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July 30, 2015
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Marine from West Point present for World War II ceremony
Marine from West Point present for World War II ceremony

The bodies of 36 U.S. Marines killed in action on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa during World War II are coming home. Above, Lance Corporal Michael Ray Thompson, from West Point, stands in front of the coffins at Pearl Harbor, where a special ceremony for the recovered Marines was held.

By DAVID BELL

WEST POINT — West Point native Michael Ray Thompson, 20, a Lance Corporal serving in the U. S. Marine Corps and stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was an active participant this past weekend in a special ceremony for 36 Marines killed in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

The remains of the servicemen were recently recovered from the remote Pacific atoll of Tarawa by a group called History Flight. They were part of more than 900 marines

and 30 sailors who died during a three-day battle there in 1943. A ceremony was held Sunday at Pearl Harbor to mark their return.

About a year ago, History Flight began the effort of trying to identify the remains of military personnel who were buried at Tarawa, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is completing the process. The Marines plan to return the remains to their families once they've been positively identified.

Corporal Thompson is a 2013 graduate of Troup High School and joined the military shortly following graduation. He is the son of Dodie and Steve Thompson Sr. of West Point, and is currently being trained as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator.

Rep. Whorton reports on first legislative session
Rep. Whorton reports on first legislative session

By WAYNE CLARK

VALLEY — Alabama state government has between now and Oct. 1 to come up with a general fund budget. The 2016 fiscal year starts that day, and state agencies will be spending money that's been approved for their budgets.

Right now, the state does not have a general fund budget that’s been approved by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley. The legislature approved one several weeks ago, but it was vetoed by Gov. Bentley, setting the stage for a special session that began with committee meetings on July 13 and gets down in earnest on Aug. 3 when the entire legislature convenes.

"We have nine days left," freshman legislator Isaac Whorton told members of the Kiwanis Club of Valley on Wednesday. "We will be very busy. We can go to midnight on each one of those days, and I expect us to be doing that."

As things now stand, there are several options. The best case scenario is to approve a general fund budget the governor will sign into law. There's also a chance the legislature will approve a budget the governor again vetoes, or the session could end without an approved budget. If either of the final two options takes place, there will be a second special session.

The problem with the budget is there's not enough revenue to cover the state's spending needs. The legislature and governor have to come up with a way to fill this gaping hole before the new fiscal year starts.

Whorton said that legislators are looking at several possible solutions. One involves a proposed change in the business privilege tax. Currently it's $100 a year for businesses that have a net worth of $10,000 or less. This fee would be dropped for these small businesses but increased for the big companies, most of which are based out of state. At present, big firms like Walmart are capped at $15,000 a year on the business privilege tax. This would rise to $25,000 under a proposal that's being considered.

"There's both good and bad in these bills," Whorton said. "Right now, they are all proposals."

Something else under consideration is to drop a FICA income tax deduction. In effect, this is money that never gets to the state taxpayer's pocket but can be deducted on their taxes. Dropping this could generate an estimated $182 million.

"I will vote no on this," Whorton said. "I don't think people should be taxed on money they never got."

The major items under consideration involve proposed tax increases on soft drinks and tobacco products. One proposal under consideration would place a five-cent tax on every 12-ounce soda. This would be between the producer and the bottler but almost certainly be passed on to the consumer. Whorton said he doesn't support this and doesn't think it will pass. "Senator (Gerald) Dial told me it's not going anywhere," Whorton said.

The other major tax increase being looked at is a 25-cent jump on every pack of cigarettes sold in the state. This would also apply to other tobacco products and possibly vapor products as well. "I've been told the vapor products could be coming out," Rep. Whorton said. "I have to be very careful in whether or not I support this. Georgia has lower cigarette taxes than we do. With every other surrounding state it's either the same or higher. Passing this would hurt our businesses that sell tobacco products. People would just go across the state line and buy them in Georgia where they will be cheaper."

Another proposal would transfer a use tax out of the education trust fund to the general fund and swap it with obligations from the general fund. This year, that would mean taking $225 million from the education trust fund and swapping it for $187 million from the general fund. Rep. Whorton said that Bill Poole, who chairs the Education Trust Fund Committee, is very concerned about this proposal being adopted.

