Defeat of school tax, wacky weather tops list of year’s top stories
By By Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The failure of a long and hard-fought effort to generate funding for a new Hartselle High School emerged as the number one news story published in the Hartselle Enquirer in 2008.
The effort fell to the ground with a hard thud on March 11 when voters rejected a 7.5 mill property tax increase. With about 36 percent of the city’s qualified voters participating, the measure was defeated 1,690 to 1,459 votes.
The City Council had agreed earlier to pass a half-cent sales tax to go along with the additional property tax should it be approved by voters.
Potential revenue from both tax measures was estimated at $1.4 million, and it was understood that $1.4 million or more would be needed to finance the proposed $30 to $35 million construction project.
In spite of the tax defeat, school officials remained upbeat about finding a way to finance a new school.
(2) December rains break three-year drought
A three-year drought—one of the worst on record—was broken in December when nine to 12 inches of rain fell in Hartselle and Morgan County during the first 18 days of the month.
Most of it fell between Dec. 8-11. The heavy rains brought tributary flows to normal or above and made the month the third wettest on record, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Still, year-to-year rainfall in the Tennessee Valley was well below normal for the year. The average annual rainfall at the Huntsville International Airport is 57.51 inches, or about 10 inches less than what was recorded in 2008.
“The rains we got helped break the drought,” said Ronald Britnell, Morgan County agent coordinator, “but its long-term effect should be viewed with caution. Farmers who have been around for a long time will tell you that in any summer you’re only seven days away from a drought.”
(3) Stacy George loses in GOP Primary
Morgan County voters ousted two-term District 4 commissioner Stacy George while giving newcomer Greg Abercrombie a double-digit victory in the Republican Primary Election on June 3.
Abercrombie, a dairy farmer from Valhermoso Springs, polled 7,700 votes compared to 4,632 for George. The win assured him a seat on the commission since the Democratic Party had no one to oppose him in the November General Election.
George conceded defeat grudgingly, however, and immediately switched parties. He managed to garner a substantial vote as an “unofficial” write-in candidate against Abercrombie in the General Election and pledged his support to help Democrats regain control of county politics.
(4) Mayor reelected; two councilmen lose seats
Hartselle voters rallied behind Mayor Dwight Tankersley by reelecting him for a second term over two newcomer candidates in the Municipal Election on Aug. 26. He garnered 1,528 (64 percent) votes compared to 640 (27 percent) for Terry Miller and 223 (9 percent) for Mike Dowdy.
Two incumbent councilmen were not as fortunate. Bill Drake lost to Tom Chappell by two percentage points in a race for Place 4 and Samie Wiley lost to Don Hall by the same percentage for Place 5. Both Chappell and Hall are former councilmen. Bill Smelser retained Place 2 by defeating A.D. Hargrove 69 percent to 31 percent and Mark Mizell won a second term for Place 3 by getting 54% of the vote in a three-candidate race.
(5) Republicans dominate county races in General Election
Morgan County voters turned out in record numbers and chose Republicans over Democrats in five of six county races up for grabs in the General Election on Nov. 4. Of the county’s 68,637 registered voters, over 51,000 cast ballots.
GOP winners in local races were Brent Craig and Charles Langham for District Judge, Don Stisher for Morgan County Commission, District 3, Amanda Scott for License commissioner and Carolyn Wallace for Morgan County Board of Education.
Sue Baker Roan was the only local Democratic candidate to emerge as a winner. She defeated newcomer Mark Mc Curry for another term as Morgan County license commissioner.
(6) Gas prices top $4 a gallon
Gasoline prices reached record highs in September when local deliveries were temporarily disrupted by the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Ike on the Texas Gulf Coast. Service stations on Highway 31 in Hartselle posted regular grade gas prices ranging from $3.49 to $3.69 on the day before the hurricane made landfall. They jumped without notice from 50 cents to $1 a gallon and ranged from $4.09 to $4.32 on the day after the storm hit.
A rush by motorists to fill their tanks combined with the shutdown of some refineries in Texas resulted in a temporary supply shortfall and vastly inflated prices. This prompted to governor to implement a state price-gouging law in an attempt to protect the interest of consumers.
Escalated gas prices also were reflected in the city of Hartselle’s annual budget, which starts on October 1 each year. The city spent $204,500 on tax-free fuel in fiscal 2007-08. That figure was adjusted to $320,500 for the 2008-09 budget.
(7) SNAP construction begins; dedication held
First phase construction of the Morgan County Special Needs Assessment Playground (SNAP) was competed in May with the opening of a handicapped accessible area adjacent to Sparkman Civic Center in Hartselle. The opening of the enclosed play area followed a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by about 100 special needs children and their parents, elected officials, civic leaser and other supporters.
Another SNAP development occurred in November when the proposed facility was named in honor of the late John Mark Stallings, son of coach and Mrs. Gene Stallings of Powderly, Tex. Coach Stallings was guest speaker for the dedication ceremony.
(8) Lowe’s opens
Much excitement and anticipation marked the grand opening of a new Lowe’s store on Highway 31, North, in Hartselle Oct.. 2. The long-awaited event was attended by more than 150 local elected officials, store employees and their families and shoppers and featured a board-cutting ceremony and a number of valuable door prizes. Plus, a $1,000 donation was presented to Hartselle Historical Society for use in the restoration of Hartselle Fine Arts Center. The store has 94,000 square feet of display space and about 125 employees.
(9) HHS principal Reeves moves to central office; new principal hired.
Hartselle High School Principal Jerry Reeves gave up a 20-year stint in his position July to fill a newly created position of director of school operations and student service s in the central office. He will assume his new position with the reopening of the current school term, while retaining his tenure as a teacher and school principal, and will be paid his current salary of approximately $108,000 a year. His new duties will include directing the school system’s child nutrition program, supervision of safety measures, support personnel evaluations, teacher obsevations and assisting with discipline issues and complaints.
The vacancy he left was filled in November with the appointment of Jeffery Hyche, principal of Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa.
(10) Downtown merchants form association
A group of merchants organized a Downtown Merchants Association in January
to give the Central Business District a stronger voice in appealing to shoppers and growing their businesses. Carey Green was elected president, Gary McCaig, vice president; and Melba Johnson, secretary-treasurer. Annual dues were established, various committees were formed and plans were initiated to publish a full-color brochure to promote the area. Subsequently, a springtime promotional event was inaugurated.