2020: Year in Review
Hartselle and Morgan County saw several big stories in 2020.
From new leaders in the school system and law enforcement to city-wide developments and improvements, plus how the community handled the COVID-19 pandemic and more, here are the biggest stories of the year.
- Bryan Moore to lead Hartselle football
In January it was announced Bryan Moore would be the man at the helm of the Tiger football program.
2. Tuberville in town
Former Auburn coach and U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville made a pit stop in Hartselle Feb. 15. Tuberville’s The People vs. The Swamp bus tour made several stops in north Alabama before the lunchtime event in Hartselle, where he held a meet and greet at Bentley’s at the Outhouse and spoke to a crowd about his campaign.
3. Therapy dog makes ‘ruff’ days better
Zeus is a three-legged therapy dog who brings joy to the halls of Hartselle High School. His owner, Megan Dillard, said Zeus underwent months of training and testing to become a therapy dog, and in the beginning, they visited nursing homes and other organizations in their spare time. Dillard said Zeus has a particular sense about him that leads him to people who need his help. “At the nursing homes, it’s like he knew which rooms to visit – he’s super sensitive to people’s needs.”
4. Morgan Schools win court battle on online sales tax
A judge upheld the constitutionality of a local law March 3 and ruled that the bulk of online sales taxes received by the Morgan County Commission must be disbursed to the three school districts in the county. The money involved is substantial. Since Oct. 1, the Alabama Department of Revenue has distributed five monthly payments to the county commission totaling $722,053, which have been held in an escrow account managed by the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Absent the local law, the commission could have kept all of it.
5. COVID-19 pandemic affects local restaurants, small businesses
In March, after the first positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Alabama, the pandemic quickly began to affect local businesses. Angela Smith, who owns Bentley’s at the Outhouse with her husband, said she could tell a definite difference March 17 – the business’ first day open since a case of coronavirus was confirmed in Alabama. “It’s a weird time, and people keep asking what we’re going to do,” she said. “I keep saying we’re plugging along, and it’s a day-by-day situation. We’re doing the best we can for as long as we can.”
6. Schools close, initiate ‘alternative learning methods’
When students left school for an early spring break because of the novel coronavirus, they didn’t know they wouldn’t return to complete the 2019-20 school year. Gov. Kay Ivey on March 26 announced in-class learning for the remainder of the school year had ended. In its place, school systems began working to implement online-based learning and other “alternative methods.” In Hartselle, Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones said the school system was well equipped to handle the unprecedented transition.
7. Local woman sews, donates masks for healthcare workers
In light of the shortage of face masks across the country, Jackie Storey began making her own and donating them to healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Necessity was the mother of invention for Storey, who – after running out of elastic and facing a nationwide shortage – resorted to plastic hair ties to finish her masks. She said the cheap hair ties she buys at the dollar store fit perfectly around most people’s ears to secure the masks.
8. House fire in Falkville claims three lives
A Falkville man and two children were killed in a house fire April 5, according to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. According to Morgan County coroner Jeff Chunn, the victims were Quentin Heath Ryan, 44, and his two daughters, Chelsea Ryan, 7, and Kylee Ryan, 3.
9. Local man feeds community during pandemic
Wayne Jones said he feels at home in the kitchen or behind the grill. This year Jones put that passion to work for his friends and neighbors. He and two friends, Jason and Nancy Nix, and their son Drew, began cooking meals for those who are in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones said it started with 25 meals twice a week but has since more than doubled. “What we’re doing now started out as 25 people, and now we’re feeding 70-80 folks a week,” he said. “After the first couple of weeks, I woke up Saturday morning and had 65 messages on my phone.”
10. Police arrest two in relation to septuple homicide in Valhermoso Springs
Oregon authorities nabbed Frederic “Rick” Rogers, 23, of Hartselle, and John Michael Legg, 20, of Danville on June 23 in relation to the murder of seven people in one house in Valhermoso Springs on June 5. Each suspect was charged with capital murder. Authorities said they think the suspects and some of the victims were in a club called the “Seven Deadly Sins.” The victims include an unnamed juvenile female, 17. The others are: Tammy England Muzzey, 45, of Valhermoso Springs; Jeramy Wade Roberts, 31, of Athens; James Wayne Benford, 22, of Decatur; Emily Brooke Payne, 21, of Valhermoso Springs; Roger Lee Jones Jr., 19, of Decatur and William Zane Hodgin, 18, of Somerville
11. Police find Hartselle man shot to death in home
In July, Hartselle Police found a man shot to death in his home on Dawson Street, and the crime was investigated as the city’s first homicide since 2006.
12. Bull attack severely injures Morgan investigator
In August, investigator Caleb Brooks with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office was gored by a bull on his farm in Somerville. He underwent several surgeries in attempts to save his small bowel, but the damage was irreparable. Brooks is still waiting on a transplant.
13. 40th annual Depot Days, Falkville Fall Festival succumb to ongoing pandemic
In August, two events that have for years brought thousands of people and dollars in revenue to Hartselle and Falkville were canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 40th annual Depot Days in Hartselle and Falkville’s Fall Festival were both canceled because of the coronavirus and the risk it presented to the general public. Mayor Randy Garrison said the decision to cancel Depot Days was a difficult but necessary one to make.
14. Police arrest five in connection to July 24 killing of Hartselle man
In September, Hartselle Police Chief Justin Barley held a press conference announcing arrests had been made in the July 24 shooting death of a Hartselle man. Four people were arrested at the time and charged with capital murder, and one, Jacklyn Skuce, was charged with solicitation to commit capital murder. A fifth person was later arrested and charged with capital murder.
15. Cullman Regional breaks ground on new health facility in Hartselle
Elected officials from Hartselle and Morgan County, representatives of Cullman Regional Medical Center and members of the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated the hospital’s newest facility, named Hartselle Health Center, with a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 20. The urgent care center, which will be located on Highway 31, is expected to be completed in fall 2021. According to Cullman Regional, the new facility will be 17,990 square feet and will include 4,000 square feet of unfinished space for future expansion. The new facility will bring 25 new jobs to Hartselle at full capacity.
16. Hartselle Police Department raises money for England family
In November members of the Hartselle Police Department put down their razors for a good cause and raised more than $3,000 for Jim England, a Hartselle man who is fighting brain cancer.