Chambers County’s unemployment rate reaches seven-year low

Chambers County’s economy reached a major milestone in October according to unemployment reports released by the state Department of Labor last week. The statistics show that the county has achieved its lowest unemployment rate in seven years.

Chambers County’s October unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, the lowest since September of 2007 when it was 5.5 percent.

“We can credit this lower rate to the hard work of many local people and our state partners,” Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray said. “With recent announcements of Knauf, Norbord, Hantal, KMIN and expansions of local businesses, we anticipate a brighter future for Chambers County.

“Our leaders in LaFayette, Lanett, Valley, Chambers County and our towns all support us at the CCDA and enable us to do our jobs. Our primary goal at the CCDA is to create job opportunities and build wealth within the community.”

The October rate is down from September’s rate of 6.2 percent and from the October 2013 rate of 6.7 percent. Last month’s figure represents 854 unemployed individuals and 13,804 employed. Another promising statistic about the new figures was that the county’s civilian workforce increased from 14,588 to 14,658 from September to October.

In September of this year, Chambers County had 909 unemployed and 13,679 employed, and had 983 unemployed and 13,679 in October of 2013.

“It has not been an easy path for us to follow, but finally we are beginning to see the benefits of our cooperative teamwork,” Gray added. “The CCDA remains committed to its diversification plan and committed to supporting it’s existing businesses.”

Chambers County’s rate was once again favorable compared to surrounding counties. The county ranked 44th in unemployment out of Alabama’s 67 counties, which is above the 2013 average ranking of 32nd.

Lee County was the only neighboring county with a lower rate than Chambers, with a rate of 4.6 percent, ranking 66th in the state. Randolph County posted a 6.3 percent unemployment rate, ranking 36th in the state. Clay County ranked 28th with a 6.6 percent rate; Tallapoosa County was at 6.8 percent, ranking 22nd, Russell County was at 7.3 percent, ranking 17th, and Macon County ranked 14th with a 7.6 percent rate.

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Eastside Top Dawg students announced

On Friday several Eastside Elementary fifth graders were recognized as Top Dawg students. The new organization, founded by Eastside teacher Mary Ann Daves, includes students that maintain a 2.5 grade point average, are positive role models, are respectful to peers and adults and represent their family, school and community with integrity. In addition to these qualities, each fifth grade applicant submitted an essay detailing why they should be selected and had to have teacher recommendations. Membership is contingent on maintaining the organizations high standard of grades and attitude and in two months more members may be selected. LaFayette Mayor Barry Moody spoke to the students at the assembly and congratulated them on being “the best of the best.” The Eastside Top Dawgs pictured, in front, from left are TraQuayvon Vines, Kiaja Postell, Sherriah Thomas, Faith Barker, Shakya Story, Ramiyah Patten, Malaysia Carlisle, Alieyah Tettleton, Priscilla Barajas, Ariana Story, Shamecia Thomas and Kinsley Razz. In back, from left, are Eastside principal LaKeyda Burnett, physical education teacher Amanda Brown, Daves and Mayor Moody. Not pictured are Top Dawg students Alshaquala Williams, Dylan Hawking, Zykimbreya Mackey and John Ramirez.

On Friday several Eastside Elementary fifth graders were recognized as Top Dawg students. The new organization, founded by Eastside teacher Mary Ann Daves, includes students that maintain a 2.5 grade point average, are positive role models, are respectful to peers and adults and represent their family, school and community with integrity. In addition to these qualities, each fifth grade applicant submitted an essay detailing why they should be selected and had to have teacher recommendations. Membership is contingent on maintaining the organizations high standard of grades and attitude and in two months more members may be selected. LaFayette Mayor Barry Moody spoke to the students at the assembly and congratulated them on being “the best of the best.” The Eastside Top Dawgs pictured, in front, from left are TraQuayvon Vines, Kiaja Postell, Sherriah Thomas, Faith Barker, Shakya Story, Ramiyah Patten, Malaysia Carlisle, Alieyah Tettleton, Priscilla Barajas, Ariana Story, Shamecia Thomas and Kinsley Razz. In back, from left, are Eastside principal LaKeyda Burnett, physical education teacher Amanda Brown, Daves and Mayor Moody. Not pictured are Top Dawg students Alshaquala Williams, Dylan Hawking, Zykimbreya Mackey and John Ramirez.

