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September 23, 2017
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LaFayette solar plant could be on line by end of 2017
LaFayette solar plant could be on line by end of 2017

Alabama Power employee Chris Habig (at center) talks about all the detail work that’s involved in getting a row of solar panels to work properly. They are held in place by steel piers, there’s both underground and above ground cables, and each row of panels is hooked to a combiner box that may have as many as 18 strings. There are 36 inverter equipment skids on the site to convert the DC form of electricity produced by the panels into AC, which can be put on the power grid. Listening to the explanation are Luigi Soper, Mike Gallego, David Dzeian (on the left) and Larry DeVore, and Vince Lougey. (Photo by Wayne Clark)

By WAYNE CLARK

LaFAYETTE — 2017 will be remembered as the year approximately 1,200 acres on LaFayette’s southeast side went from being an undeveloped mixture of pine forests, sage fields and stream beds to the site of the largest solar panel farm in the state of Alabama. For the moment, it looks like it’s going to be done in the span of one calendar year.

From the time it was announced over a year ago that an Alabama Power connected solar farm was on the way, everyone was excited about having a big project coming LaFayette’s way. It was also exciting for local public schools to get a new source of revenue. But there was some skepticism that it could be done in one year, as the announced plan called for.

Few locals believed that that much land could be cleared of trees, an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of dirt moved, over 40,000 steel piers put in place to hold over 338,000 solar panels and for this massive facility to go on line, putting electricity on the power grid before 2017 had gone into the books.

It looks like it’s going to happen, folks, and we have to chalk one up for the green power boys.

On Monday of this week, Alabama Power hosted an on-site media event to get across how close this huge solar farm is to going on line.

Mike Gallego, vice president of operations for site owner Clenera Renewable Energy, said that the company had invested over one billion dollars in private equity in such projects and had created thousands of good-paying jobs. He commended local governments on having been good to work with on the project. “The county and the city governments have been good partners.”

Gallego said that some full-time technical and security positions would be created once the solar farm is up and running. He also said there would be opportunities for students from the Chambers County Career Technical Center to have some on-site learning on how solar energy is produced.

Project Engineer Luigi Soper of subcontractor Swinerton Renewable Energy credited a work force of an estimated 350 people for having the project as far along as it is. “They have had a big part in making this project a reality,” he said. “They have earned a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they’ve done. We have battled intense summer heat and had to be patient on rainy days. We owe a lot to the hard-working men and woman who have helped us on this project.”

Media representatives present were taken on a bus tour across the sprawling site. During the tour, they were told that East Alabama Lumber Company, LaFayette, cleared trees from the 1,200-acre site in January and that construction started in February. The first phase of construction involved moving an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of dirt. That’s a record for Swinerton, a highly respected contractor that’s been in business since the 1880s.

When the eight separate sites were ready for the installation, that’s when the work became complicated. An estimated 24 miles of trenches had to be dug for underground cables. Some of the cables are alternating current (AC) and some are direct current (DC). The electricity created by the solar panels is DC. It has to be converted to AC to go on the power grid.

Piers and racking had to be built to hold the panels in place. There’s an average of 87 panels per row. Once the project is complete there will be a staggering 338,662 panels in place working in unison to produce electricity. Each panel lasts between 20 and 25 years before it has to be replaced.

Alabama Power has played an important role in making this solar farm a reality. They’ve entered a long-term power purchase agreement with Clenera, the primary investor, and Global Atlantic to secure the rights to all the environmental attributes (RECs) generated by the 72-megawatt solar facility.

Walmart will be receiving the majority of the RECs produced by the LaFayette plant. The company has a stated goal of obtaining 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The long-term contract with Walmart protects other Alabama Power customers from bearing any additional costs in connection with the new solar facility. The combination of the purchase agreement and the Walmart contract is designed to provide a net benefit for all customers.

Walmart employs more than 37,000 people in Alabama at its 144 stores and three distribution centers. The company is projected to spend more than $848 million in the state this year and supports more than 31,000 supplier jobs in the Alabama.

Chambers honors outstanding businesses at annual meeting Thursday
Chambers honors outstanding businesses at annual meeting Thursday

By DAVID BELL

VALLEY — The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce put the finishing touches on an unprecedented year of achievement Thursday night with its Annual Membership Meeting, hosted at King Auto Corner in Valley. The event was attended by more than 260 business representatives and Chamber supporters, twice the attendance in 2016.

The theme for this year’s gala was “Butts, Band and Beer,” highlighting the cuisine of barbecue Boston Butts with all the trimmings and live entertainment presented by the Wicked Dixie Band, as well as a raffle, door prizes and a few things never done before.

“We wanted to expand our list of awards this year and recognize some outstanding local businesses that do an excellent job in serving the community,” said GVACC Executive Director Ashley Crane.