"Some very difficult decisions await us," Rep. Whorton said. "It's a very difficult thing to be taking $38 million from the education trust fund. I think we ought to be putting that kind of money in it, not taking it out."

The big problem for the state, Whorton said, is that the general fund is stagnant, and the costs for such programs as Medicaid and prisons are rising at a fast rate. "There's no more money for this," he said.

"If I had to guess right now I think we will be having second special session," Whorton added. "We're going to be part of the solution, but I don't know if the solution should be too tax heavy. It scares me to death to be talking about taking money from the education trust fund."

In the past, there were shortfalls to deal with by the legislature but there were convenient bailouts available, such as oil and gas lease money and an ample rainy day fund.

Rep. Whorton said he's been told that the legislature will likely level fund health, Medicaid, prisons and the judiciary. Everything else will get a cut of around two percent. "I think everyone can absorb a two-percent cut, but not nine percent or higher," he said.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but these are tough times for the legislature," Whorton said. "I do have hope in that there are some good people in the legislature who want to do the right thing for the people."

Whorton said he was open to the idea of letting people vote on gambling and gaming-related issues. "Gambling and lotteries are all around us," he said. "We are on an island here in Alabama."

Whorton was asked by a member of the club if Victoryland in Shorter, Ala., was going to be reopening. He said there's some speculation on that but for the present, Milton McGregor doesn't have any gambling machines — they were confiscated. "They have filed a motion to recover them from the state," Whorton said.

The shutdown cost Macon County and the surrounding area an estimated 2,000 jobs.

"One thing I have learned in my short time in the legislature is that there are some powerful lobbies out there," Whorton added. "Some of them fight each other."

Whorton said he would like to see the state adopt legislation that would allow people with very serious illnesses to be able to take certain types of medications that have yet to have approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are some very promising drugs out there the terminally ill could elect to be treated with but it's not legal to do it until these drugs are approved by the FDA. That process can take up to 10 years.

"There are medications out there that could help people, but they haven't gone through all the procedures necessary for final approval," Whorton explained.

Whorton said in his law practice he had gone through involuntary commitments to mental health facilities and felt that a very serious problem exists with this. There's also a major problem with mental health in general. "Treatment centers have been closed," he said. "We have a lot of problems in Alabama, and we need to find solutions for them. But we can't tax our way out of it."

Whorton said he would be voting in favor of a bill that's designed to protect monuments to soldiers and civil rights activists.

He said that he's well aware there is fraud in any kind of assistance program such as Medicaid, welfare, TANF, SNAP or ISS. "Policing it is the hard part," he said. "It will take a whole lot of work to weed out fraud, and I don't know how we do it."

"I don't think we'll have anything completely done in nine days," he said of the special session, "but we have to have a budget in place by Oct. 1. We will just have to work hard to get it done."

In answering a question on Chambers County's time zone problem, Whorton said he didn't think this was a state issue. The time zone, he said, is a matter for the federal government to decide. "I don't think it can be legislatively done," he said. "Chambers County is already in the Central time zone, but people have always chosen to be on Eastern time."

Club member Bill Martin, who's the board president for the Chambers County School District, said that to his knowledge Chambers County is the only school district in the U.S. that's on two time zones.

Partners in Education breakfast set Tuesday, Aug. 4
Partners in Education breakfast set Tuesday, Aug. 4

By DAVID BELL

LANETT — One of the first questions people ask when considering a move to a new location is about the quality of schools. A key component of outstanding educational opportunities on the local level is an active Partners in Education program.

The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a special breakfast event Tuesday, Aug. 4 to discuss the benefits of the program and how to become involved. It will be presented at Hampton Inn and Suites-Lanett beginning at 7:30 a.m.

"It's not about just contributing money, and it doesn't take a lot of time or people. The expertise and services of a business or organization can make a significant impact in the classroom. There are so many different ways in which people can help," said Barbara Andrews, executive director of GVACC.

