved with some discussion at the general meeting.The agenda had to be amended to include the 911 Building move, due to confusion that the topic had already been discussed at the Planning session and no vote was needed. 

  • Approval of the 911 Building move was made, but was not an unanimous vote. Watts voted ” No”. See above discussion for more details.
  • Adopted a Resolution approving the purchase of a new Dump Truck. The 2016 model will replace the 2007 model that was destroyed in an accident over the summer. The cost of the new truck will be $136,000, exceeding the insurance limit paid by $56,000, which will be financed by First State Bank. 
  • Approval to award the Courthouse Roof bid to  Hinkle Roofing out of Birmingham, AL. Hinkle was the lowest bidder out of three, at a sum of $73,000 and proved to have a solid reputation. Hinkle also added a guarantee to replace any electronics in the event there ever any construction related damages. Even though this was approved, there was discussion brought to the table by Commissioner Watts with concerns of making certain this project was performed correctly to prevent future problems. Watts felt a representative of the county should perform daily evaluations onsite to ensure quality work. Watts and Milstead both said they would be checking in regularly, and possibly more would be there on a daily basis.
  • Approval to change the name of the Ashland Water Works & Sewer Board. The Charter name was The Water Works & Sewer Board of the town of Ashland and over the years had gotten shortened throughout the years. General Manager Brent Wheeler  said the name change was necessary to keep all the documents in an orderly fashion. The name will be now be known as the Ashland Water & Sewer Board.
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Ashland Water General Manager Brent Wheeler

The meeting was then adjourned. A work session will take place Tuesday, December 21.

 

Millerville Family Loses Everything in House Fire

Saturday, Dec. 5th- This holiday season won’t be the same for a Millerville family, but they are learning a valuable life lesson in the process of what it means to live in the Volunteer County.

James and Arley Hoppe hadn’t been gone from their home very long on this fateful day when they received one of the worst calls you can get…and one that would change their lives forever. Their home was gone, along with all their worldly possessions, including their children’s Christmas presents. A blaze had erupted in the home after they left, and despite Millerville Fire Department’s best efforts, burned to the ground. All they had left was what was on their backs…and no home insurance. Like many of us,  The Hoppe family work hard and live from paycheck to paycheck.

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The Hoppe family are staying with family members at the present time, while they save every penny they can get for some means of a new home. Meanwhile, they are overcome with appreciation for the numerous donations they have had from family, friends, and even strangers. “It’s just so overwhelming and I know I sound like a broken record, but I am just so thankful to everyone who has helped us” says Arley. And even though they lost all their material possessions, they are eternally grateful that their family is together.

The cause of the blaze is unknown, but the Hoppes believe it could have originated in a used window unit they had purchased a short time ago.  If anyone is interested in donating to this family in need, please see clothing sizes below, or call 256-354-2100 or 256-354-9914.

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