Incumbent West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson (left) and challenger Dee Dee Williams (right) fielded questions Monday night during a political forum at the New Horizon Theatre in downtown West Point. Each shared their views on a variety of topics related to city government. The public event was moderated by LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and sponsored by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and the Democratic and Republican parties of Troup County. (Photo by David Bell)
By DAVID BELL
Significant differences of opinion flourished during Monday night’s political forum between incumbent West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson IV and challenger Dee Dee Williams. The public event was held at New Horizon Theatre and sponsored by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Democratic and Republican Parties of Troup County.
Ferguson, a dentist by profession, is currently seeking his third term as mayor. A lifelong resident of the city, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and earned a doctor of dental medicine degree from the Medical College of Georgia. Ferguson has practiced in West Point since 1992, and also serves on the boards of numerous professional and community organizations, including the West Point 2100 Foundation, West Point Downtown Development Authority and Valley Partnership for Joint Economic Development. He and his wife, Buffy, have four children.
Challenger Dee Dee Williams is also a lifelong resident of West Point. She earned degrees in business administration and mathematics from LaGrange College and currently serves as a consultant in human resources, where she spent the majority of her professional career with several large corporations. Additionally, Williams served as Vice President of Business Development for Hal Gibson Companies, the consulting firm that represented Georgia’s interest in the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia project, which at the time was the state’s largest economic development project. Mrs. Williams also serves on multiple educational, community, professional and governmental committees. She and her husband, Calvin, have two children and two grandchildren.
Monday’s forum was moderated by LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, who asked each candidate a series of questions covering a variety of topics. Their responses were limited to two minutes.
The discussion began with a reference to the notion that most Americans believe government on all levels is broken. Mayor Ferguson was asked if he believes the City of West Point has a functional government and what can be done to improve it?
In response, Ferguson said he believes West Point is in “excellent shape, but there’s always room for improvement.” He cited the overwhelming community support that made the KIA venture successful, stating, “We are in better shape now than we’ve ever been before, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
Williams agreed with Ferguson’s assessment, but said much more needs to be done in terms of commercial and retail development, housing, education and improved communication between city government and its citizens.
When asked about West Point’s greatest strengths, Williams said the Chattahoochee River, which runs directly through the city, is its most underutilized resource.
“Other communities located adjacent to major waterways have taken advantage of opportunities to create special environments and leisure activities for their citizens,” said Williams. “We need to capitalize more on this effort.”
Williams also stated that the people of West Point, especially the children, are excellent resources themselves, and more should be done to retain them as members of the community.
Ferguson noted the aggressive initiative of community planning as a strength that has furthered the diversification of services currently and for the future, resulting in a better delivery of city services to citizens.
The next question involved each candidate’s qualifications to manage the city’s $20 million annual budget?
“You must have a cooperative agreement among the mayor, city council and all city employees working together as a team to maintain an environment of efficiency,” said Ferguson. “It is the mayor’s responsibility to provide leadership that keeps the lines of communication open, which I believe I have provided over the past eight years.”
Williams said her career in human resources with major companies involving multi-million-dollar budgets had given her valuable experience, stating, “I believe I can apply that knowledge to the office of Mayor.”
The two candidates were then asked what they would do to generate more revenue and reduce expenses?
“We need to support and encourage expansion of the industries we already have,” replied Ferguson. “But beyond that, we have to focus on a diversification of the job base and improve our local housing market. We have already been able to increase services at a lower cost by adding to our tax base.”
Williams proposed lowering the cost of utilities, which are used to offset the expenses of other city services.
“I believe people should pay their fair share, but those costs should not be more than what is actually expended to produce utility services,” Williams stated.
From there, the gap of differing opinion widened, even to the point where ethical conduct and integrity came into question. Ferguson pointed out that Williams had opposed a $100,000 grant from West Point to the THINC College and Career Academy while serving on its initial board, claiming her decision reflected a lack of support for the important education initiative.
“I felt like the decision had already been made before the voting opportunity took place,” replied Williams. “Furthermore, I didn’t receive sufficient prior information to make a proper assessment, and that’s why I voted against it.”
Ferguson denied Williams’ assertion regarding the lack of information, saying that adequate discussion had occurred to provide all necessary knowledge of the endeavor, and stated that her comment to the contrary was simply “not true”.
Another divisive moment came when the discussion focused on the city’s master redevelopment plan and how each candidate perceived it.