This year’s award winners were:

•MainStreet Family Urgent Care — Emerging Business of the Year.

•AllStar Graphics — Small Business of the Year.

•CharterBank — Business of the Year.

•Chambley’s — Retail Business of the Year.

•Terri’s Mill Village Cafe — Restaurant Business of the Year.

•Knauf Insulation — Industrial Business of the Year.

•Chris Strength — Community Mover and Shaper of the Year.

New incoming Chamber board members are Eddie Adams, Chambers County Rodeo Association; Jon Anderson, Norbord Alabama; Kim Gradic, WestRock; Joe Hill, J. Smith Lanier and Company, a Marsh and McLennon Agency LLC company; Greg Nichols, EAMC-Lanier Health Services; Merilyn Vines, Vines Funeral Home; and David Whaley, Knauf Insulation.

Incoming officers for next year are President Bill Gladden, CharterBank; Vice President Sheri Gaddy, Alabama Power Company; and Treasurer David Wilkerson, AJIN, USA.

During the past 12 months, the GVACC continued its transition from an event-based organization to one that was more service oriented. Soon after her arrival at the Chamber, Crane distributed a survey among membership to gauge the types of things business leaders wanted from their local Chamber. After receiving those results, new plans began to emerge that took the organization into a new direction.

“We created a schedule of free monthly workshops and seminars designed to help established businesses become more successful, and provide assistance to those just getting started,” said Crane. “In addition to information specifically geared toward workplace development and safety, we also hosted a Business Expo and luncheon at the Point University Golf Club and Event Center.”

“In an effort to show our gratitude to area men and women in public safety, we hosted our inaugural First Responders Appreciation Breakfast at the Valley Community Center, which was attended by more than 200 law enforcement officers, firemen, EMTs, park rangers and other emergency personnel from Chambers, Troup and Harris counties,” Crane added.

Chamber staff and board members were also kept busy with a myriad of special events that included:

•A total of 17 ribbon cutting ceremonies — one in LaFayette, three in Lanett, seven in Valley, one in Cusseta and five in West Point.

•A total of six Business at Breakfast or Business After Hours events — one in Cusseta, one in LaFayette, three in Lanett, and one in Valley.

•Hosted the annual Relay for Life in LaFayette and the first annual Mill Village Christmas in Valley.

Hosted ATRIP-2 community meetings in partnership with with the county commission and Chambers County Development Authority in LaFayette, Lanett and Valley, as well as political forums during the election season.

•Established the Boys and Girls Club Student of the Month Recognition Program.

•Established the Business Resource Center in partnership with The Circle of Care Center for Families in Valley and the Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network.

•Presented a Real Life 101 seminar for local high school juniors.

•Conducted a successful Shop Local campaign during the Christmas season.

•Welcomed 36 new members into the GVACC family.

•Created new promotional materials that included visitors guide packets and a recreation and visitors guidebook.

“I am simply amazed at what our Chamber has accomplished in just the past year alone,” said GVACC Board President Deborah Mitchell. “We were very fortunate to have acquired Ashley Crane as executive director, and under her extraordinary leadership, our Chamber is more active now in the local community than it has ever been, and we’re just getting started.”

Another ambitious agenda of future goals and objectives is already under discussion that not only involves the continuation of activities and events created this year but proposes to include new and unique volunteer opportunities, a scholarship program, partnerships in education, resources and services fair, a beautification project and new young professionals program.

“We would not be able to provide these important services, activities and events without the generous contributions of our local sponsors and volunteers,” said Crane. “We are also grateful for the support we receive from the cities of Valley, Lanett, LaFayette and West Point. Everything we do is truly a collaborative effort that encompasses many different entities to further the expansion of business development and tourism throughout the Greater Valley Area.”

Family Fun Day Festival slated Saturday in Lanett
Family Fun Day Festival slated Saturday in Lanett

By DAVID BELL

LANETT — The second annual Family Fun Day Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23 in the parking lot of Lanett High School, 1302 South Eighth Ave., from 1 until 6 p.m. The event is presented free of charge by Storem and Sun Entertainment, and hosted by Seth Harden and Sharon Ladee Storem Acres.

“This positive Fun Day Festival brings awareness to eliminating violence in the community and bullying in schools,” said Acres. “We’re inviting everyone to come out and support this event, bring tents and lawn chairs, and enjoy the family-oriented festivities.”

A native of Lanett, Acres began her entertainment career in radio production and promotions. In 2012, she started a Gospel reality television show called “The Gospel in Me” that’s currently in its second season of production. Acres also hosts and organizes community events with Claim Your Fame Talent and Acting where she speaks to children and teenagers about being successful in life by creating goals and recognizing opportunities.

