Unemployment down to 7.1 percent in Chambers County

The Alabama Department of Labor released preliminary unemployment figures for the month of August last week, and Chambers County’s rate was the lowest it’s been since May of this year. The rate fell more than a half percentage point to 7.1 percent compared to 7.9 percent in July.

Unemployment fell throughout the state and only two of Alabama’s 67 counties didn’t see a decrease. Chambers County’s rate was only slightly higher than the statewide rate of 6.9 percent.

The August rate in the county represents 1,052 unemployed individuals compared to 1,178 in July. The rate is also favorable to August 2013 when there were 1,121 unemployed and the rate was 7.5 percent.

The number of employed individuals in Chambers County in August actually decreased slightly compared to July, but that was due to a decline in the civilian labor force. The county’s civilian labor force in August was 14,720 compared to 14,866 in July. The number of employed last month was 13,668 compared to 13,688 in July. In August of 2013 Chambers County had a civilian labor force of 14,904 individuals and employment was at 13,783.

Chambers County’s rate was once again favorable compared to surrounding counties. The county ranked 43rd in unemployment out of Alabama’s 67 counties in August, above the 2013 average ranking of 32nd. Chambers was ranked 40th in July.

Lee County was the only neighboring county with a higher rate than Chambers, with a rate of 5.8 percent, ranking 64th in the state. Randolph County posted a 7.5 percent unemployment, ranking 37th in the state. Tallapoosa County ranked 25th with an 8.3 percent rate; Clay County was at 8.3 percent, ranking 27th; Macon County was at 9.4 percent, ranking 13th, and Russell County ranked 19th with an 8.9 percent rate.

The state rate of 6.9 percent is down from July’s rate of 7.0 percent. August’s rate represents 147,346 unemployed persons, compared to 148,652 in July.

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Chambers County Sheriff’s Dept. still searching for fugitive on the run since 1985

David Anthony Pike is shown here in an age progressed photo provided by the Alabama Department of Public Safety. He was last seen at age 24 and would be 53 years old now.

David Anthony Pike is shown here in an age progressed photo provided by the Alabama Department of Public Safety. He was last seen at age 24 and would be 53 years old now.

The search for a fugitive on the run for nearly 30 years has not been abandoned according to the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department.

Last week, as part of their “Most Wanted” video feature on Facebook, the Sheriff’s Department provided the most up-to-date information on David Anthony Pike, who was indicted in the 1985 beating and shooting death of Calvin Lee Irwin. The video featured a computer-generated image of Pike, who would now be 53 years old.

Pike was arrested and charged with Irwin’s murder in 1985, but was released on bond and fled Chambers County. He was last seen in Opelika, at which time he was 24 years old.

Sheriff Sid Lockhart said officials have never forgotten about the case and that several tips have been investigated but have proved fruitless.

According to the video, Pike may be living in the state of Michigan, though Lockhart said that he might be in Canada.

Authorities say Pike and another man robbed Irwin and then shot and beat him to death after the trio had spent several hours together on June 21, 1985. Irwin’s body was later found in a roadside ditch.

An article in the June 26, 1985 edition of The LaFayette Sun outlined the incident:

According to investigator Lewis Hammock of the Chambers County Sheriff’s department, Irvin’s body was spotted by a passing motorist around 9 am Saturday (June 22). He said the dirt road is known to lawmen as the dirt extension of the Phillips Road, and is located across the intersection of County Hwy 50 and Providence Road.
Hammock said it appeared that the victim had been struck with a blast from a shotgun.

He said the body was clad in blue jeans, a t-shirt and heavy white socks, but no shoes. He said there was no wallet on the body and that the only jewelry on the body was a ring.

Hammock estimated that the shooting took place on Friday night (June 21).

Chambers County Coroner Dave Collier said over the weekend a positive identification of the body was made by the victim’s brother Willie Irvin after lawmen from the area police departments were asked to view the body in hopes someone would know the man, and that this approach worked.

According to Chambers County Sheriff James Morgan, the body was sent to the state crime lab in Montgomery for investigation, fingerprinting and tests. Read the rest of this entry »

Absentee voting for Nov. 4 election now underway

Absentee voting for the November 4 general election began on September 20 and will end on October 30. Any qualified elector may vote an absentee ballot by mail or in person at the absentee election manager’s office (Circuit Clerk’s office) by making application in writing, not less than five days prior to the election.