“The plan reflects the vision of the entire community,” said Ferguson. “The job of the mayor is to provide the leadership for its implementation.”
But Williams challenged the mayor’s response, saying that the plan does not reflect the same vision for all citizens.
“We have different perspectives, and I think we need to listen to everyone and move forward accordingly,” said Williams.
Ferguson fired back, calling Williams’ statement “ridiculous”, adding, “Our views as a community are not that drastically different.”
“You need to come with me sometime and talk with some of the residents I talk to and see what they have to say,” responded Williams.
In their closing statements, Ferguson said creating an environment where people can thrive had always been his primary focus.
“I want to continue those efforts through a cooperation between government and community leaders and local citizens. We have much to be proud of as we move forward,” Ferguson concluded.
“I was born, raised and educated here in West Point, and I’m proud of my heritage,” stated Williams. “We have once again become a thriving community thanks to KIA, Point University and those willing to make commercial investments in our business district. But we still have many issues that remain unaddressed, such as poverty, adequate housing and educational deficiencies. We can do better, and I want to lead that effort as Mayor.”
The election for Mayor of West Point will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Early voting begins Oct. 12 at the West Point Technology Center on O. G. Skinner Drive.
By DAVID BELL
The Chambers County Board of Commissioners were given an update Monday on the Chambers County ProHealth CDC Grant, which is now in its second year.
County extension coordinator Ken McMillan reviewed the progress of the project thus far, which seeks to prevent and reduce obesity in the LaFayette community. The focus area is the Chambers County Agricultural Center, where efforts continue to establish raised-bed community gardens, a farmers market, walking trail with outdoor exercise equipment and other amenities. McMillan said the City of Lafayette is providing water and assisting with the offloading of exercise equipment.
The total budget to date has been $25,000, and McMillan said the county would be seeking an additional $25,000 for the third and final year of the project.
The City of LaFayette was recently recognized as a national leader in the fight against obesity by the Let’s Move! Cities,
Towns and Counties (LMCTC) campaign, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama.
In other business Monday, commissioners issued a proclamation designating Nov. 20-26 as “National Farm-City Week” in Chambers County, and called upon all citizens in rural areas and cities alike to join in recognizing the accomplishments of our productive farmers and of our urban residents, who cooperate to create abundance, wealth and strength.
Several special activities are being conducted during October in conjunction with the observance.
The board also adopted a resolution providing for Chambers County’s participation in a Sales Tax Holiday, beginning Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 as authorized by an Act of the State Legislature. The provision applies to specified items related to storm-preparedness, which begins the weekend of the effective date. The tax holiday does not mandate the exemption of local sales and use taxes but authorizes the county commission to provide for an exemption of county sales and use taxes for purchases of items covered by the Act during the same time period in which the state sales and use tax exemption is in place. The sales tax holiday will run from 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 26 until midnight on Sunday, Feb. 28.
Lynn Oliver, a representative of the Rotary Club of LaFayette, asked commissioners for permission to utilize restrooms inside the Chambers County courthouse during a Christmas festival scheduled for Dec. 5. The activity will be held between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. CST featuring a variety of activities for the entire family.
Oliver said special attention would be focused on children, and a display of Christmas trees made by students from local schools will be on site.
As a matter of protecting the county’s liability concerns, county attorney Skip McCoy suggested the designation of a specific individual, preferably someone connected with county law enforcement, to serve as the responsible party for security and overseeing the activities. Board members approved Oliver’s request contingent upon McCoy’s recommendation, and she will report back to the commission at their next regular meeting to inform them who that designated individual will be.
By WAYNE CLARK
The Lanett City Council on Monday heard an encouraging report on the possibility of a new industry coming to the local area and took action to refinance its electric revenue warrants in hopes of getting a better interest rate.
Valerie Gray, Chris Busby and Bobby Williams of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) were present to talk about a new industry that’s seeking to locate in the former Daeil building in the Huguley Industrial Park. The building has been vacant since Daeil relocated to its present location off Towel Avenue in Valley.
CCDA Executive Director Gray said that an automotive-related company was interested in locating there. Should it come, it would be the first zinc plate technology company to locate in the Southeastern U.S. This kind of production is in demand in auto manufacturing.