In 2013, Acres created the “Dream Team” with mascot “Buster the Friendly Dog” that travels to schools, birthday parties, recreation centers, libraries, churches and youth centers to encourage and teach young people of all ages about the importance of good behavior, striving for success, and avoiding contact with alcohol and drugs.

“I strongly believe in Matthew 7:7, which says, ‘Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you,’” said Acres. “I’m currently working on new positive projects for children and adults that will change the face of film, television and stage plays, for which I am seeking sponsors and investors.”

For more information, visit www.storemandsun.com.

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Beulah Band Association road races set for Nov. 4
Beulah Band Association road races set for Nov. 4

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

BEULAH — The Beulah Band Association will sponsor a morning of running/walking events on Nov. 4 at Beulah High School, Roger Keel told The Times-News Thursday.

Three road races will be held — 6.3-mile run at 8 a.m. CT; a 3.1-mile race at 10 a.m.; and a 1-mile event at 11 a.m.

The cost to compete is $20 per person per race before Oct. 20. After Oct. 20, the fee will be $25.

For additional information or an application, call (334) 524-2884 or email: rkeel@mindspring.com.

Pivotal week for local schools with region showdowns
Pivotal week for local schools with region showdowns

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

It’s a pivotal week for local high school football teams with a number of very important region matchups on hand Friday evening.

Coach Cody Flournoy’s Beulah Bobcats (1-2, 0-2) host Central-Coosa in a must-win scenario if the Bobcats are going to have a chance at earning a 3A state playoff berth.

Beulah has four remaining region contests and if they play well, they can, most likely, win three of them and thereby get in the postseason.

Look for Beulah to play its best game of the season Friday and earn a big win.

The AISA No. 4-ranked Chambers Academy Rebels (4-0, 1-0) passed its first test last week in flying colors with a convincing 38-14 road win at Lowndes Academy.

Coach Jason Allen’s team is playing great team ball and perhaps its best team defense in years. They’re fast, physical and create turnovers. The offense has nearly 2,000 yards rushing as 6-7 backs see time and keep a balanced attack.

CA hosts Kingwood for homecoming Friday and should roll to another convincing win.

The No. 6-ranked LaFayette Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) are playing well and have won three straight since falling to Dadeville in its opener.

No running back in the area has been more impressive than senior Robert Houston, who has over 700 yards in just four games.

Look for LaFayette to run over Woodland Friday.

The No. 2-ranked Lanett Panthers (4-0, 2-0) have yet to be tested but may be this week at traditional power Reeltown on the road.

The Panthers offense is now rolling after struggling early in the season and Lanett’s defense has been standout all year.

Panthers make it five straight.

The Springwood Wildcats (3-1, 1-1) are coming off a tough outing against Bessemer and hope to get back on the winning track this week at Macon-East.

This is a big game for coach Thomas Hill’s team. Take the Wildcats in a tight one.

The No. 8-ranked Troup Tigers (4-0, 0-0) are back in action this week at Chapel Hill in the region opener. The Tiger offense has been sensational. Look for that trend to continue this week as well.

The Valley Rams (1-3, 1-1) jumped right back into the 5A playoff race last week with a big 13-0 win over Cleburne Co. In the process, Valley found an old school running back in sophomore B.J. Smith, who was sensational. Valley is at Lincoln looking to make it two straight.

Valley team defense, Smith running keys 13-0 win
Valley team defense, Smith running keys 13-0 win

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

VALLEY — It’s been two years and 11 games but the losing skid is finally over for the Valley High Rams (1-3, 1-1) as coach Buster Daniel’s team used a sensational team defensive effort and an Eric Dickerson-like effort at running back from bruising sophomore B.J. Smith to record a big 13-0 region win over the Cleburne Co. Tigers here Friday evening at Rams Stadium.

Simply put, Valley played inspired football on both sides of the line but especially defensively as coach Marshon Harper’s team had perhaps its best overall game in several years. The Rams were fast, physical and had 11 men to the ball on every play. You just couldn’t ask for a better performance and exactly what the team needed to turn the season around.

Valley was the better team and played like it.

“The first win was great for me but I think it was greater for the kids, the school and the whole community,” said Daniel. “It's been a year since our kids have felt that feeling and now that they have, I think their whole mentality will change.”

The Rams met every challenge and played terrific team football. When you post a shutout of a region rival and a foe that rang up 40 points on you the previous season, it’s time to celebrate that accomplishment and that’s what they did.

It was an “A” effort and the type of win that will build confidence in the kids as the season progresses, always with an eye on trying to land a playoff berth.

Smith was an absolute beast at tailback in ringing up 194 yards on 28 carries. He averaged 6.8 yards per rush and had a long run of 23 yards.

When the Rams needed a first down, they called upon Smith and the youngster delivered with a nice mixture of overwhelming power and speed.