The main goals of Partners in Education are strengthening the area's commitment, fostering relationships between businesses, community groups and school systems, and stimulating academic achievement for lifelong learning. This collaboration gives students an edge toward success in school and offers businesses and organizations greater exposure and goodwill in the community. No business or organization is too big or too small to participate.

"We invite members of the local business community to join us on Tuesday. We will outline the program, provide printed information, present some of our current partners to share their views and answer any questions regarding this valuable program," Andrews said.

Potential partners can choose a school, or schools, they wish to support, or may request to be assigned a school that is in need of a partner. For more information, call the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce at 334-642-1411.

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Adam Hunter named new AD at Valley High
Adam Hunter named new AD at Valley High

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

VALLEY — Valley High veteran educator and coach Adam Hunter has been named as the new athletic director at Valley High School, Hunter told The Times-News Wednesday.

Hunter replaces Stevie Coker, who served as AD this past school year and head baseball coach for the Rams. Coker will remain as the Valley baseball coach and football assistant while Hunter will continue his duties as an assistant football coach, head coach of the Lady Rams softball team and his new assignments as the Rams AD.

Coach Hunter has done an outstanding job in his role under coach Marshon Harper with the Rams football program and — along with assistant Todd Striblin — has built the Lady Rams softball program into one of the best in all of AHSAA.

He’s been an educator and coach at Valley High for eight years, including six seasons on the Rams varsity football staff.

Hunter will continue in his role as the Rams offensive coordinator, a position he’s held for the last three seasons.

For the last seven seasons, the Hunter and Striblin duo have made Valley High one of the go-to places for college softball recruiters with a plethora of talented, hard-working players ready to play at the next level.

Valley has a number of its girls playing college softball, and enjoyed another excellent this spring this past year as well.

The Lady Rams won 60 games the last two seasons, made one trip to the state tourney and have won three consecutive region championships, one of the top marks in all of AHSAA softball

As athletic director, Hunter will now oversee all of the Rams athletic programs.

“I'm real excited about being named athletic director at Valley High and eager to work with our student-athletes as well as the community,” Hunter said.

Hunter plans on putting his stamp not only on Valley High athletics but also playing a very pro-active role in the local youth sports scene as well.

“Valley has always been known for putting quality student-athletes on the field in every sport and I'm looking forward to working with these kids. I'm also looking forward to getting involved in the community with our recreation programs. Working with recreation and community sports is going to be something I'm very involved in. These kids are our future and they need to know that the coaches at Valley High are very interested and excited about what they do for the community. I'm thankful to be given this opportunity.”

Point's Strickland named to three NFL prospect sites
Point's Strickland named to three NFL prospect sites

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

WEST POINT — Point University two-time senior All-American punter David Strickland has been named to three NFL prospect sites, the Times-News learned Monday.

A Beulah High grad and former standout at Wallace State, Strickland has enjoyed an outstanding career for the Skyhawks football program.

The son of Vickie and Daryl Strickland, David has consistently been one of the nation’s leading punters and his talents haven’t gone unnoticed.

Strickland was named to three NFL prospect sites for NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA players.

He is on the Pro Player Insiders (PPI) Others to Watch list and ranked among the Top-18 in the nation, the website reported.

In addition, Strickland is also an NFL Draft Diamond (NFLDD) 2016 small school prospect. He is one of just nine punters in the nation to be named by NFLDD.

RedZone Insider (RZI) also ranked Strickland as the No. 4 punter out of the Top-20.

Strickland enjoyed a terrific prep career at Beulah High in both baseball and football.

New Point coach Mike McCarty will count upon Strickland to help the Skyhawks win the field position battle with his booming punts.

EAB 11U stars win Grand Slam World Series
EAB 11U stars win Grand Slam World Series

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The East Alabama Baseball (EAB) 11U team won the Grand Slam World Series championship held here last weekend.

The local all-star baseball team is made up of youngsters from Valley, Auburn, Opelika, Smiths Station and Columbus.

East Alabama Baseball enjoyed a terrific summer of tournament baseball.

The squad posted an overall record of 18-5 and won four tourney championships in five events entered.