The application must meet one of the following requirements:

  • The person will be out of the county or state on election day.
  • The person has any physical illness or infirmity that prevents his or her attendance at the polls, whether he or she is within or outside the county on the day of election.
  • The person works a shift that has at least 10 hours that coincide with the hours the polls are open at his or her regular polling place.
  • The person is enrolled as a student at an educational institution located outside the county of his or her personal residence that prevents his or her attendance at the polls.
  • The person is a member of, or spouse or dependent of a member of, the armed forces of the United States or is similarly qualified to vote absentee pursuant to the Federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
  • The person has been appointed as an election officer or named as a poll watcher at a polling place other than his or her regular polling place.

Applications for absentee voting and voter information are available on the website of the Alabama Secretary of State at www.sos.state.al.us or at the following location:

Absentee Election Office, Circuit Clerk’s Office, Chambers County Courthouse, 2 LaFayette Street S, Suite B-114, LaFayette, AL 36862.

Completed absentee applications must include the Alabama residence where the voter is registered to vote, even if the ballot is to be mailed to another address where the applicant/voter regularly receives mail. If you have moved and have not updated your voter registration, you should contact the Chambers County Board of Registrars at 18 Alabama Avenue E, Room 101, LaFayette, AL 36862 and update your address prior to applying for an absentee ballot. You may contact the registrar’s office at 334-864-4313.

Separate applications for absentee ballots are required for elections that are more than 45 days apart, except as to individuals voting pursuant to the Federal Uninformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act.

The absentee election manager is required to post each day a list of absentee voters to include names, addresses and voting places of each applicant. This list will be posted either on the public bulletin board on the first floor of the courthouse or in a public place in the circuit clerk’s office.

For more information concerning absentee voting, please contact:

Lisa M. Burdette, Clerk of Circuit Court, Absentee Election Manager, at (334) 864-4348.

Chambers County sees drop in meth production

Meth 1

Local law enforcement officials hosted a press conference last week to discuss the progress made in eradicating the production and use of methamphetamine in Chambers County. Changes in state laws have greatly aided law enforcement as they fight meth. Only one meth lab has been busted so far this year, compared to 88 in 2011. Pictured, from left, at the press conference, are LaFayette Police Chief Kenneth Vines, Lanett Police Chief Angie Spates, Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon, Lt. Robert Chambers, Director of the Chambers County Multijurisdictional Drug Task Force; Sheriff Sid Lockhart, Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Chief Assistant Damon Lewis and Lt. Johnny Wood, Drug Task Force Commander.

Over the past two years, the manufacture and sale of methamphetamines in Chambers County has significantly declined, thanks in part to state legislation and anti-meth programs that have aided law enforcement agencies.

A press conference was held this past Thursday by local law enforcement officials to highlight the progress made in the fight against meth in the county. Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart, along with District Attorney Chief Assistant Damon Lewis, Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon, LaFayette Police Chief Kenneth Vines, Lanett Police Chief Angie Spates, Drug Task Force Project Director Lt. Robert Chambers and Drug Task Force Commander Johnny Wood, were on hand to discuss the Alabama anti-meth legislation that is considered some of the toughest against the drug in the nation.

In 2012, the state passed comprehensive legislation designed to assist law enforcement in the battle against meth, as well as reduce the sales of precursor ingredients to individuals who purchase them with the explicit purpose of manufacturing illegal substances, a practice referred to as “smurfing.”

Since that time Chambers County law enforcement officials have been able to dramatically reduce the manufacture of the drug. The results are evident in the numbers. Lt. Chambers said that in 2011 the Drug Task Force busted 88 meth labs, that number decreased to 40 in 2012, then to four in 2013. So far this year, the Task Force has busted just one lab in the county. As a result, meth use has also declined. “Before these laws were passed in 2012 Chambers County made over 120 meth-related arrests,” Chambers said. “This year, we have made only 13 arrests.”

“Alabama is leading the nation through our efforts to prevent meth production and use in our communities,” Lockhart said. “In Chambers County we have made tremendous progress. All the men and women in law enforcement in Chambers County and the surrounding counties have worked extensively to ensure that this dangerous drug is being eradicated and kept out of our communities.”

Lt. Chambers said that the new laws have made “smurfing’ a felony and that had greatly aided in the fight. He also credited the national NPLEx reporting system. “This system tracks the sale of pseudoephedrine (PSE), which requires a government issued photo ID, and will block a sale if someone has exceeded their daily or monthly allowable limit,” he said.

