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Illness Inspired Evergreen's Kedarius Ingram To Public Health Degree

From: UAB

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Kedarius Ingram knows what it’s like to feel hopeless. 

When he was sick, he got so tired of trying. But he wanted a better life, and with some help, he kept going. Now, as he prepares to graduate Dec. 15 with a degree in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he has a message for others who may need to hear it: never give up. 

Ingram came to UAB from Evergreen, Alabama, when he graduated from high school. He struggled his first year, but found his footing when he joined the Blazer Male Excellence Network, which gave him the foundation and fellowship he needed to be successful in school. Things were looking up. 

Then, in 2015 during his sophomore year, he started feeling bad. 

It began like a cold, with a runny nose, itchy throat and headaches. Then it progressed, into flu-like symptoms with “really bad” migraine-type headaches and body aches. Ingram did not have health insurance. He was going to the emergency room once or twice a month, but the doctors there did not find anything wrong. 

“Nobody knows you better than you know yourself and your body,” Ingram said. “I kept telling them ‘hey, something is wrong. I am getting sick.’” 

Ingram knew that as a younger teen he had been treated for a condition called fibrous dysplasia, an excessive bone growth tumor, but his understanding was that it did not cause any damage or harm. The tests at the ER seemed normal. Months rolled by, and Ingram kept getting sick. 

After a year of sickness and fruitless visits to the emergency room, Ingram decided to stop seeking help. 

“I felt like nobody believed me, nobody understood what I was going through,” Ingram said. “I felt like people thought I was lying. It hurt. I just couldn’t take it anymore.” 

One month later, he became “the sickest” he had ever been. Just as before, it started like a cold, but this time grew much worse. A friend checked on him, and got help right away. That night in the UAB Hospital Emergency Department, Ingram was placed in the care of Benjamin McGrew, M.D., the ear, nose and throat doctor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology. McGrew was the departments physician on call and ordered another round of tests, many of which had been performed previously. This time, though, McGrew saw something in the results. Ingram was sent immediately to surgery, and he was treated by McGrew and neurosurgeon Mark Harrigan, M.D., a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery

It was determined that Ingram had a cholesteatoma, an abnormal, noncancerous skin growth that can develop in the middle section of the ear, behind the eardrum. It can be a birth defect, or more often, caused by repeated middle ear infections. Doctors believed it caused a brain abscess. 

Cholesteatomas are uncommon, and complications like brain abscesses caused by cholesteatomas are rare, McGrew said of Ingram’s case. A brain abscess is a serious medical condition and can cause significant problems, including seizures, facial paralysis, confusion, loss of muscle function and more. If left untreated, a brain abscess can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage, because the swelling can disrupt blood and oxygen to the brain, or it could rupture. 

“I had to remind myself, ‘You are here for a reason.' Because of my experience, what I went through in life pushed me to become the person I am today, so I can move forward in life and help change others’ lives.”

Ingram also learned he did still have fibrous dysplasia. 

“It formed another tumor, and that tumor caused several brain cysts and those brain cysts caused several brain infections,” Ingram said. “So, basically, my brain was being overwhelmed with the tumors and the cysts and the infections, and it was excruciating pain. It was a horrible experience, but if it wasn’t for Dr. McGrew saving my life at that time, I literally wouldn’t be here today to be able to graduate this year with a degree in public health.” 

After two surgeries, a three-month stay in the hospital, many months of recuperation at home and work to overcome memory loss, Ingram came back to school with a new purpose. Most people fully recover after a brain abscess if it is caught early. On occasion there may be long-term neurological problems such as body function issues, personality changes or seizures. Brain abscesses can occasionally reoccur. 

“I had to remind myself, ‘You are here for a reason,’” he said. “Because of my experience, what I went through in life pushed me to become the person I am today, so I can move forward in life and help change others’ lives.” 

Ingram credits Chris Jones, director of UAB Student Affairs’ Multicultural and Diversity Programs, and Sharifa Wip, mentor programs coordinator, for helping him stay in school and connecting him with the BMEN network. Many others, he said, also provided tremendous support. 