Family Day on the Farm

family day on the farm picture

One of the hallmark events of the Chambers County’s Farm-City Week events took place on Saturday at the Slay Farm in White Plains. Visitors from across the area made the trip to the Slay’s for Family Day on the Farm. Family Day provides a unique chance to experience what life is like on a functional farm. Guests enjoyed hayrides, farm tours, farm animals, interactive displays and great food in a day that brings to life the goal of Farm-City Week, which is to highlight the importance the farming community has in everyday life. Farm-City Week events wrapped up in Chambers County on Tuesday with the annual banquet. The banquet included a recap of all the Farm-City events, the announcement of the Farm-City art winners and the awarding of the Farm of Distinction for Chambers County. National Farm-City Week is November 21-27. Above, young Lillian Elliott enjoys a horse ride around the Slay Farm.

LaFayette Recreation Board agrees to take over parade

The LaFayette City Council’s Recreation Board met Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming Christmas parade being planned in the city.

The board was reviewing the issue after complications arose for the individuals originally planning the parade.
At last week’s full council meeting, parade organizer Randy Talley told the council that he had pulled the parade petition because of the cost of liability insurance and issues regarding business sponsorship. Because of the work that had gone into planning the parade, the council agreed too look into taking over the event, which could then be covered by the city’s insurance. The matter was referred to the Recreation Board.

Recreation Board Chair Mike Ellis expressed some concern over taking over the parade at that full meeting but asked Talley and other parade organizers to attend the board meeting to give an update so that a decision could be made.

At Monday’s Recreation Board meeting, none of the parade organizers attended, but the board did agree to assume responsibility of the parade. The parade will now fall under the umbrella of the Recreation Department for insurance.

The board did note that they would like Talley to meet with Mayor Barry Moody or a representative of the council in order to outline the specifics of the parade.

The matter will likely be discussed in more detail at next Monday’s full council meeting, at which time a determination could be made on whether the parade will continue as planned.

The board also handled some other business relating the new city park at the meeting. They agreed to contact Auburn University in order to get updated designs on the park and to seek sponsorship for installing playground equipment. They also suggested scheduling a date to meet at the current city park location to discuss possible renovation options.

Smithsonian Exhibit coming to county

The Smithsonian will arrive in Chambers County on Sunday, November 23, and the public is invited to the opening reception of the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked” from 2 to 4:30 pm CST at the H. Grady Bradshaw Chambers County Library and Cobb Memorial Archives in Valley.

Valley is one of only six cities in Alabama selected to host the exhibition on its state tour that occurs from July 2014 to June 2015. The exhibit draws from the Smithsonian’s rich collections to tell the compelling story of how work impacts our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities. It will explore the professions and the people that sustain American society.

This exhibit will also provide glimpses into ‘the way we worked’ here in the Valley. Along with the Smithsonian display, our local story will be told using photographs, documents and artifacts from the holdings of the Cobb Memorial Archives.

“Over the decades our area economy has featured an array of interesting and ever-evolving occupations, and this exhibit will provide an insight into many of the varied vocations that have powered our local economic engine,” said Library and Archives Director Mary Hamilton. “There’s something here of interest for everyone.

“Stop in to learn about or reminisce about working in the mills; shopping in downtown West Point; seeing the Chattahoochee Valley Railroad trains traveling through town; getting an ice cold Coca-Cola at school along with a notepad, pencil and ruler; or watching the West Point Dam going up.”

A special screening of The University of Alabama Center for Public Television production “The Way We Worked” will be showing in the Lanier and Jordan Rooms during the reception. The video features several local residents who were interviewed in “The Box,” a film booth converted from an old photo booth.

The “Out to Lunch” series will begin December 4 with Dolores Hydock presenting “Every Picture Tells a Story: The Way Norman Rockwell Worked” and continues on December 15 when Jim Leak will present “My Hometown: Sharing Our History.” Sarah Bliss Wright will present “Alabama Cotton and Bemis Bags: Quilted into History” on January 7. The “Out to Lunch” series will conclude on January 15 when Dr. John Kvach presents “The Way Alabamians Worked.” Lunch is served at 10:30 am with the programs beginning at 11 am CST. Read the rest of this entry »

Veterans Day ceremony

veterans program

Local veterans and family were part of a wreath laying ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial monument on the LaFayette Courthouse Square Tuesday morning in honor of Veterans Day and all the men and women that have served this country. Pictured, from left, are Clara Fant, Lee Sanders, Yancey Sanders, Emily Sanders, Brenda Murray, Mike Ford, Stanley Stephens, Debbie Stephens, Frances Smith, Lewis Yancey, Vicki Ford, Tab Smith, Louise Cox and Curtis Adams.