Lanett would provide wastewater service to the new plant, but the company would have to provide some pre-treatment before it went into the Lanett wastewater system. Alan Gleaton, superintendent of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, would have to clear it through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) before production could begin
Gleaton told the council Monday that he wanted to do it the right way and wanted to make sure the city could handle what was coming its way. The procedure, he said, would involve filling out some ADEM-required forms and having a letter of acceptance. The city’s attorney, Stanley Gray, would also have to review it. Gleaton recommended an engineer from Auburn to work 7with the city on the project.
Mayor Pro Tem Kyle McCoy asked Gleaton what kind of time frame would be involved in this. He told him that it should be around two weeks. The engineer, he said, had done some wastewater-related work with the city before and had done it well.
Mr. Gray said some documentation would be needed to spell out the scope of work that’s involved.
Director Gray said the CCDA has been working with this prospect for approximately one year.
The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Joe Jolly & Company to serve as its investment banker in looking at refinancing its electric revenue warrants, which date to 2007. Jolly & Company will come up with some options on this and get back with the city in the near future. City officials believe that some substantial savings can be realized with lower interest rates.
In other action, the council unanimously approved another resolution to renew a $300,000 line of credit with Renasant Bank. The original line of credit was taken out in December 2013 and has been paid back in full. The account currently shows a zero balance.
The council approved a Title VI plan that’s required by the federal government in order to receive funds for transit services. In keeping with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, the plan commits the city in prohibiting the discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. Recreation Director Ronnie Tucker was appointed as the city’s Title VI officer.
Council Member Shirley Motley commended Police Chief Angie Spates on having been selected to attend the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. “This is high-level training,” she said. “Not many law enforcement officers are selected for this. We are confident she will do well there.”
She will be out of town for two weeks. In her absence, Maj. Ryan Ashley will run the police department on a temporary basis.
Code Enforcement Officer Jason Abernathy reported to the council on a matter that had been discussed at a previous meeting about some large bamboo trees growing in a buffer area between property owners in the mill village. The large trees had been subject to complaints from nearby residents who believe it contributes to a large number of mosquitoes being in the area and a bad smell due to so many birds being drawn to the trees.
Abernathy said that one of the property owners had offered to have a tractor cut back the trees from the adjacent property owner’s land. This could lessen the problem of mosquitoes and birds while not freeing up a new alleyway for anyone to take shortcuts through on foot.
Council Member Becky Looser asked about progress on tearing down dilapidated houses. Street Department Head Steve Crawley said that four such abandoned dwellings had come down in recent days and that more would be taken down in the near future. Attorney Gray has cleared 17 houses for demolition.
Looser said it was her understanding this a problem in the area around South 6th Avenue where the row of bamboo trees is located. “This is getting to be a problem area,” she said. “I was told that a squatter was living in an abandoned house in that area. I hope some of those houses are on the demolition list.”
Council Member Stanley Roberts thanked Rev. Louis Upshaw for remembering Mayor Oscar Crawley in his opening prayer. “I echo what he said and ask everyone to lift him up in their prayers,” he said. “I hope our mayor has a speedy recovery.”
Mayor Crawley has missed the past two council meetings due to ill health.
Other members of the council backed Roberts in hoping for a speedy recovery for Mayor Crawley.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
VALLEY — If you’ve been at Valley’s two 6A-Region 3 home games this year against Oxford and Chilton Co., you’ve seen first-hand two of the most exciting and dramatic finishes in the last decade at Rams Stadium.
Coach Marshon Harper’s Rams (3-3, 2-1) are truly living on the edge and still alive in the battle for one of the four state playoff berths.
In region wins over Oxford and last Friday against Chilton Co., Valley was down in the fourth quarter and found a way to not only win, but do it in heart-stopping fashion.
While both wins over Oxford and Chilton Co., were team wins, several have stood out in both of the key wins.
Deangelo Dunn has been outstanding all year and was once again Friday in hauling in a perfectly thrown aerial TD strike from quarterback T.J. Lowe in the third quarter to put Valley within striking distance.
If you need a playmaker and someone to step up, Dunn is the man and has produced some amazing plays all season in what has been a sensational senior year for the all-star candidate.
Senior wideout Harper Power made the play of the season so far with his leaping third-and-18 grab for a first down at the Chilton Co. six on the eventual game-winning drive. If Power doesn’t make that catch, Valley loses and its chance for a 6A playoff berth would have most likely ended.
But Power made the play as have a number of his teammates as Valley continues to fight back in the race for a postseason berth. The Rams are stepping up and meeting the challenge, always the sign of a team on a mission.