Ingram was a constant source of positive energy and excitement during his time in the BMEN program, says Ingram’s lead mentor in BMEN, UAB alumnus and former Student Government Association president Garrett Stephens. 

“He motivated mentees and fellow mentors alike with his story, and his commitment to attain his degree no matter the obstacles placed in front of him,” Stephens said. “The BMEN program is stronger because of members like Kedarius Ingram.” 

After he healed, Ingram decided to pursue his degree in the School of Public Health and study epidemiology, the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why, and hopes to become a doctor himself. He also sought out a job researching brain cancer in a lab at UAB, to learn more. 

“I had no clue this was going on until it was almost too late,” Ingram said. “The smallest thing can cause so much damage, permanent damage. I could have lost my life. These experiences have opened my eyes to so many things.” 

Now Ingram says he wants to help other people like himself, and be the change he wants to see. 

“I didn’t think there was anyone out there who was going help me, that wanted to help me or was willing to help me, and then it took me a while to realize that I have to ask for help,” Ingram said. “I grew up in an environment where as black men, we’re so used to doing things on our own and trying to be the man, trying to show masculinity and show we don’t need help, and we do. We don’t want to acknowledge that and it took me a while to realize that I have to ask for help, and that’s what I did. 

“Just continue to fight and keep pushing forward because you only need that one person to help you,” Ingram said.

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OPERATION ADOPT A VET

HELP A VETERAN

We are collecting items for the W. F. Green Veterans Home in Bay Minette, Alabama.
These are the heroes who stood for us in the past and who we can help now.

This is a Christmas drive to ensure the residents of the veterans home know that we
still appreciate their service and we are still thinking of them.

The veteran’s home has been generous enough to give us a list of items
they can accept on the behalf of the veterans.

Please contribute generously.

For more information contact James Leon Windham:

Home: 251-578-2177

Cell Phone: 251-230-1507

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ThompsonGas Acquires South Alabama Gas Propane Assets

September 20, 2018 – Evergreen, AL: ThompsonGas, LLC is pleased to announce the acquisition of the propane division of South Alabama Gas District, with offices in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.

Needless to say, we are excited to add the South Alabama Gas propane locations to our operations in the south. South Alabama Gas has built a tremendous business and assembled a great team of employees to become a leading propane provider in their region,” said ThompsonGas CEO Jeff Kerns. “We are pleased to welcome this group of employees to the ThompsonGas family and we will continue to provide the excellent service to our customers that they have come to expect.“

Mark Burgess, South Alabama Gas CEO, commented by saying, “Thompson Gas has a reputation for taking care of their acquired customers and employees. This is what drew us to them. We wish Thompson Gas much success.”

This is the fifth acquisition for ThompsonGas in 2018.

We are proud to welcome the employees of South Alabama Gas and their customers to the ThompsonGas family. Our team is excited to partner with our newest teammates to continue creating exceptional experiences for our customers,” said ThompsonGas Regional Vice President Andy Wise.

Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Frederick, MD, ThompsonGas serves customers in 20 states.

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New Degree at Auburn Combines Wildlife,
Business and Hospitality

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pay attention, high schoolers and parents. Students who love the outdoors and plan to continue their education after graduation will have a new option for a college degree rooted in the outdoors at Auburn University in 2019.

The undergraduate degree will be in Wildlife Enterprise Management with training in wildlife sciences, business and hospitality. Auburn professors Steve Ditchkoff and Mark Smith collaborated on developing the major in an effort to fill a need in the outdoors community that doesn’t require a wildlife biologist degree.

Heather Crozier, Director of Development at the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences unveiled the program to outdoor writers recently at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association Conference in Florence, S.C.

Outdoor recreation generates about a $14 billion impact on the Alabama economy and about $887 billion nationwide. Outdoors-related businesses and companies support 135,000 jobs in Alabama.

“Our faculty did some surveys, and they found that in a 250-mile radius of Auburn that there are 1,000 businesses that are wildlife enterprise-related,” Crozier said. “This major will give us a unique skillset for that industry. The students will also get a minor in business so they will understand basic business principals.”

