2005: The Year in Review

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2006


2005 was an exciting year in Shelby County. We saw one of our own sworn in to the Alabama Supreme Court and one of our own go down to the wire on one of America&8217;s most popular TV shows. We reeled with the rest of the country at one of the worst disasters of our time. And we worked diligently to make Shelby County grow in the right direction.

This Year in Review takes a look at the tragedies and triumphs, successes and failures of the past year in Shelby County, bringing a glimpse of the stories that were woven into the fabric of our lives during the past year.

Editor&8217;s Note: This is the second in a two-part series.


Court reverses SBMC heart CON

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed the approval Shelby Baptist Medical Center had received to perform open-heart surgery and related invasive cardiology services. The hospital had been providing these services under a certificate of need granted by the State Health Planning and Development Agency since 2004 despite the continuing fight by Brookwood Medical Center and Tenet Healthcare. Officials said services at the Alabaster hospital would continue pending appeals as more than 155 patients and their families had benefited at the time.

Residents face charges for pets

Forty Shelby County residents had failed to vaccinate their pets against rabies. County deputy rabies officer Dr. James Green issued the citations and said residents could face criminal charges and fines if the issue was not resolved immediately.

Calera names Palmer new police chief

The Calera City Council named Tommy Palmer as its new police chief following the resignation of Chief Jim Finn.

Palmer brings more than 15 years of experience in police work, having served with the Calera Police Department since 2001.

Rising fuel costs hit schools hard

Rising fuel costs hit Shelby County Schools hard. To defray some of these costs, the school board agreed to increase the bus charge per student for field trips. The system operates more than 300 buses and travels about 13,900 miles each day.

Longtime bank CEO Harrison resigns

Longtime chief executive officer William T. Harrison resigned as head of First National Bank of Shelby County. Harrison served as the bank&8217;s head for a number of years.

His resignation came following a negative ruling by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that required certain changes be made in the bank&8217;s administration in order for the bank to remain open.

County aids in search for Holloway

The city of Columbiana stepped up to aid in the search for missing Mountain Brook teenager Natalie Holloway. Residents were able to purchase &8220;Hope for Natalie&8221; bracelets.

The Holloways and Twittys, her family, used the funds to aid in expensive search efforts for the teen who disappeared during a graduation trip to the island of Aruba.

DA&8217;s office looks at gambling charges

Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owen&8217;s office is looking into gambling charges following a raid at The Koffee Kettle in Columbiana. Officials said Koffee Kettle owners could face a Class A misdemeanor for promoting or facilitating gambling punishable by a fine or up to 12 months in jail. The Koffee Kettle, located at the corner of College and Main streets in Columbiana had displayed signs promoting weekly Texas Hold &8216;Em poker parties.


Local library program to go statewide

After surviving a successful three-year run at local school schools and libraries, Homework Help, first used at 10 Shelby County libraries, will now be offered statewide. The interactive homework help website, www.homeworkalabama.org, is powered by Tutor.com, and tutoring is available in English, social studies, science and math for fourth graders through college sophomores.

UM president poised to retire

University of Montevallo president Dr. Robert McChesney has announced his intention to retire after 14 years.

McChesney came to UM in January 1991 as provost/vice president of academic affairs and was appointed president in July 1992. He plans to retire in August 2006.

PHS welcomes freshman class

Camp Pelham welcomed incoming freshmen to the school for orientation. This year&8217;s freshman class at Pelham High School was the largest ever at about 400. Enrollment at Shelby County Schools for 2005-06 was expected to top 24,500.

Chapman to run for secretary of state

North Shelby resident Beth Chapman announced her intention to seek the office of secretary of state in 2006.

Chapman currently serves as Alabama state auditor.

She was elected to that post in 2002.

Skinner announces plans to retire

Shelby County&8217;s first property tax commissioner Annette Skinner announced she planned to retire from the post.

Before acting as property tax commissioner, Skinner served for many years as the county&8217;s tax collector. County officials expressed surprise at Skinner&8217;s announcement.

Reporter launches new look

The Shelby County Reporter launched its new look in late August.

New features include more extensive records coverage, more frequent and extensive local business coverage and new columns from local businessmen, gardeners and pastors.

