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Southern Pine Electric Co-op Send Linemen to
Help Restoration Efforts after Hurricane Florence

Southern Pine Electric Co-op has sent seven linemen and one engineer to assist Surry-Ladkin EMC in Dobson, NC restore power after Hurricane Florence’s landfall.

Men who will be assisting Surry-Ladkin EMC are (L to R) Adam York, Grayson Peters, Kirk Carter, Zack Carter, AJ Faircloth, Norris Brooks, Ricky Quates and Tracy Emmons.

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Shelby Praises Confirmation of Alabama Judge Terry Moorer

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today praised the Senate confirmation of Judge Terry F. Moorer of Greenville, Alabama, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Alabama.  Judge Moorer was nominated for the judgeship by President Trump in September 2017.

“Judge Terry Moorer is well-suited to be a U.S. district judge in Alabama’s southern district,” said Senator Shelby.  “His decade of experience serving as a magistrate judge, along with his devotion to upholding the constitution make him fit to serve in this prestigious role.  I congratulate Judge Moorer and am confident that our nation will continue to benefit from his dedication and service.”

In November 2017, Moorer appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the consideration of his nomination.  During the hearing, Judge Moorer expressed that “a judge must be courteous and respectful to parties and attorneys” and “patient, open-minded, tactful, and fair to all parties.”  Moorer continued by relaying that a “judge should listen carefully to the legal arguments, research the law, and then rule promptly based on the facts and the law.”  He concluded by explaining that a “judge must decide matters based on the facts and law,” and while “a judge is still a person and cannot be expected to fully divorce themselves from all life experiences, their life experiences should play no role in the decision-making process.”

Judge Terry Moorer currently serves as a Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, a position he assumed in 2007.  Prior to assuming his judgeship, Judge Moorer served in various positions: Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama, Command Judge Advocate in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and attorney in the Office of Staff Judge Advocate in Fort Rucker, Alabama.  Judge Moorer earned his Associate of Arts degree from the Marion Military Institute, his Bachelor of Arts degree from Huntington College, and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. 

Following the confirmation of Judge Moorer, one Alabama judicial nominee initially nominated by President Trump in 2017, along with one nominee from Alabama selected in 2018, still await confirmation by the full Senate.  Historic obstruction by Democrats has occurred during this administration’s attempt to confirm judges.  The previous six presidents combined faced a total of 24 procedural votes on judicial nominees while President Trump has faced more than 100 during his first two years in office.

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Southern Care Hospice Offers A Way to
Make a Difference in the Lives of Others!

By: Jodie Williams/Southern Care Hospice

Now that summer is coming in full swing and many are thinking what is something different I could do this summer? I have the perfect suggestion!! Why not give some of your time to volunteering!

Here at Southern Care Hospice in Evergreen there are a lot of ways you can get involved in volunteering, and the rewards of doing something for somebody else far out ways the satisfaction of any time that you give!! Here at Southern Care Hospice we have a variety of programs you can choose from; Patient and Family Support, helping to answer phones at the office clerical work or filing, helping at community events such as health fairs, festivals ,birthday parties and special events at several of the nursing facilities we visit. There are other ways you can get involved such as making blankets, pillows or clothes protectors for our patients, baking homemade bake goods, and helping to do yard work such as cleaning flower beds and cut grass for a patient! We even have a Teen Volunteer Program for high school students that are 16 or older, this is a great way for them to receive community service hours for applying for college scholarship applications.

The ways you can make a difference in the life of another are endless! I encouraged everyone to please consider volunteering to help others in 2018! Not only does it help them and you, but it also improves the community you live in!

If you are interested in becoming a Southern Care Hospice Volunteer here in the Conecuh County area or would like for me to come speak to your civic club or church also or would like more information please call Jodie Williams, Volunteer Coordinator at 334-222-0709 or come by our office located at 116 Edwina Street Evergreen, Al. We would love to have you join our volunteer family!!!

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Southern Pine Washington Youth Tour

2018 Washington D.C. representatives for Southern Pine Electric Co-op are (L to R): Joey Trahan, Excel High School; Jay Jackson, Flomaton High School; Anna Grace White, T.R. Miller High School; Avie Etheridge, Sparta Academy; Althea Marsh, W.S. Neal High School and Olivia Simmons, Escambia County High School.