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BOE approves 2014-15 budget

The Chambers County Board of Education approved the 2014-15 school year budget at a called meeting last week. The approval came days before the State Department of Education’s mandated cutoff date of September 15. The Board also approved the school year transportation plan at the meeting.

The budget amounts to approximately $42 million, and has seen relatively few changes since it was first drafted. Superintendent Kelli Hodge said the spending plan has seen minor changes in the amount of about $83,000 and that some late-arriving revenues and expenditures had to be accounted for. The increased expenditures are related to the hiring of a new school resource officer, an increase in per-student expenses and an additional $28,000 in transportation costs.

Dr. Hodge also noted that federal funds for the Title VI program had yet to arrive and will be amended into the budget at a later date.

In comparison to the previous year, the new budget has an increase in the local match due to the system losing teacher units from the state due to declining enrollment. Hodge did say that enrollment numbers for the current school year are not in yet, but that she expects them to be relatively unchanged from last year. She said that Fairfax Elementary and LaFayette High School appear to have increased enrollment, but that Eastside Elementary is down.

The transportation plan approved by the Board is a checklist of items that the local system must comply with in order to meet state guidelines.

The system has 45 route busses and 12 spare buses. The plan notes that county buses must detour around 16 bridges that are unsafe, which add 114 miles round-trip each day.

The previous school year, system busses traveled about 700,000 miles. This includes 644,280 miles on regular routes, 11,823 for field trips and approximately 20,000 for athletic events.

Fall programs have started at library

By Rachel Johnson

LaFayette Library Manager

Fall programs are underway at the LaFayette Library. StoryTime starts on Thursday, September 18th at 12:30 pm CST. This program is for pre-school children and guardians.

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake story and dessert will be held on Tuesday, September 23rd at 3:30 pm. Come listen to this fun story and decorate a cupcake to take home. Registration is required for this program by calling 334-864-0012.

Space is filling up for the Lunch-N-Learn on Friday, September 26th at noon. Author and Neurosurgeon, Dr. Warren, will speak about his time in the Iraq War. Reserve your space today.

We would like to remind everyone to check out the programs that Bradshaw Library offers. Bradshaw Library is located across from Wal-Mart in Valley. Adult Programming Coordinator, Connie Beilfuss is busy planning day trips as part of the Library Travelers program. Call Connie at 334-768-2161 for more details.

Bradshaw Library is hosting “A Night Out at the Library” on Saturday, September 27th. Enjoy a four-course meal by candlelight. After dinner enjoy a movie and popcorn. The cost is $12 per person. You may register and pay at either library.

In addition to the Library Travelers program, registration is underway for a trip to the National Infantry Museum & Solider Center in Columbus, GA on Friday, October 3rd. The cost is $30 and includes transportation, an IMAX movie: D-Day Normandy 1944, drink and popcorn, a guided indoor tour and a guided tour of WWII Company Street. The cost of lunch is not included. The deadline to register is September 19th.

For more information about any of the programs call LaFayette Library at 334-864-0012 or Bradshaw Library at 334-768-2161.

LaFayette council gets update on upcoming movie shoot

It was announced last week that scenes from the upcoming independent film “White Water” would be filmed in downtown LaFayette. Monday night, the LaFayette City Council learned some specifics about the film shoot from Richard Patton, the Location Manager for the film.

Patton told the mayor and council that the film production crew will be shooting from September 29 through October 1 here in LaFayette, and that he would provide a more detailed schedule in the coming days. Patton said that most of the scenes would be exterior shots taking place on the sidewalks around the courthouse square. The filming will require some assistance from the city with utilities and controlling traffic, mainly on Highway 431. Patton added that traffic would only need to be stopped or rerouted for about three minutes at a time.

Modern vehicles around the square will need to be temporarily moved, and Patton noted that some “period cars” would be brought in. While the exact locations of the scenes has yet to be determined, Patton said that he expected scenes to take place along both Hwy 431 and side streets around the square.

“White Water,” is a film based on a children’s book co-written by Michael Bandy, an author originally from Opelika, and Eric Stein. The book is about a black child growing up in the early 1960s in Opelika during segregation.

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September 10, 2014 | Posted in: Local, News | Comments Closed

‘Show Us Your Library Card’ campaign kicks off in LaFayette

Books are not the only bargain a library card can get you during national Library Card Sign-Up Month celebrated at the Chambers County Libraries in September. A number of local merchants are partnering with the Chambers County Library System to save library cardholders money by taking part in the “Show Us Your Library Card” campaign.

