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Top 10 news stories of 2014

Education and alcohol-related issues comprised most of the top stories of 2014 in the Hartselle Enquirer.

One of the top stories continues to be the academic successes enjoyed by Hartselle City Schools. This included being ranked eighth best school system and having two students that were named National Merit Semifinalists.

An alcohol referendum had its closest vote ever in November while Hartselle Mayor Don Hall has battled charges of driving under the influence of alcohol since September.

 

1. Hartselle schools 8th best in state

 

Hartselle City Schools received an eighth best ranking among Alabama school districts from the website Niche in November.

Academics, sports and fitness received “A” grades and health and fitness, resources and facilities all received an “A-minus.”

Individual school rankings were: Hartselle High School, No. 10; Hartselle Junior High, No. 18; F.E. Burleson Elementary, No. 30; and Barkley Bridge Elementary, No. 35.

2. Hartselle stays dry again

 

Hartselle maintained its status as the largest municipality in Alabama without legal alcohol sales in a special referendum that attracted more than 5,000 voters Nov. 4.

“No” voters prevailed with 2,622 votes while those voting “yes” totaled 2,391.votes.

The measure has been voted on three times in the past 12 years, but the 2014 vote was the closest in the history of the Hartselle.

 

3. Mayor Hall charged with DUI

 

Hartselle Mayor Don Hall was arrested and charged with driving while under influence of alcohol on I-65 near Athens Sept. 5.

Hall was jailed overnight and released the next morning under his own bond.

City Attorney Larry Madison announced that Hall would be absent from the city hall for a period of time to address “personal issues.”

Subsequently, Council President Bill Smelser assume the mayor’s office and Councilman Kenny Thompson stepped up as council president.

Hall returned to his position and apologized for his arrest Sept. 23.

Hall’s license is currently suspended and his court date has been moved to a later date in 2015.

 

4. HMC options being considered

 

The demolition of the vacant Hartselle Medical Center facility was confirmed by the owner, Huntsville Hospital, as a possible alternative in August.

The property was offered to the city in March, but the city council declined the offer after failing to find a way to make the property economically viable.

However, no decision has been made on the property at this time. Huntsville Hospital officials are still considering their options.

 

5. New retail center announced on U.S. 31

 

Ming Enterprises announced plans in June to construct an 18,000 square foot retail shopping center on U.S. 31 between Jack’s and Wal-Mart Shopping Center.

Developer Bill Ming said Dollar Tree, which has already moved out of the Wal-Mart Shopping Center, would be the center’s anchor store. Space will be available for five other tenants.

The center represents an initial investment of $2.5 million. It is expected to employ about 50 personnel and generate about $75,000 per year in sales tax for the city.

Dollar Tree is expected to open Jan. 15, 2015.

 

6. Aquatic center problems persist

 

Ongoing problems at the new Hartselle Aquatic Center prompted the city council to seek relief from Woodward Construction – the general contractor – in June. Parks & Recreation Director Frank Miller reported the sighting of cracks in the pool in the winter months following its first year of operation. It was also discovered that the pool’s water level was dropping 12 inches in a 24-hour period. Woodward agreed to work with subcontractors to make necessary repairs, following the center’s closing Labor Day.

 

7. Crestline principal jumps from plane for Relay for Life

 

Crestline Elementary School Principal Robin Varwig parachuted from an airplane on May 19 to deliver a promise she made to her students on behalf of Relay for Life.

Her first ever jump was executed with precision on the school campus in front of her students.

Varwig promised her students if they raised $5,000 for Hartselle Relay for Life, she would take a cream pie in the race from every kid that met an individual donation goal. In addition, she agreed to make the parachute jump. Students exceeded their goal by $2,000.

 

8. Hartselle jail closes

 

After losing one of its two jailers to retirement, Hartselle City Jail was closed in April.

Mayor Don Hall asked the city council to close the jail in March to save the city an estimated $42,000 a year, At that time, the jail had an inmate occupancy rate of 1.15 per day and Police Chief Ron Puckett was requesting permission to fill a vacant jailer’s position…

“We don’t need to keep it open if we’re going to be understaffed,” Puckett said. “I would rather send our prisoners to the Morgan County Jail if we aren’t allowed to replace the jailer.”

 

9. F.E. Burleson named Green Ribbon School

 

F. E. Burleson Elementary School was named a Green Ribbon School by the Alabama Department of Education in February.

The award recognizes schools for their approach to creating “green” environments through reducing environmental impacts, promoting health and ensuring a high quality environmental and outdoor education.

Burleson previously was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School, a 21st Century Community Learning Center and a Leader in Me School.

 

10. HHS has two national merit scholars

 

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation publicized the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 60th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Two of these semifinalists, Robin Tumlinson and Molly Buffington, are seniors at Hartselle High School.

The girls have been nationally recognized for their outstanding PSAT scores from last year.

They will have the opportunity to continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million to be offered next spring. To be considered for these scholarships, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level.

Buffington is considering attending The University of Alabama after graduation.

“At UA I met with the Dean of the Honors College, and I really loved it there,” Buffington said. “I talked with them about pursuing a history degree, and they brought up the idea of possibly being able to double-major if I get the scholarships to cover it. Alabama also offers a five-year masters program and study abroad opportunities to National Merit Scholars sometimes, so that would be great.”

Tumlinson has been looking into both the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Auburn University.

“I have looked at UAB and Auburn and what they might offer National Merit Scholars,” Tumlinson said. “I’m leaning toward Auburn because they seem to offer the best experience in biomedical or chemical engineering, which is what I’m considering. I also saw that sometimes they give National Merit Scholars $2,000-$3,000 for research or study abroad programs.”

Tumlinson and Buffington were among 1.4 million juniors who took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last year.

They should find out in February if they qualify as National Merit Finalists.

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