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Stories of 2011

High school project rated top news story in 2011

The awarding of contracts for construction of the new Hartselle High School emerged as the top news story published in the Hartselle Enquirer in 2011. It was followed closely by the April 27 tornadoes, which caused massive property damage in the Hulaco community and left the entire county without power for several days.

Contracts awarded for new high school

Site work for Hartselle’s new high school resumed full speed this week thanks to sunny skies. The above photo shows a machine and its operator at work on Tuesday compacting the pad for the main school building. The estimated $40 million project is expected to be put out for bids within the next few days.

1 Hartselle Board of Education awarded contracts totaling $28.7 million for the construction of a new Hartselle High School in May.

The contracts cover construction of a 250,000 sq. ft. facility, fire protection system and civil package (Bagette Construction Co.), plumbing (BK Johnson Construction), heating and air conditioning (Smith Service Corp.), ball fields and fencing (Coston Construction).

Not included were electrical work, kitchen equipment, theatrical equipment, tennis court lighting and phase 2 landscaping.

The entire project is budgeted at $40 million with approximately $34 million set aside for construction.

Construction work got underway in June and has progressed at a steady pace. The target date for completion is December 2012. Occupancy could occur as early as January 2013.

Tornado devastates Hulaco, 2 from Priceville die in Tuscaloosa

2 An EF-4 tornado struck the Hulaco community in southeast Morgan County on April 27, destroying on heavily damaging over 50 homes, leveling thousands of trees and telephone poles and scattering personal belongings over path four miles long and a half-mile wide. Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured.

On the same day two former Priceville High School students, Danielle Downs, 24, and Will Stevens, 21, were killed in a tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa. Both were students at the University of Alabama. Downs had completed her studies and was awaiting graduation exercises to receive her degree.

When the tornado hit them and a friend, Loryn Brown, 21,were huddled under blankets and pillows on the ground floor of a two-story house in a residential neighborhood near the UA campus.

While Hartselle escaped the tornadoes, its residents were caught up in its aftermath. A blackout resulting from storm damage to TVA’s high voltage transmission and a complete shutdown of Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant was something never before experienced.

Power went out in the city at 4:19 p.m. on Wed., Apr. 27, and remained out in some locations for an entire week. However, most residential neighborhoods and the business districts has power restored in three to five days.

A storm relief center was set up at Ryan School to provide shelter, food and clothing for Hulaco families whose homes were destroyed.

Burleson named Blue Ribbon School

3 F.E. Burleson Elementary School was recognized in October as the second Hartselle elementary school in back-to-back years to earn the Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School status.

Barkley Bridge Elementary School qualified for the award in 2010 and was chosen as one of two schools in the state to received a National Blue Ribbon School designation in 2011.

“This award is a reflection of everyone, including teachers, students, parents and our community,” said Principal Sherry Calvert. “It takes the entire community to achieve this level of success. We are proud of everyone’s hard work.”

“It is exciting for us to achieve this honor so quickly,” she added.

“Some schools have to work for years to achieve this status,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed. However, Burleson and Barkley Bridge both achieved it on their first try.

City moves forward on new swimming pool

4 Hartselle City Council approved a $2.2 million bond issue for the purpose of financing a replacement swimming pool in John Sparkman Park in October. Subsequently, it hired Joe Jolley & Co. the handle the bond issue.

The governing earlier rejected a proposed $13 million recreational complex as a replacement for the existing swimming pool, which is in bad repair.

Plans for the pool were designed by GBW Architects and submitted for bids in December. Subsequently, they were rejected because they came in well over the $2.2 million budget and rebid with alterations.

Pool plans feature 25-meter competition lanes with a diving well, a play pool and several splash pad amenities. Other features include a lazy river, a hot tub, enlarged pool deck, new water slide and a party area.

Emerson announces shut down

5 CR Compressors LLC, a subsidiary of Emerson Climate Technologies, announced it would shut down its manufacturing operation in Hartselle, effective at the end of 2011.