Other Rams who’ve stood out include Tyreic Martin at defensive end, a recent University of Missouri verbal commitment, as well as safety Trent Stringer, who delivered several big hits Friday. DeQ’wentin Billingslea also played well against Chilton Co.
Valley’s offensive line played very well and opened holes for a big rushing attack Friday.
The Rams 25-21 win over Chilton Co. was a terrific win but also a huge boost for the Rams with games looming against unbeaten powerhouse Opelika next week as well as Benjamin Russell.
•Valley will face the ultimate challenge Friday when they take on unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Opelika at the Bulldogs house. Opelika has been called by many in the state as the best 6A team.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
BEULAH — The unbeaten Beulah junior varsity football team (3-0) defeated Handley Monday evening by a 28-22 score, Jarrod Wooten, Beulah coach, reported this morning.
•In other Beulah football action, the middle school dropped a 14-8 contest that went down to the last minute, Wooten noted.
•In the 19-0 loss to Midfield in the varsity game Friday, Wooten said the Bobcats missed a chance to earn a big win over a strong foe.
“We missed an opportunity to get a win over a quality opponent,” Wooten said. “I think the team played well in spots but were unable to capitalize on the opportunities that Midfield presented us. We had multiple chances to put points up and increase the pressure, but we didn't get it done. I thought Gekari Cochran and Tez Turner played well for us at corner and our linebackers made some plays, but we did not get the breaks when the ball came loose.”
•Beulah will play Coosa-Central on the road Thursday.
By Wayne Clark
Times-News News Editor
WEDOWEE, Ala. — Almost always, when a team scores 44 points in a high school football game that’s more than enough that’s needed for a win. The Lanett Panthers did that Friday night but it wasn’t near enough for them to come out on the long end of a scoring fest.
The undefeated Randolph County Tigers ran their record to 6-0 and 4-0 in 2A Area 5 with a 70-44 win over the error-prone Panthers. The home team led 56-24 at the half and played reserves for most of the second half. The score could have been even worse than that if they’d wanted to run it up.
With the loss, Lanett fell to 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in the Area. Even with back-to-back disasters on consecutive Fridays in Randolph County (the first being a 42-28 loss to Handley) the Panthers still have a shot at the 2A playoffs. The October 16 home game with LaFayette will likely have a post-season berth on the line.
Randolph County pretty much did what they wanted to do against Lanett’s porous defense, scoring eight times in the first half. Reco Hannah ran for 165 yards and scored five TDs and a two-point conversion. Quarterback John Mark Prestridge completed 15 of 16 passes for 308 yards and two TDs, most of them playing pitch and catch to wide open receivers.
After going 64 yards in five plays on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead, the Tigers quickly made it 14-0 following an interception on Lanett’s first offensive play. Hannah intercepted it near the Lanett 30 and ran it back to the 10. On the next play, he scored a touchdown on a toss sweep off the right side of the line. The home team was up by two scores with 9:33 left in the first period.
On the second Panther possession, a fumbled handoff on first down left them in a second and 16 hole they couldn’t climb out of. Lanett had to punt it away on fourth down. The Tigers took over on the Panther 38 and made the most of a short field to run their advantage to 21-0. Hannah again scored on a toss sweep off the right side of the line. With 3:13 left in the opening period, Randolph County was up by three touchdowns.
Lanett started to show some life on their next possession. A pass from Trey Story to Anquaevious Pollard advanced the ball for a first down on the Lanett 30. On the next play, Terrion Truitt, a freshman, took a handoff off the left side of the line and broke into the open. It looked like he was going to have a 70-yard run before a final Randolph County defender brought him down on the Tiger five.
On the next play, Tavaris Geiger scored on a wide play to the right side of the field, and Lanett was on the scoreboard. A try for two points failed, leaving the score 21-6 with 48 seconds left in the first period.
Lanett missed out on a chance to get back in the game when they failed to recover a short kick to the RCHS 38. Things still looked good when a holding penalty and a sack by Khalif Kellum had the Tigers facing second and 25 on their 23. With two quick pass plays, though, they were on the Lanett 40 taking it in for another score. The lead went to 27-6 on a quarterback sneak by Prestridge with 9:52 left in the half. Kellum broke through the line to block the extra point leaving that score unchanged.