The Washington D.C. National Rural Electric Youth Tour, sponsored by local electric cooperatives, the Alabama Rural Electric Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is part of a grassroots program to educate high school juniors on the electric cooperative program and the cooperative ideas for which it stands. In June, approximately 57 students from Alabama traveled to Washington D.C., joining more than 1,600 students from across the nation. The youth tour experience is filled with fun activities, but its overall purpose is to increase students understanding of the value of rural electrification, help them become more familiar with the historical and political environment of our nation’s capital through visits to monuments, government buildings and cooperative organizations…and visit elected officials to increase the students’ knowledge of how the federal government works.

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Black Bears on the Move in Alabama

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When the photo popped up on my smartphone, I wasn’t sure what it was. Something was swimming in the south end of Mobile Bay, and I facetiously asked, “Killer whale?”

The reply came back, “Black bear.” I expanded the photo, and, yep, there was a telltale round, black ear. I knew this photo, taken by inshore fishing guide Patrick Hill, would go viral.

However, as rare as this sighting may be, this is not the first time it’s happened. About 20 or so years ago, a black bear swam the south end of Mobile Bay, hung out on the Eastern Shore a little while, and swam back to where he came from, probably headed toward a population of black bears in the Grand Bay area.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Large Carnivore Coordinator Thomas Harms was not really surprised that a black bear took a shortcut recently, headed west from the Fort Morgan area.

“We have bear pictures from Orange Beach and Fort Morgan and the Weeks Bay area,” Harms said. “I think there is a corridor there. These bears sometimes just make a big loop.

“Bears are excellent swimmers. It was probably just a young male on the move.”

If anyone should see a bear, Harms said the main course of action is to remain calm and let the bear leave the area.

“There’s no need to freak out if you see a bear,” he said. “It’s kind of like my father taught me about chainsaws. He said don’t be scared of them but respect them. It’s the same thing with animals. If you’re scared of it, just like chainsaws, it has the potential to hurt you. With a bear, don’t fear it. When you see one, give it space and let it go away on its own.

“We’ve never had a bear attack in Alabama. It’s even rare in the states where the population densities of bears are much higher. Just give them space, and let them know you’re there. They don’t see very well and don’t hear very well. Say whatever you want to, just be loud and let them know you’re there. They will typically turn around and leave.”

Harms said the black bear males in Alabama can reach weights of 250-300 pounds and live to be 15-20 years old. Females usually weigh 150-200 pounds. Harms said the likely adult population of bears for the entire state is estimated at 300-400 animals. The population in northeast Alabama has a Georgia ancestry, while the southwest population has Florida roots.

He said a new small population has popped up in Conecuh National Forest in Escambia County.

“I’ve got pictures of a sow with cubs in Conecuh National Forest,” Harms said. “If you have a sow with cubs, you know you have a viable population of bears living there.”

Harms said the annual cycle for black bears starts in February when the sows drop their cubs. In April and May, the males start expanding their home range first, followed by the females with the yearling cubs. The year-old females will settle on the fringes of the mother’s home range, but the yearling males are run completely out of the area, which is when the bulk of the human contact occurs.

“These young males get pushed out by their mothers, and then they get pushed even farther by the adult males,” Harms said. “These males are young and dumb. If they detect a dominant male, usually by smell, they’ll keep moving until they find a place where they don’t detect any other males. These are typically the ones that get turned around and into the suburbs and cities.

“The bulk of the calls we get this time of year is these young males passing through people’s yards in downtown Birmingham. It happens every year. We had one in downtown Daphne. One went from Georgia, through Alabama, all the way to Mississippi. That bear may stay there, but it could turn around and come back.”

Right now, June and July is the breeding season for Alabama bears, which means the adult males will be on the move.

“The large adult males are looking around for receptive females this time of year,” Harms said. “June and July is when the adult males are moving the most. The home range for an adult male can be up to 59 square miles, depending on the habitat. For females, the home range is about 20 square miles.