November 12, 2014 | Posted in: Local, News | Comments Closed

Third grade farm tours

Third grade farm tours

Third graders from every school in Chambers County took part in the Chambers County Farm City Committee’s annual farm tours on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Students learned about farm life and all the important products that come from farms. The groups visited Slay Farms in White Plains and The Oaks/Jack-O-Lantern Lane in LaFayette. They enjoyed hayrides, presentations on agriculture, the chance to interact with farm animals and several other activities. Above, third grade students from Eastside Elementary meet one of Phil Slay’s sheep, with Farm City Committee member Mary Terry. The signature Farm City Week event, Family Day on the Farm, hosted by the Slay Family and the Farm-City Committee, will take place this Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm CST at the Slay Farm. It’s a special part of Farm City Week in Chambers County and everyone is invited to come enjoy hayrides, a petting zoo, antique tractors, free food, and much more.

Heritage Day is this Saturday

It’s finally here. The sixth annual Fredonia Heritage Day will take place this Saturday, November 15. The event lasts from 9 am to 4 pm CST in Fredonia.

Heritage Day will be highlighted by an immense variety of happenings throughout the day. Some of the favorite activities include mule drawn wagon rides, Cake ‘n Bake Walks and demonstrations by potters, spinners, a blacksmith and a weaver. There is something for everyone, from the history buff to children.

From the festival’s opening until it’s close the Old School grounds will be covered with over 60 art and craft vendors providing exquisite gifts for holiday shopping, from Kilsup Van Thieu’s unique bud vases to Lee and Wanda Smith’s Native American jewelry, Wes Holderfield’s Amish cheeses, the Costine’s swings and handcrafted chairs, beautiful carvings from Mary’s Carvin’ Cabin, also from Don Mahaffey and others. Glenda Erwin from north Georgia will be among several artists selling gorgeous paintings; there will be little girl dresses and bows and boys’ puppets and stones and much more. Additionally, there will be eight food vendors offering everything from barbecue sandwiches and rib slabs, to turkey legs and Boston butts, Polish sausage, fish, grilled chicken wraps, Brunswick stew, apple dumplings with ice cream, Fredonia Freedom burgers, dogs, chili, cole slaw, fried pies, funnel cakes and strawberry lemonade.

Throughout the day the Joe Louis Barrow exhibit from Emory University will be displayed in the History Presentation Room of the Fredonia Community House, which will also house the Heritage Museum (and from 8-9 a Fredonia Heritage sausage biscuit and gravy breakfast!). At 9:00 in the museum Ms. Malinda Powers (re-enacting Fredonia founder Sarah Hurst) and Dr. Horace (Mac) Holderfield, president and vice-president, respectively, of the Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society, will speak on local history.

At noon in the Presentation Room, Sandra Thornton will give a short dramatization of Harriet Tubman, being followed by a brief introduction of acclaimed LaGrange artist Annie Greene.

At 12:15, George Barrow, historical presentation chair, will introduce featured guests, Emory University’s Dr. Pellom McDaniels III and Dr. Dana White, responsible for this years 100th birthday celebration of Chambers County’s famous boxer, Joe Louis Barrow (cousin of George Barrow and his sister, Alfreda Fannings). The presentation is entitled: “Joe Louis (Barrow): A Life and Career in Context.”

Outside, after the 9 am greetings by Fredonia Mayor George Fannings and other dignitaries, the day-long stage entertainment will begin with the Rev. Michael Stiggers, grandson of Fredonian Johnny Stiggers, introducing the first act featuring Langdale UMC’s Mark Lott and Gary Lewis. Other outstanding performances will include the Hwy. 29 Trio, violinist Debbie Atkins, Fredonia’s Old School Musicians, Henry Burton’s Star Wonders Gospel, Loachapoka’s Whistle Stop Pickers, the McDow Irish Dancers, Lucille Allen Johnson’s 7 Shaped Note Singers, Fredonia Heritage Singers, Zeke Weldon and Brian Green’s routine from Guys and Dolls, Point University’s Signature Singers, Period Dancers instructed by Nanci Hendrix, soloists Faith DeLee and Bruce Cotney, the “Saints and Singers” choir from Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and the newly formed Java Jammers featuring their “Country Roads-Fredonia!”

Sarah Corson and SIFAT’s “Neighbor to Neighbor” booth will be at Heritage Day, demonstrating appropriate technology and selling global crafts while the visiting minister from Bolivia talks about his village adopting those techniques and another neighbor sings Appalachian folk songs.