Crozier said the new degree program will utilize the facilities connected to Auburn. The Deer Lab is a 400-plus-acre facility near Auburn at Camp Hill where researchers study the genetics and physiology of white-tailed deer. The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center near Andalusia gives students hands-on instruction in forestry, wildlife and natural resources management. The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center on the outskirts of Auburn provides an outdoors venue for a variety of nature programs.

Crozier said only one other college, Kansas State, offers a similar degree with about 100 students in that program annually.

“When our students graduate with a Wildlife Enterprise Management degree, we hope they will apply the principles of wildlife enterprise, understand and apply the ecological principles in conservation biology and eco-tourism and be a well-rounded student in hospitality and understand customer service in food and beverage production and lodging,” Crozier said. “They will have the skillset to be able to run a business as well as be able to effectively market and advertise the wildlife- and outdoor-based enterprise.”

This curriculum will have a wildlife core with about 60 percent of the courses in wildlife sciences and about 40 percent in business and hospitality.

“Most of our students who go to work for fish and wildlife departments are wildlife sciences majors and end up being wildlife biologists,” Crozier said. “The students in the new program will not be wildlife biologists.”

Crozier said the graduates in the new degree can pursue jobs at hunting lodges, shooting facilities, fishing resorts as well as guide services and outdoor sport/adventure promotions.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith were talking with people in the industry, and they kept hearing, ‘We need students who understand business, who understand customer expectations and who know about wildlife,’” she said. “What they learned was several of the outfitters they talked to were going to colleges and universities and recruiting wildlife students and teaching them about hospitality and business. Or, they were recruiting hospitality and business students and teaching them about wildlife. The industry said it would really be nice if you could develop this specific product. We feel like there is a market for it. They started exploring and realized how many outdoor-enterprise businesses there were in that 250-mile radius of Auburn. They realized, hey, there really is a niche for this type of degree.

“With Kansas State being the only other place that offered a similar program, we just felt like we could fill that need.”

Pam Swanner of Alabama Black Belt Adventures agrees wholeheartedly.

“The Black Belt region has a rich history in the traditions of hunting and fishing,” Swanner said. “It’s a natural fit that Auburn would create a unique degree program to provide a skilled workforce trained in land management, business and hospitality. At Auburn’s back door are more than 50 outfitters that can provide opportunities for student internships.

“Alabama Black Belt Adventures is partnering with AU’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to assist in organizing internship placement in the Black Belt region. We’re also introducing the faculty to the industry’s many product companies and other organizations that have an interest in supporting such a worthwhile program with scholarship funds to ensure a prosperous future for our industry.”

Crozier said if you venture outside that 250-mile radius, the possibilities become considerably greater. She said 40 students currently enrolled at Auburn are waiting to pursue the new degree, and she expects the program will eventually graduate between 100 and 150 annually.

“Just think about international,” she said. “It’s amazing how many opportunities are out there. We expect these students to not only go to work for hunting lodges, fishing lodges and shooting facilities, but also do safaris in Africa, outdoor adventures anywhere in the world or become representatives for outdoors companies. This is an extremely broad major that does not limit our students to a specific area.

“We’re expecting the demand for this major to blossom and really increase.”

Crozier said an internship is not a part of the curriculum, but it is highly suggested so that the students who go into this major will get some industry experience.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith are putting together a list of industry contacts who are looking for interns,” she said. “It will be up to the student to go find their internship. If we have a company or business that wants to interview students, we will provide a place to do that and line the students up to interview.

Crozier said the faculty plans to reach out to the outdoors industry to identify what might be a current need or emerging need that could become an area of focus or to adjust the curriculum.

 “Being a brand new program, we do have some needs. We need to be able to create partnerships with industry so that our students have places and opportunities to intern,” she said. “We’re looking for corporate sponsorships. Academic scholarships attract your best and brightest students. We need mentors, speakers for classes, places to take students for field tours, travel stipends for our students and faculty.”

Prospective students and parents can visit sfws.auburn.edu for more information or call recruiter Wendy Franklin in the Student Services office at 334-844-1001.

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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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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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