Valley opened the scoring a nicely-executed, seven-play, 80-yard march when Josh Bledsoe hit Steven Coker on a beautiful 58-yard scoring strike at 11:20 of the second quarter. Daniel Etherton booted the PAT kick and it was 7-0 Rams.

Etherton had a great game as well for the Rams with a pair of field goals for insurance points. Etherton connected on field goals of 37 and 31 yards to account for the Rams 13 points.

Bledsoe completed 7-of-13 passes for 125 yards and one TD, a long pass of 58 and an excellent quarterback rating of 113.6.

Coker had seven receptions for 83 yards, good for an average of 11.9 yards per catch and Nelson Bradley had one reception for 41 yards on a key third-and-long play.

Valley totaled 325 yards on 45 plays, good for an average of 7.8 yards per snap. That’s winning football and solid production.

Led by Smith’s 194 yards, Valley had 200 yards for the game and a 6.4 average.

While the offense had a very good game, the Rams defense was outstanding across the board in all phases of its game.

Kudos to coach Harper and his kids as they played a terrific game and simply suffocated Cleburne Co. with physical play.

Markevious Booker had one interception while K.C. Carter also tallied a pick.

Dalton Dunn led the Rams stop troops with 13 tackles and one sack, T.J. Winston added 11 stops, Lagarian Hutchinson tallied eight stops and three vicious hits in the middle, Carter also had eight stops, Booker had seven and D.J. Dunn chipped in with six stops.

•Valley will be on the road next week at Lincoln in a key region contest.

Obituaries

Obituaries for Friday, September 22, 2017
Obituaries for Friday, September 22, 2017

MRS. ALLEN

LaFAYETTE — Mrs. Wadie S. Allen, 77, of LaFayette passed away Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, at her residence.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. CDT at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Fredonia with Pastor Janice Clark officiating and Pastor Cecelia Broome, eulogist. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

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

THE REV. COOKS

LANETT — The Rev. Eugene Cooks of Lanett passed away Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at Eastside Medical Center in Snellville, Ga.

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

MRS. COPELAND

VALLEY — Mrs. Annie Jim Hardin Copeland, 95, of Valley and the Lake Harding community, passed away Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at her residence.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date by the family.

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

MRS. DUNN

MABLETON, Ga. — Mrs. Linda Lee James Dunn of Mableton, a former resident of Valley, died Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, at Wellstar Cobb Hospital in Austell, Ga.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at Davis Memorial Mortuary Chapel in Valley with the Rev. Henry Cooper officiating. Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery in Valley.

Davis Memorial Mortuary of Valley is in charge of arrangements.

MR. JACKSON

OPELIKA, Ala. — Mr. Andrew L. Jackson of Opelika, a former resident of Lanett, died Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at his residence.

Funeral services and survivors will be announced by Davis Memorial Mortuary of Valley.

MRS. STAPLES

WADLEY, Ala. — Funeral arrangements are pending for Mrs. Mary Lizzie Staples, 89, of Wadley, who died Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Shore Pointe Nursing Center in Detroit, Mich.

Vines Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.

Obituaries for Thursday, September 21, 2017
Obituaries for Thursday, September 21, 2017

MR. BARBER

WEST POINT — Mr. Pal E. Barber, 92, of West Point passed away Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at his home.

Celebration of Life will be at 11 a.m. at Striffler-Hamby Mortuary with Pastor Willie J. Barber officiating. Burial will follow at Restlawn Memory Gardens.

Striffler-Hamby Mortuary, 1010 Mooty Bridge Road, LaGrange, Ga., 30240 (706) 884-8636, is in charge of arrangements.

MR. BROOKS

LaFAYETTE — Mr. Carlton Brooks, 73, of LaFayette passed away Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. CDT at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in LaFayette with the Rev. Michael Stiggers, pastor, and the Rev. Ed Vines officiating.

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

MRS. COREY

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Mrs. Anna S. Corey, 76, passed away Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park.

A graveside service will be held Saturday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. at Fairfax Cemetery.

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

MRS. PETREY

LaFAYETTE — Mrs. April Dawn Petrey, 44, of LaFayette died Monday, Sept.18, 2017, at St. Thomas Hospital West in Nashville, Tenn.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. CDT at The Bridge Church with the Rev. Bill Bryan and the Rev. Blain Turner officiating. Burial will follow at the Community Baptist Church Cemetery in LaFayette.

Jeff Jones Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.

MR. WILLIAMS

LANETT — Mr. “W.A.” Walter Williams, 81, of Lanett passed away Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at his residence.

Funeral services will be held Friday, Sept. 22 at 11:30 a.m. at the graveside in Johnson Memorial Gardens in Valley with Pastor Darren White and Pastor Blain Turner officiating.

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

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