“Habitat in the southwest part of the state is a lot better, which makes the home range smaller than in northeast Alabama. It’s just the type of habitat. You go from mountainous habitat in the northeast to bottomlands in the southwest with tons of fruits, berries and vegetation. The bears live in the bottomlands and use them for corridors. They go to the uplands to eat. But they’re never too far from water. In the southwest, they don’t have to go too far to the next drainage. In the northeast, they may have to cross a mountain. They have to go much longer distances to get the same benefits.”

Harms said the bears in Alabama have a 94-percent vegetarian diet. Because Alabama does not have harsh winters, the bears can thrive with much less protein in the diet. He said bears are opportunistic meat eaters if they stumble onto a whitetail fawn or surprise a rabbit.

“Bears can’t chase down a rabbit, and once a fawn is able to get up and run, the bear can’t chase it down,” he said. “Bears can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, but only for very short distances. They are not very good predators. They will take advantage of any dead animals they come across, sometimes called carrion.  Deer that succumb to the rigors of winter and the rut often become the main course for a lucky bear.”

Harms said bears in Alabama don’t really hibernate. During the few cold days of winter, he said bears will do like humans and stay inside, sleeping in their dens until the weather warms up again. The bears have put on the fat for the winter and rarely travel far from the den area until spring.

In areas where known bear ranges are adjacent to suburban subdivisions, Harms said homeowners need to make sure they don’t entice the bears to venture onto their property.

“In some of these subdivisions, people like to put up feeders so they can watch wildlife, like deer,” he said. “But there is a danger of bringing a bear near your house. You need to make sure that feeder is a few hundred yards away from the house. Make sure the bears can’t get to dog food or anything like that. If a bear constantly comes close to a house, it’s going to lose that fear of humans. Most bear attacks happen with bears that have lost their fear of humans. We need to avoid that.”

In instances when it’s not practical to keep food sources from the bears, Harms suggests using hot-wire fencing to deter the bears. Dogs bred to be guard dogs can also help keep bears at bay.

“But, you don’t want a dog that will chase the bear,” Harms said. “The dog will eventually catch up with the bear and may end up getting hurt when the bear turns around to defend itself.”

Harms said there is a common myth a bear will stand on its hind legs before attacking.

“The only reason bears get on their hind legs is to get their noses high in the air so they can smell you,” he said.

Harms said anyone with an interest in black bears can visit www.bearwise.org. The website is supported by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is a member of SEAFWA.

“The Bearwise website is a very good resource,” Harms said. “Any questions you have about black bears will be answered on that website.”

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Conservation Department Marks 110 Years

Fallen Conservation Officers Honored with Memorial Wall

For 110 years, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been protecting the state’s natural resources. Today, Gov. Kay Ivey and department officials celebrated that service and dedicated a memorial to 12 Conservation Enforcement Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

“On behalf of our entire state, I thank the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for caring for our natural resources and wildlife for the past 110 years,” Governor Ivey said.

In 1907, Rep. John H. Wallace, a conservation pioneer, introduced a proposal to create Alabama’s Department of Game and Fish, now known as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Alabama Legislature passed this bill, which included provisions for a State Game Commissioner and many of the most fundamental hunting laws.

Great strides have been made since the early days of horseback-mounted Game Wardens to the present-day Conservation Enforcement Officers. Although today’s officers use modern vehicles and equipment, they are still the front line against poachers and others who don’t choose to lawfully follow Alabama’s hunting and fishing laws and regulations.

“I am thankful for my career with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “I know from personal experience how many dedicated employees work for this department. Some of them work non-traditional hours and are frequently in dangerous situations. I want to thank all of them for their service to the State of Alabama.”

Since the Department’s creation in 1907, 12 officers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of Alabama’s natural resources.

Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, date of death and county of residence are as follows:

George S. Wilson, October 1, 1922, Montgomery County

Bart Cauley, March 19, 1932, Baldwin County

Vernon W. Wilson, June 25, 1951, Randolph County

Loyd C. Hays, May 1, 1964, Morgan County

John Roy Beam, December 6, 1976, DeKalb County

Frank Stewart Jr., December 24, 1978, Escambia County

Cecil Craig Chatman, November 28, 1982, Lowndes County

Grady R. Jackson, February 12, 1984, Pike County

James C. Vines, January 26, 1985, Greene County

Jimmy D. Hutto, March 25, 2002, Fayette County

James Lance Horner Jr., June 22, 2003, Clarke County

Nathan B. Mims, November 11, 2008, Chilton County

The officers were recognized today through the dedication of a memorial wall in their honor at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources headquarters office in Montgomery.