The Panthers showed some quick strike ability on their next possession. A couple of passes from Story to Pollard and Moseley moved the ball from the 20 to the 21, and on a first-and-ten play, Story lofted a beautiful pass down the left sideline to a wide open Anquaevious Pollard who caught the ball on the dead run and loped his six-foot-six frame to the end zone for Lanett’s second score of the game. The try for two points failed. With 7:14 left in the half, Randolph County led 27-12.
It would take the Tigers only one play to increase their lead. After returning the kickoff to their 43, they were set back five yards by illegal procedure. On first and 15 from the 38, Prestridge found a wide open J.R. Roundtree running down the middle of the field. He hit him with a well-thrown pass, and just like that the Tigers were back up 33-12. A toss sweep to Hannah on the conversion added to more points. With 6:53 left in the half Randolph County led 35-12.
The scoring parade continued with Lanett matching that touchdown. Geiger ran back the kickoff to the Randolph County 46 to give the Panthers some good field position, and Story led the team the rest of the way for a score. He found Truitt open down the sideline for a big gainer to the 13. Four plays later, Melvaunta “Brent” Robinson scored from two yards out to make the score 35-18. A try to two points failed when a pass was broken up in the end zone by Randolph County’s Trey Terrell. With 3:56 left in the half, the Tiger lead was cut to seventeen points.
It would take Randolph County only three plays to score again on an 80-yard drive. On first down, Hannah ran to the Lanett 27. On the next play Prestridge passed to Roundtree to the Panther 10. From there, Hannah scored on a toss sweep off the left side of the line. With 2:59 left, the Tigers were up 42-18.
Things went from bad to worse on the kickoff when a Lanett player covered the ball on the one-yard line, possibly thinking the kick had gone into the end zone. Three incomplete passes from the one left plenty of time on the clock for the home team to score again before halftime. They did that on a pass from John Mark Prestridge to Andrew Prestridge with only 20 seconds to go in the half. That made it 49-18.
As hard as it might be to believe, two more touchdowns would be scored before halftime. Lanett got the first one on a beautiful 80-yard kickoff return by Truitt. That cut it to 49-24 with 7.4 second left. A try for two failed, leaving almost everyone in the stadium convinced that would be the halftime score. But there was still some fireworks left.
The Panthers recovered an onside kick with time left on the clock for one more play. Rather than heaving it downfield on a Hail Mary they attempted a screen pass. Randolph County’s D.J. Marable anticipated it to perfection, picked it off and ran it back 52 yards for a Randolph County’s eighth touchdown of the half. And like most of the other ones it was just way too easy. An extra point by Will Sledge upped the halftime lead to a very embarrassing 56-24 margin.
Lanett outscored the home team 20-14 in the second half but there’s not much consolation when you get beat by a score of 70-44.
Mr. Roger Dale Howell, 53, of Valley died Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, at his residence.
Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley with interment following in Johnson Memorial Gardens. The Rev. John Samanie officiating.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is directing.
LaFAYETTE — Miss Sandra Keel, 63, of LaFayette died Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, at the Capitol Hill Health Care in Montgomery, Ala.
Graveside services were held Sunday, Oct. 4 at the Midway Methodist Church Cemetery with the Rev. Gerri Johnson officiating.
Jeff Jones Funeral Home in LaFayette handled arrangements.
VALLEY — Mr. Bobby Frank Danford, 73, of the Lake Harding community, Valley, passed away at his residence Friday, October 2, 2015.
No services are scheduled at this time.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.
VALLEY — Mr. Handley F. Davis, 89, of Valley passed away Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. at EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home in Valley.
The family is planning a small graveside service at Langdale Cemetery Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. after the cremation process.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.
FREDONIA, Ala. — Mrs. Christine Hunt Landers, 69, of the Fredonia community died Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at her residence.
Graveside services will be held Monday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m. at Restlawn Memorial Gardens in LaGrange, Ga.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley is in charge of arrangements.
LANETT — Funeral services are pending for Mr. Marvin Patton of Lanett, who died Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of the arrangements.
LaFAYETTE — Mr. Johnny Frank Ware, 68, of LaFayette, passed away on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 at Lake Martin Community Hospital in Dadeville, Ala.
Funeral services will be held Monday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m. CDT at Mr. Lebanon United Methodist Church in LaFayette with the Rev. Clarence Foster, pastor, and the Rev. Jerry L. Gibson, officiating. Burial followed in the church cemetery.
Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is handling arrangements.