The notice came in October and was attributed to a slowdown in the market for reciprocating compressors.

Company officials said plans to cease assembly operations at the facility were first announced in February 2010. Some 90 employees were retained to assist with the shutdown and continue machining operations.

The company said the plant is up for sale.

Local investors create 70 jobs

6 A group of local investors announced plans in June to reopen an interior door manufacturing plant in the Hartselle-Morgan County Industrial Park, creating up to 70- new jobs over a three-year period.

The Hartselle City Council demonstrated its support of the move by approving a tax abatement for the new business in the amount of approximately $39,000.

The investors, including Dr. Russell Hulse and Ron Hulse, opened the former Jeld-Wen plant under the name of Excel Interior Doors with plans to hire 35 employees initially and up to 70 within three years.

The cost of renovations to the building and installation of new equipment was estimated at 2.9 million.

City schools cleared of ethics charge

7 The Alabama Ethics Commission ruled in July that four Hartselle school employees and Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed were innocent of ethics violations in a matter that involved the employees receiving cash payments directly from a booster club bank account.

Reed said he wrote a letter to the Ethics Commission on July 7 reporting the violation and explained what happened.

The baseball program had two accounts, one set up through the high school and the other at a bank different from the one used by Hartselle City Schools.

Upon learning about the separate account, he directed the baseball coach to close the account and have the money transferred to the school system’s account. Subsequently, the school system’s chief financial officer balanced the bank records and determined that there was no money missing.

Reed expressed relief after learning off the Ethics Commission’s finding and indicated that school board policies would be change with respect to the handling of booster club accounts.

Hartselle men linked to double murder

8 Two Hartselle men were linked to a double homicide and robbery at Krystal restaurant on 6th Ave. SE in Decatur on Aug. 4.

The accused are Jordaan Stanly Creque, 21, of 602 Homeplace Ave. and Ezekiel Marquez Gholston, 20, of 117 Pattillo St. They are charged with two counts each of capital murder and are being held in Morgan County Jail. In jail facing the same charges is a Decatur woman, Cassandra Rayann Eldred, 22, who is accused of driving the getaway car.

Victims of the crime were night manager Jeffrey Mark Graff, 50, of Huntsville and Jessie Jose Aguilar, 23, of Decatur. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds while working the night shift at the restaurant.

Decatur police found Creque, a Krystal employee, in the emergency room at Decatur General Hospital and located Gholston at a Trinity residence two days later.

Sewer contact let for business park

9 A major step in the development of the Morgan County Business Park was made in June when Hartselle Utilities awarded a contract to extend sewer service to Byrd Road and I-65.

The contract went to Reed Contracting Co. of Huntsville on a low bid of $1.07 million.

We feel good about the outcome of the bid process,” HU General Manager Ferrell Vest said. “We’re familiar with Reed’s work and their bid was in line with the project’s estimated cost.”

Vest said CDG Engineers did the design work and the Morgan County Economic Development Association will pay to have the work done.”

The gravity flow/forced sewer line will cover a distance of 8,430 feet and a pumping station is included in the project.

A separate contract was awarded for on-site road and drainage work. The infrastructure phase of work at the park should be completed in early 2012.

Hartselle grows 18.6% from 2000-2010

10 Hartselle’s population increased by 18.6 percent from 2000 through 2010, according to U.S. Census figures released in March.

A 2,236 gain brings to 14,255 the number of people who currently reside in the city. This compares to a 12,019 population in 2000.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said a larger population could help the city receive more federal funding.

“So much of federal funding for highways and other public projects is based on your population,” he said. “We’re pleased that our population has show steady growth over the past decade and continues to grow. Hopefully, it will put us in a stronger position to qualify for federal grants and attract new business and industry.”

He attributed some of the growth to the annexation of single-family homes and the larger part coming from the development of newly annexed land.

The Census showed Morgan County with 119,490 residents, a gain of 8,426, or 7.6 percent since the 2000 census.

The town of Priceville showed the fastest growth with a 63 percent increase, from 1,027 to 2,658.

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