Ronnie Williams, Chief of the Southeastern Mvskoke Nation, Inc. will demonstrate flintknapping at his authentic militia and hunting camp and his wife Martha will lead everyone in a Friendship Dance. Read the rest of this entry »

Chambers County voters show support for incumbents

Chambers County voters showed their support for incumbent candidates at the polls in Tuesday’s general election. Four of the five local contested races were won by incumbents, including for the offices of Sheriff, County Commissioner and State Senate.

Approximately 38 percent of the county’s more than 21,000 registered voters went to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots, a significant decrease from the 2012 elections.

Joe Blanks

Joe Blanks

In Chambers County, one of the closest margins of victory came from the Chambers County Commission, District 3 race. Incumbent Joe Blanks received 927 votes (53.09 percent), while Republican Eugene Blair earned 818 (46.85 percent).

“I really appreciate the folks getting out to come and support me,” Blanks said Tuesday night. “I’m going to work to continue the paving work in my district as well as extending water services.”

The District 5, commission race was the closest in the county as Republican incumbent David Eastridge was elected to a second term over challenger Johnny Yates. Eastridge received 617 votes (52.47 percent) compared to Yates’ 558 votes (47.36 percent).

“For people to come out and support me on the ballot is really a humbling experience,” Eastridge said. “I’m looking forward to getting to work to do the best job I can for the people that elected me.”

The race for Chambers County Sheriff was one of the first races called Tuesday as incumbent Democrat Sid Lockhart was elected to a sixth term over Republican challenger Jimmy Allen in a lopsided race. Lockhart received 6,467 votes (78.09 percent) compared to Allen’s 1,661 votes (20.06 percent).

Sid Lockhart

Sid Lockhart

“I want thank the citizens that have supported me over these past 20 years and have faith in me to elect me to another term.” Lockhart said. “I’m going to continue to work over the next four years to serve the citizens of Chambers County and provide them the quality law enforcement agency they deserve.”

One of the local races that drew the most interest was for the District 13 State Senate seat. The district includes all or parts of Chambers, Lee, Randolph, Clay, Cherokee and Cleburne Counties. Vying for the seat were incumbent Republican State Senator Gerald Dial, Democrat Darrell Turner and Independent Bill Fuller.

Though only 87 percent of the district precincts have been counted, Sen. Dial has declared victory. Turner took Chambers County, but Dial earned enough votes throughout the district to earn the victory. Dial currently has 10,840 votes to Turner’s 8,113. Fuller had 3,025 votes. In Chambers County Turner had 3,581 votes (43.59 percent), Dial received 3,147 votes (38.30 percent) and Fuller had 1,475 votes (17.95 percent).

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Farm City Week Ag in the Classroom

As part of Farm City Week events in Chambers County, an Ag in the Classroom workshop was held last week for all area first grade teachers. The workshop was led by Farm City Committee member Mary Helen Benford, with assistance from Chambers County Board of Education members Mary Terry and Judy LaFollette, Farm City Committee member Lillian Slay, and Harriet Jones. Teachers participating learned many arts and crafts ideas with agricultural themes to help their students better understand the importance of farming. Teachers taking part were Deanna Fuller, Five Points; Utopia Echols, Huguley; Dana Elliott, Huguley; Ashley Jennings, Huguley; Diana Catrett, Fairfax; Melissa Pritchett, Fairfax; Kathryn Garmon, Langdale; Kelli Cotney, Huguley; Misty Letson, Fairfax; Lindsey Ennis, Shawmut; Norma Hyde, Chambers Academy; Susan Roughton, Eastside; Lera Grubbs, LaFayette-Lanier; Melinda Johnson, Shawmut; Karin Hill, Springwood School; and Brittany Melton, Eastside.

As part of Farm City Week events in Chambers County, an Ag in the Classroom workshop was held last week for all area first grade teachers. The workshop was led by Farm City Committee member Mary Helen Benford, with assistance from Chambers County Board of Education members Mary Terry and Judy LaFollette, Farm City Committee member Lillian Slay, and Harriet Jones. Teachers participating learned many arts and crafts ideas with agricultural themes to help their students better understand the importance of farming. Teachers taking part were Deanna Fuller, Five Points; Utopia Echols, Huguley; Dana Elliott, Huguley; Ashley Jennings, Huguley; Diana Catrett, Fairfax; Melissa Pritchett, Fairfax; Kathryn Garmon, Langdale; Kelli Cotney, Huguley; Misty Letson, Fairfax; Lindsey Ennis, Shawmut; Norma Hyde, Chambers Academy; Susan Roughton, Eastside; Lera Grubbs, LaFayette-Lanier; Melinda Johnson, Shawmut; Karin Hill, Springwood School; and Brittany Melton, Eastside.