“Today, I had the privilege of honoring 12 officers who died in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice to protect Alabama’s natural resources. Our state remains indebted to those who preserve our beautiful, sweet home,” Ivey said.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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Sporting Chef Shares Tips for Tasty Venison

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With Alabama in the peak of deer season, freezers are getting full, which means it’s time to prepare some tasty venison.

As a buddy and I were discussing on a trip home from a hunting excursion, venison got a bad rap back in the day because of several reasons. Most deer hunting in the mid-20th century was done in front of a pack of hounds on a hot deer trail. Plus, it was verboten to shoot a doe back then. Hence, bucks replete with rutting hormones or lactic acid from being chased by the hounds, or both, made some of the meat less than palatable.

There was also the practice of hauling a nice deer around in the back of the truck to show all your buddies that contributed to the venison stigma.

That last practice is what really irks Scott Leysath, aka The Sporting Chef, when he hears people complain about the taste of venison. Leysath, who has roots in Grand Bay, Ala., and once produced the “Hunt, Fish and Cook” show out of Huntsville, said the care of the deer carcass right after it is harvested is a crucial step to tasty venison.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Alabama,” Leysath said. “Despite this recent cold spell, it can be a little warm during deer season. When I see people driving around with deer in the back of their trucks before it has been field-dressed, it makes me cringe. As with any animal, you need to get deer cleaned and cooled as fast as possible. If you ride around with the deer in the back of the truck, it’s not going to encourage it to taste good when it’s cooked.”

The best-case scenario, according to Leysath, is to have access to a walk-in cooler where the skinned deer carcasses can be hung for at least a week. He hangs larger animals for up to two weeks. The failure to properly age the venison can lead to a chewy meal.

“I actually had a buddy of mine from Centre, Ala., call me and say he had done everything I told him to do to prepare the venison,” Leysath said. “He said, ‘I did not overcook the backstrap. It was 130 degrees in the center. I made that balsamic dressing to go with it. But it was really, really, really tough.’

“I asked him when he shot the deer. ‘Yesterday.’ He hadn’t given that meat a chance. It has to go through rigor for 24 hours, and then you have to let it hang or age. If that backstrap had been aged for a week, it would have been a whole different animal.”

Leysath said that venison that is frozen soon after harvest can still benefit from the aging process. If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler but have room in a refrigerator, you can put the meat on a rack above a pan and let it age. Another option is to use a large ice chest, but don’t put the venison in the ice. Arrange some method to keep the venison elevated above the ice and ensure the temperature inside the ice chest doesn’t get above 40 degrees.

“You’re going to lose some crusty bits that aren’t going to look all that pleasant after a week or two, but the rest of it is going to be a lot more tender,” he said. “After a couple of weeks, the meat will lose about 20 to 25 percent of its weight, but what is left is good stuff. The dry-aging and hanging makes all the difference in the world.”

Leysath also has a pet peeve about trying to mask the flavor of wild game. He has a friend in Alabama who claims snow goose is by far the best-eating goose. His friend cuts the goose breasts into little strips and marinates them in teriyaki for 48 hours. Then cream cheese and jalapeno are added before being wrapped in bacon.

“That’s the universal recipe with wild game,” he said. “You marinate in who knows what, add jalapeno, some kind of cheese and bacon. Then it doesn’t taste like deer, duck or snow goose. What’s the point of that?”

Leysath said during his travels he has noticed that cooks in some parts of the country are predisposed to overcooking and are convinced wild game must be done all the way through.

“The biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks is to get them to quit cooking their deer quite so long,” he said.

Leysath gave a venison cooking demonstration at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference last fall, and the venison didn’t stay long in the frying pan before he was slicing it into bite-size pieces.

“I just sort of looked at it, didn’t I,” he said with a laugh. “Had I kept cooking it, it would have been less tender. And that was a muscle from the hind quarter. That wasn’t a backstrap. The key is, before serving, cut it across the grain. If you see long lines running through it, you’re cutting it the wrong way.