Members of the team include: Kaiden Baxley, Brooks Bryan, Hunter Meadows, Austin Stephenson, John Austin Cochran and Todd Clay, Brock Beyleu, Taylor Lowe, Cade Beyleu and Wyatt McLean. Coaches for the team include Bo Bryan and Anthony Meadows.

Obituaries

Obituaries for Thursday, July 30, 2015
Obituaries for Thursday, July 30, 2015

MR. BROOKS

VALLEY — Mr. Jesse B. Brooks of Valley died Friday, July 24, 2015, at his summer home surrounded by family.

Funeral services are scheduled for Friday, July 31 at 1 p.m. at Davis Memorial Mortuary Chapel in Valley with Apostle Leroy Floyd officiating. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery in Valley.

Davis Memorial Mortuary of Valley is in charge of arrangements.

MR. BROWN

ATLANTA, Ga. — Mr. Willie Lee Brown, 79, of Atlanta, formerly of Opelika, died Monday, July 27, 2015, at his residence.

Funeral services will be held Friday, July 31 at 3 p.m. CDT at Galilee Baptist Church in Opelika with the Rev. Rodney Jones, pastor, officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.

MR. MORRIS

VALLEY — Mr. Lewis Bradley Morris, 68, of Valley passed away Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at his residence.

Funeral services will be held Friday, July 31 at 11 a.m. at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home Chape in Valley with the Rev. Mike Bledsoe and the Rev. Tim Bass officiating. Burial will follow at Langdale Cemetery.

Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.

Obituaries for Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Obituaries for Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MR. GARNER

WEST POINT — Mr. Kay Arthur Garner, 66, of West Point died Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at EAMC-Lanier Memorial Hospital in Valley.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, July 30 at 2 p.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church with the Rev. W.T. Edmondson, pastor, the Rev. Michael Stiggers, eulogist, and the Rev. Tommy Gilbert officiating.

M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.

MRS. KEEBLE

VALLEY — Mrs. Lera S. Keeble, 85, of Valley passed away Monday, July 27, 2015, at Bethany House in Auburn.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, July 30 at 4 p.m. at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home Chapel in Valley with with the Rev. Bernie Doffinger officiating. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Cemetery.

Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.

Obituaries for Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Obituaries for Tuesday, July 28, 2015

MS. BROOKS

LaFAYETTE, Ala. — Funeral services are pending for Ms. Dorothy Nell Brooks, 73, of LaFayette, who died Monday, July 27, 2015, at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Ala.

Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is handling arrangements.

MR. BROWN

ATLANTA, Ga. — Funeral services are pending for Mr. Willie Lee Brown, 79, of Atlanta, who died Monday, July 27, 2015, at his residence.

Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is handling arrangements.

MR. GRIFFIN

LANETT — Mr. Curtis B. "Buz" Griffin, 70, of Lanett died Monday, July 27, 2015, at his residence.

Graveside services will be held Wednesday, July 29 at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Cemetery in Lanett with the Rev. Milton Newton officiating.

Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.

MRS. PRESTRIDGE

LaGRANGE, Ga. — Mrs. Mary Ellen Weldon Prestridge, 83, of LaGrange passed away Sunday, July 26, 2015, at Hospice LaGrange.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, July 29 at 10 a.m. at the Higgins LaGrange Chapel Funeral Home with Chaplain Mark McGee officiating. Burial will follow at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Lanett.

Higgins LaGrange Chapel Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

MS. TOLBERT

MARIETTA, Ga. — Ms. MurRee Tolbert, 90, of Marietta, formerly of Lanett, died Wednesday, July 22, 2015, at Cobb WellStar Hospital in Austell, Ga.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, July 29 at 2 p.m. at Greenwood Baptist Church with the Rev. James McTier, pastor, the Rev. Louis Upshaw, eulogist, the Rev. Lucious Lynch and Rev. John Samanie officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.

MS. MOORE

WEST POINT — Funeral services are pending for Ms. Sylvia Moore of West Point, who died Monday, July 27, 2015, at EAMC-Lanier Hospital in Valley.

M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.

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