Simply show your current library card at participating businesses and restaurants to receive a discount or free item. Be sure to visit the libraries in Valley or LaFayette for a complete list of merchants and discounts available in LaFayette, Lanett, Valley and West Point.

LaFayette participants include: Abanda Bake Shop, Buds N Blossoms, LaFayette Barber Shop, LaFayette Library Book Sale, The LaFayette Sun, LaFayette Tru Value Hardware, Lowe’s Pharmacy, Newman’s Farm Supply, Parker’s Foods and Whaley’s Upholstery.

There is still time for other businesses to join the “Show us Your Library Card” campaign. Simply call the LaFayette Pilot Public Library at 334-864-0012 and have your business added to the list.

Library cards are free to anyone who resides or works in Chambers County, or West Point, Georgia. Your address will need to be verified by showing the library staff a driver’s license or a piece of mail. A parent or guardian’s signature is required for children under 16 to receive a card. There is an annual fee of $10 for anyone living outside of Chambers County and an annual fee of $15 for out of state residents.

Library Card Sign-Up Month is a great time to discover all the wonderful services available at your public library. In addition to services such as free public access to the internet, workshops, Cobb Memorial Archives for genealogical research and over 50,000 circulating volumes, Chambers County Libraries offers a variety of special programs and events.

For more information about the programs scheduled in September and throughout the year, please call Bradshaw Library at 334-768-2161 at or the LaFayette Pilot Public Library at 334-864-0012. You can also visit the libraries or the website at www.chamberscountylibrary.org. Click on the calendar or the blog for program details.

LaFayette Police make arrest after shooting

LaFayette Police have charged a man with attempted murder after a woman was shot in the neck early Sunday morning.

At approximately 1:30 am CST on Sunday, August 31, the LaFayette Police’s investigation division, with the assistance from the patrol division, was dispatched to 1271 County Road 98 in reference to a verbal argument. While responding officers were traveling to the scene, dispatch advised them that there was an unknown male with a gun in the front yard of the residence. The caller then stated informed dispatch that shots had been fired, which resulted in one injury.

Upon arrival, officers located a female subject lying in the yard suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck. The female was subsequently identified as Jessica Stewart of 7274 County Road 54 in LaFayette.

LaFayette EMS responded to the scene and then transported Stewart to East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. She was later transported to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, where she was last reported in stable condition.

After investigators conducted several interviews at the scene, they determined that enough information had been gathered to make an arrest.

At approximately 3 am, about an hour and a half after the initial incident was first reported, LaFayette Police arrested Danny Larry McVey, 36, from LaFayette, for attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. McVay was transported to the Chambers County Detention Facility. He was later released on $100,000 bond.

Anyone with any information about this case or any other cases is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-756-5200 or the LaFayette Police Department Investigation Division’s Lt. Steve Smith at 334-864-2214 or Sgt. Chris Trice at 334-864-2200.

September 5, 2014 | Posted in: Local, News | Comments Closed

Grand Jury issues report

The Chambers County Grand Jury presented their fall term report on Friday of last week to Circuit Judge Tom Young, and it included 293 true bills and a long list of recommendations for improving the county courthouse.

In addition to the cases heard, the Grand Jury conducted physical inspections of the Chambers County Detention Facility and the Chambers County Courthouse.

They commended Sheriff Sid Lockhart and his staff on the manner in which the Detention Facility is operated and maintained. “We found the staff to be knowledgeable and efficient and the facilities were clean,” the report stated.

Assistant District Attorney Roland Sledge led the Grand Jury on a tour of the courthouse. They commended the County Commission for their work in helping to preserve the Courthouse, however, the following recommendations were made for further repair and improvement:

• Hot water is needed in all parts of the Courthouse.

• All three courtrooms need better chairs and cushions.

• The pews in the three courtrooms need to be cleaned, repaired or replaced as the case may be.

• The speaker on the last radiator on the left side of the upstairs courtroom should be replaced or removed.

• The wall on the stairwell needs to be painted.

• The paintbrush on the crown molding above the door leading to the jury room in the upstairs courtroom should be removed.

• The ceiling under the balcony in the upstairs Courtroom should be painted.

• The broken blinds in the upstairs courtroom should be replaced.

• There is black mold in the juror room in the upstairs courtroom. This should be corrected and the room painted. Read the rest of this entry »

September 3, 2014 | Posted in: Local, News | Comments Closed