“And if the internal temperature is beyond 140 degrees, it starts to get tougher. Some folks can’t get past eating medium-rare venison. If I’m doing a seminar, I’ll cover it up with a dark sauce, and they talk about how tender it is.”

Obviously, Leysath does not apply the medium-rare rule to all venison.

“Sometimes, you want to go low and slow,” he said. “If you’ve got a venison shoulder, leave the bone in. Give it a good rub with olive oil and whatever seasoning you prefer. I’m going to brown it and then braise it in a roasting pan with a can of beer, celery, onion and carrots at a low temp. I’m going to let that moist heat do the work for me. After a few hours, the meat is falling off the bone. I wish deer had more than four legs, because those shanks are some of the best eating when you cook them low and slow.”

When Leysath wants to change skeptics’ minds about the taste of venison, he uses this trusty recipe.

Backstrap and Berries

½ venison backstrap

3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

¼ cup red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves

 2 tbsp berry preserves

3 tbsp chilled butter

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup whole berries

Trim all silverskin off the backstrap and either cut into thick medallions or in chunks that will fit in the frying pan. Sear all sides of the venison in the hot oil and set aside. Add red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and berry preserves to pan and reduce by one-third. Add chilled butter. Slice venison across the grain. Pour balsamic-berry sauce over venison and top with your choice of whole berries.

Leysath also suggested a very simple dish of four to five ingredients with an Asian flare.

Sesame Backstrap

½ venison backstrap

¼ cup yellow mustard

½ cup sesame seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup chopped green onions

Optional: couple of shots of sriracha hot sauce

Take backstrap and cut into thick medallions or manageable chunks. Coat in mustard and then roll in sesame seeds (look in Asian section of the grocery store instead of spice aisle). Sear all sides of the venison in hot oil and set aside. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped green onions to pan. Reduce by one-third and then pour over sliced venison.

“The key is to not overcook it,” Leysath said. “If all of your venison goes into a slow cooker with a can of cream of mushroom soup, you’re really missing out on a whole lot of venison flavor.”

Of course, many hunters will grind most of their deer, save the backstraps and tenderloins. Leysath has a proven shepherd’s pie recipe that gives cooks an option other than burgers or venison chili.

Venison Shepherd’s Pie

The Filling

2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup carrot, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups ground venison

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp kosher or other coarse salt (or 2/3 tsp table salt)

Pinch or two black pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup chicken, beef or game broth

Dash Worcestershire sauce

The Topping

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add ground venison and cook, stirring often, until evenly browned. Sprinkle flour over and stir to mix evenly. Cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining filling ingredients, stirring to blend and cook for 2 minutes more.

Prepare topping. Place peeled and quartered potatoes in a pot. Cover with at least one inch of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, return to pot and whisk in butter and half and half until smooth.

Transfer filling to a lightly greased baking dish. Spread potatoes over the top and place in preheated oven until lightly browned on top and the filling is bubbly hot.

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Steven Wayne Hall Death Sentence Overturned
 In 1991 Murder Of Clarene Haskew

Rather than writing this article myself and bringing up the details of this murder through a rehash of court documents, I have chosen instead to link to this article from The Montgomery Advertiser.

I will not be including an article concerning this case in our July print edition in order to spare the family of Ms. Clarene Haskew more local public disclosure, however the people of Conecuh County have a right to know the latest information concerning this case.

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A missing Alabama boy we featured in August 2005
 has been found in Ohio after missing 13 years!

Son Forgives Father for Kidnapping Him 14 Years Ago

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Evergreen Wood Products And BIOTAP Update

May 7, 2015
By: Jim Allen
EVERGREEN-Something that was never widely reported occurred at the March 9th Commission meeting when Mr. Bob Miller attended to report on the status of Evergreen Wood Products. The incident was mentioned on James Leon Windham's Blog, Conecuh News & Views, but not in the write-up in the Evergreen Courant – and I thought it irrelevant because it involved me. Well to be more accurate, Commissioner Johnny Andrews involved me.

As anyone who's been reading my work knows, I've been a strong advocate for the recovery of $350,000 in taxpayers money that was “loaned” to the City's Industrial Development Board about a year and a half ago to help “start up” Evergreen Wood Products.

