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Top 10 news stories of 2005

By Staff
From the files of the Hartselle Enquirer
Changes in appointed positions of leadership affecting Hartselle residents have emerged from the files of the Hartselle Enquirer as the number one news story in 2005.
1. Steve Shelton, a lieutenant with Decatur Fire Department, was chosen to fill the vacancy of Hartselle fire chief in January. He followed Rickey Joe Smith, who retired after serving in the position for 16 years.
Dr. Mike Reed, a 36-year veteran educator, became superintendent of Hartselle City Schools in February after serving in the same position with the Butler County School District. He filled a vacancy left by Dr. Lee Hartsell, who retired after serving in the position for 20 years.
Ron Puckett stepped up from the position of captain to police chief in March. The 16-year veteran of Hartselle Police Department followed Ron Merkh, who retired after serving in the position for three years.
Ferrell Vest, a former Hartselle police chief and city administrator, assumed the position of general manager of Hartselle Utilities in March after serving as interim manager for five months. He followed George Adair, who resigned to take a similar position in Florida.
2. Garbage collection and yard waste pickup took a turn for major change in June when the city council voted to invest $1.2 million in equipment and containers in order for the city to do its own pickup. The plan is to provide each house with containers for garbage and yard waste and use one-man operated trucks to pick it up on a weekly basis. The project will be implemented in February and will be funded by garbage pickup fees now going to Morgan County Environmental Services.
3. A collision in August involving a CSX freight train and an ambulance resulted in two fatalities. The victims were Tommy Alred, driver of the ambulance, and his co-worker and passenger Chastity Miller, a paramedic. The mishap occurred at the Piney Grove crossing south of Falkville while the ambulance was on a non-emergency call. Alred and Miller were employees of American Ambulance Service.
4. City government and school system leaders came together in November to discuss the launch of a planning phase for a new high school. The mayor and city council members agreed with the school board that it's time to begin making plans for such a project. They also offered support of a property tax increase to provide financing under the following conditions: Any new tax proposal would have to come from the school board; the school board would assume responsibility for substantiating the need for a new school building and building support for it and; any additional tax would end with the retirement of the bond debt. It was estimated that the cost could run as high as $25 million to $30 million.
5. Morgan County recorded its first casualty in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars when Marine Cpl. Jonathan Smith of Eva was killed in action in Iraq in June. Corporal Smith, a 22-year-old graduate of Brewer High School, was fatally wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded under the truck he was driving.
6. In March, Wayne Heyman Hanks, a Hollywood movie producer with ties to Jefferson County, offered to donate two new fire trucks valued at $1.l million to the city of Hartselle. The only catch was that the city would have to hire three additional firefighters. After city officials agreed to the conditions, both parties signed an agreement and the trucks were to be delivered in December. However, communications between the city and Hanks ceased in August after a scheduled July meeting between the two parties in California was called off. A similar promise made to four other North Alabama cities failed to bear fruit.
7. Faced with a decision whether to purchase more land for the expansion of the landfill, Mayor Dwight Tankersley recommends closing the controversial facility.
Tankersley said the cost of the additional land and needed improvements made keeping the landfill open fiscally unadvisable. The landfill is expected to be at capacity in four to six years. To extend its life, Tankersley said he will recommend it be used only by local residents and the public works department after Oct. 1, 2006.
8. 5th District U.S. Congressman Bud Creamer announced a $1 million federal matching grant for Phase II of the proposed north downtown bypass in March. The money is part of a six-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill. It will be used to help fund the four-laning of Highway 36 from Interstate 65 to Roan Road. Construction of Phase I of the project-the replacement of the old Hammitt Street Railroad Bridge and a connecting roadway from North Sparkman to Georgia Street-is expected to begin in late 2006.
9. Hurricane Katrina pounded the Hartselle area with 30-35 mph sustained winds and wind gusts up to 55 mph in late August after it flattened, flooded and left mass devastation on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Louisiana. Approximately 12,000 families were left without power for several hours and debris from broken trees and tree limbs remained for several weeks. Meanwhile, residents responded generously to the gulf coast victims. Many donations of water, food, clothing and money were collected and sent to the disaster area by the Red Cross, Salvation Army, churches and student organizations.
10. Illegal methamphetamine trafficking in the Hartselle area hit a peak in May and prompted Hartselle Police Department and the Morgan County Drug Task Force to appeal for assistance through a public awareness campaign. Seven meth lab busts were reported in Hartselle alone during the first five months of the year while only five such labs were destroyed in 2004. Investigating officers reported spending half of their time dealing with the Illegal manufacture of meth. With the help of donations HPD was able to acquire a meth trailer.

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