Evergreen Wood Products never “started up” and the taxpayer funds, $175,000 from the City of Evergreen and $175,000 from the County Commission, was never returned.

When Mr. Miller appeared at the Commission meeting and it was Commissioner Andrews' turn to address him, Andrews deferred stating, “I have no questions, but Mr. Allen is in attendance and I bet he does!”

I declined. It was not my place to interrogate Mr. Miller or place him on the hot seat in relation to the still missing funds at a County Commission meeting.

It was our County Commission who voted to loan our money to the City's IDB, and Commissioners Andrews and Cook were strong advocates at the time to do so.

Our Commission did not loan the money to Miller. They loaned it to the IDB, at the request and upon the reassurances of Evergreen's Economic Development Director Bobby Skipper, that it would be repaid.

It's the IDB who is responsible for the funds.

Now, for one reason or another, Mr. Miller and Evergreen Wood Products has been allowed to continue to occupy the former Gerber facility although the business has never begun production.

On Thursday, April 16th, I attended a meeting of the City of Evergreen's Industrial Development Board at the Depot in Evergreen. And it was most interesting.

To keep it short, the meeting went something like this: the Gerber facility belongs to the City's IDB and Miller has been allowed to occupy it while he continues attempts to acquire funding to begin operations. Over the past year and a half, Miller has missed several deadlines for acquiring the necessary funding to begin operations – to include repayment of the $350,000 loaned to the IDB on his behalf.

Blame for those delays was tossed back and forth by both sides.

The meeting was for the IDB to decide if it would order Miller to immediately vacate the facility – or extend another deadline to May 20, 2015 when Miller claims he will finally have the funding necessary to close the deal.

After an Executive Session, the IDB chose to postpone the decision until Monday, April 20th when it would meet again at the Depot. In the meanwhile, Miller was to provide the IDB with documentation verifying his funding will be available and the deal will indeed close on May 20th.

It was also stated during that meeting that another business is interested in occupying the facility should it be vacated by Miller and Evergreen Wood Products.

During the Monday, April 20th meeting, the IDB spoke by phone with the potential investor. After the conversation, the IDB voted, although not unanimously, to extend the deadline until Wednesday, May 20th.

Personally, I was glad to see that members of the IDB have been making the repayment of taxpayer funds an integral part of closing the deal with Miller. As this saga continues, the taxpayers of Conecuh County will positively know the status of Evergreen Wood Products on May 20th.

BIOTAP South

The information on BIOTAP is short, but not sweet.

This from their website ( www.biotapsouth.com ): “BIOTAP South provides a broad range of testing services to physicians, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities through highly complex CLIA certified laboratories. Located in Evergreen, Alabama, our services include routine and specialized immuno-chemistry, toxicology/drug confirmation, endocrinology, hematology, serology, microbiology, cytology, pathology and molecular testing. Also provided, is a full spectrum support for auditing and inspections by CLIA and other governmental agencies. BIOTAP South serves to provide physicians the highest level of client services in the industry.”

This all sounds great, but in fact, there is no BIOTAP South, LLC., facility in Evergreen producing any of this stuff.

As some of you may remember, the story of BIOTAP began a bit more than a year ago with some members of the Conecuh County Commission hot and heavy to purchase a former 20 acre truck line facility on Ted Bates Road to house an “undisclosed” medical facility. The seller wanted to cut the property down to 16 acres and wanted a reported purchase price of around $600,000.

At that time, the name BIOTAP was not even mentioned and the deal centered around the purchasing of this property (as quickly as possible) by the county. Fortunately, a couple of Commissioners had concerns about possible contamination at the site and a very contentious Commission meeting was held to determine if an Environmental Impact Study should be conducted at the property and whom should pay for it.

At that meeting, Mr. John A. Johnson, Director of Coastal Gateway EDA was instrumental in the effort for the county to purchase the property and spoke on behalf of the seller.

Johnson conveniently recommended a Bay Minnette company that was ready to inspect the property within days, said the seller refused to pay for the study, then suggested during the meeting that open discussion of the possibility the property might be contaminated with hazardous waste could constitute slander. County Attorney Anthony Bishop disagreed.

Ultimately, the taxpayers of Conecuh County paid about $3,000 for a study that concluded further study was necessary.

The property was not purchased and word eventually leaked the potential employer was named BIOTAP South, LLC. Representatives of the company appeared before the Conecuh County Commission in June 2014 to answer questions concerning the proposed facility and suggested the company would start preparations to open within 60 to 90 days.

Soon thereafter, efforts began to find a suitable location in Evergreen and the former Resource Center on Jaguar Drive near Hillcrest High School was chosen.

Some offices related to Reid State Technical College at the building, which is owned by the Conecuh County Board of Education, have been required to relocate - and in recent months negotiations and contracts (that included tax incentives) with the Conecuh County Board of Education, the City of Evergreen, the Conecuh County Economic Development Authority, and the Conecuh County Commission have been negotiated and signed by those entities.

According to a June 23, 2014 letter from Mr. Johnson, announcing the pending arrival of BIOTAP, it states the Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute (AIDT) was also kicking in more than $100,000 to help train employees.

After months of negotiations what has not been signed, and reportedly only awaits BIOTAP's signature, is the final contract to close the deal.

When again questioned about the status of BIOTAP during the April 27th Commission meeting, Commissioners David Cook and Johnny Andrews stated that BIOTAP South, LLC., was still in the process of trying to find investors to launch the company.

After more than a year into the process of trying to bring this company to Evergreen and Conecuh County, this was the first public mention of the company even being in need of funding.

When questioned about any specific time limit on when BIOTAP South would be required to close the deal, Commissioner Andrews stated there was none.

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Owassa Man Wounded By Law Enforcement Following Domestic Dispute

Saturday, March 7th

By: Jim Allen
OWASSA – It's been a little more than three weeks since a Conecuh County Deputy was involved in an officer involved shooting of an Owassa resident and only now are some details of the incident being released by authorities.

The shooting happened at the Owassa Road home of Tommy and Barbara Burt about 11:15 a.m., on Sunday, February 8th.

Information gathered at the scene indicates law enforcement was called to the Burt residence about 11 a.m., in reference to a domestic dispute between the couple.

Shortly thereafter, bystanders in the area reported hearing one gun shot and could see law enforcement grabbing their weapons and taking cover behind their vehicles as shouting came from the area of the residence.

Police units with the Evergreen Police Department, the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department and Alabama State Troopers began arriving at the scene about 11:30 a.m.

Approximately 30 minutes later, two ambulances from Conecuh County Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene and both ambulances were soon escorted at high speed by law enforcement towards Evergreen.

Reports are that Tommy Burt, 41, was flown by LifeFlight to Mobile for emergency surgery for a single gunshot wound to the stomach. He was reportedly out of surgery around 8 p.m., that evening.

Anytime there is an officer involved shooting, the State Bureau of Investigation (formerly ABI) is called in to conduct an investigation.

The roadway was completely blocked with yellow tape and police vehicles after the incident and SBI agents began arriving at the scene at approximately 1:30 p.m. The road remained closed to traffic until about 6:30 p.m.

At the scene, Conecuh County Sheriff Randy Brock said he would have to coordinate with the SBI before preliminary information concerning the incident would be released, possibly as soon as the following day.

An unidentified SBI Agent at the scene said he could not comment concerning the incident and that it would be several days before their investigation would be complete.

However, information surrounding the shooting was not immediately made available and as of press-time, the SBI investigation into the incident continues.

When initially contacted February 13th, Trooper Jamie Maloy with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Public Information Unit confirmed an investigation by the SBI was underway at the request of the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department, but gave no indication as to when it might be completed.

Subsequent phone calls and emails to Trooper Maloy have gone unanswered.

During a recent interview with Sheriff Randy Brock at the Conecuh County Sheriff's Office, Brock said the SBI has up to 60 days to conduct their investigation and that once it was complete, the results would be sent to the state and to local District Attorney Steve Wadlington.

The case would then be brought before a Conecuh County Grand Jury at some point in the future.

The SBI investigation is completely independent, and as for the progress of the investigation or what direction it may be taking, “They don't keep me informed,” Brock said.

Brock said the call to the Burt residence was originally dispatched as a Domestic Violence call. He said he could not comment on details of the incident, but did confirm Burt did not shoot at law enforcement and that the only shot fired at the scene was by the deputy.

After consulting with District Attorney Steve Wadlington, Sheriff Brock identified the deputy as Brian Nelms (pronounced Nims) of Repton. Brock said Nelms has been with the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department since September 5, 2014.

Nelms has reportedly also worked for the Brewton and Monroeville Police Departments.

Brock said Nelms has not been involved in any prior shooting incidents and, “I'm sure my Deputy did what was necessary to protect himself and the victim.”

Neither Sheriff Brock nor Chief Deputy Tyrone Boykin were on the scene when the shooting took place.

After the incident, Nelms was placed on Administrative Leave with pay, Brock said, and was reinstated to active duty on February 16th following approval by the SBI.

“His clearance to return to work has nothing to do with the investigation being performed by the SBI,” Brock said, meaning his return to work is an issue separate from the actual investigation of the incident.

After the results of the investigation are released by the SBI, Brock said more information concerning the circumstances surrounding the shooting may be made available.

“We have nothing to hide,” he said, “People need to know what's going on.”

Following his release from the hospital, Burt was subsequently taken into Federal custody by U.S. Marshals and placed in the Mobile Metro Jail on February 18th where he is reportedly being held on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm.

This development apparently stems from the investigation by the SBI who, Brock said, located almost a dozen firearms inside the Burt residence, and a prior criminal history that showed he had been convicted of a felony.

A record search at the Conecuh County Circuit Clerk's Office indicates Burt has had some minor brushes with the law over the years and was charged with a Class B felony as a teenager some two decades ago.

That information was evidently relayed to federal authorities who took Burt into custody.

Repeated calls to the Public Information Officer at Mobile Metro Jail to inquire about Burt's status have not been answered or returned.

In an interview with Robert “Bobby” Crosby, the father of Barbara Burt, Crosby said Tommy Burt sustained internal organ damage from the shooting and that a section of his intestines had to be replaced with plastic tubing.

Crosby also went into detail concerning what he says happened that Sunday.

According to Crosby, he received a call from his daughter that morning stating the couple had been involved in a marital dispute and Tommy Burt wouldn't allow her access to the keys to a vehicle so that she could leave the residence. She asked him to come pick her up.

Crosby said his wife, Elaine, then called 9-1-1 and requested Sheriff's deputies meet him at a gas station in Owassa.

Crosby lives in Evergreen some 10 miles from the Burt home.

Two deputies met Crosby at the gas station, he said, and he informed them of the situation before they all proceeded to the residence.

Once there, Crosby said, the two deputies entered the home by passing through a door adjacent to the carport and escorted Barbara Burt outside the residence while Tommy Burt was in the shower.

Rather than leaving immediately, Crosby said his daughter wanted to return inside to retrieve some clothes and a discussion ensued on the carport just outside the door leading to the residence.

A few moments later, Crosby said, Tommy Burt appeared at the door wearing only boxer shorts and opened the screen door.

He said Burt always kept a rifle leaning up against the wall inside the door, and that although he did not see Burt with the rifle, one family member at the scene later told him Burt was holding the rifle with the barrel pointed down, and another told him Burt was holding it by the barrel with the butt down.

Crosby said the deputy, “Gave him no chance. When the door came open he just shot and ran.”

At that point, he said, law enforcement took up defensive positions in front of the house and repeatedly called for Burt, who had fallen backwards and lay wounded on the floor, to come out of the house.

Crosby said some 35 minutes passed before Burt was heard, “hollering for help” from inside the house. Law enforcement then approached and found Burt lying on the floor just inside the screen door.

Crosby said that at no time did Burt threaten law enforcement, and that his daughter, Barbara, had only minor scratches and bruises and did not need medical attention. He said she only later went to the hospital at the insistence of law enforcement.

“Barbara was not beaten,” Crosby said, and she has no plans to press any charges against her husband.

Sheriff Randy Brock also stated the Conecuh County Sheriff's Office has not filed any charges against Burt, and that none were pending.

[NOTE: Other family members were contacted for comment concerning this article and chose not to participate. This newspaper respects their decision and their privacy. Also, in our print edition, paragraphs 4 and 5 of this article were out of order. The approximate time of the shooting reflects that change.]

Special thanks to WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery for picking up our article on the officer involved shooting in Owassa.

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