Commuters&8217; woes increase with prices

Shelby County commuters expressed dissatisfaction with rising gas prices.

Census numbers have indicated there are 74,000 workers in Shelby County. Of those, 56 percent commute outside the county to work.

Local officials say at $2.55 per gallon, commuters are spending an average of 42 percent more on gasoline than they did in August 2004.

School enrollment increases by 1,000

Shelby County Schools enrollment increased by about 1,000 students, according to school officials. Noted increases include more than 100 students at Calera Elementary, Mt. Laurel Elementary and Thompson High School.

SBMC celebrates heart anniversary

Shelby Baptist Medical Center celebrated the first anniversary of its heart surgery offerings. Despite a setback from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, the hospital continues to perform open-heart surgery and related procedures.

County sells part of sewer system

Despite the concerns of a group of North Shelby residents, the County Commission agreed to sell a portion of the sewer system that serves the northern portion of the county. The $8.5 million from the sale will be used along with other funds to construct a $75 million sewer treatment plant on the Coosa River.


Hurricane evacuees seek shelter

Evacuees from hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast flocked to Shelby County seeking shelter following Hurricane Katrina. Hotels and shelters in the area filled with those seeking refuge and local residents began efforts to offer assistance that would continue until the end of the year.

Calera team returns after offering aid

A team from Calera including firefighters and police officers returned home after traveling to hard-hit areas of Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

They offered aid in the search for survivors and victims of the storm.

Louisiana woman gives birth at SBMC

A Chalmette, La., woman gave birth at Shelby Baptist Medical Center after being chased from her home by Hurricane Katrina.

The home she and her husband lived in was under nearly 13 feet of water following the storm.

Residents attend Red Cross training

More than 580 local residents attended a training session for the American Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Red Cross was readying for the opening of a longterm living facility at the Exhibition Center in Columbiana. County officials stepped up to offer the center after putting plywood and carpet on the dirt floors.

Showers were installed along with fans and an air conditioning system. The center was also wired for Internet use.

County approves $78 million budget

The Shelby County Commission approved a $77.98 million budget for fiscal year 2006 that calls for 11 new full-time and three temporary positions. Included in the budget was $1.97 million for outside agencies.

Calera residents face hike in utilities

Calera residents faced a 75 percent hike in their November utility bills. The increase in natural gas comes after two years of the city&8217;s gas system operating over-budget. The hike will bring the average gas bill from $90 per billing cycle to $160 per billing cycle.

Evacuees make state park home

Gulf Coast residents fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have made Oak Mountain State Park their home. Nearly 200 hurricane survivors banded into a community at the park where they are housed in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Alabaster makes headway on center

The city of Alabaster made headway on its newest retail venture, Colonial Promenade South, which will occupy some 16 acres on Highway 31 across from the current Colonial Promenade. The center will be 350,000 square feet with 11 outparcels.

City approves $25 million budget

The city of Alabaster approved a $25 million budget which includes 37 new positions and a 3 percent cost-of-living allowance. The budget also included $100,000 to be used for a veterans memorial at Veterans Park on Highway 119.

Pelham approves $35 million budget

The city of Pelham approved a $35 million budget for 2006 which planned for improvements to city fire stations, 12 new firefighters for Station 5 in the Ballantrae community and a $500 bonus for each city employee.

Residents turn out against quarry

Hundreds of local residents and elected officials turned out at an Alabama Department of Environmental Management hearing to express opposition to a proposed limestone quarry in Alabaster near Meadow View Elementary School. The quarry was proposed by Middle Tennessee Land Development Company LLC.

Columbiana to discuss smoking policy

The city of Columbiana agreed to discuss a policy that would force local businesses to go smoke-free. The Smoke-Free Air Act, called for by the Family Connection&8217;s Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Communities, provides for the prohibition of smoking within 50 feet of outdoor stadiums and parks and within 15 feet of enclosed public areas. No smoking signs were to be placed in businesses and public areas, and the act indicated that smokers would be punished with a $50 fine. Businesses would be punished with a $100 fine for the first offense and a $200 fine for the second offense. The coalition indicated Columbiana was just the first municipality. Its sights were set on all Shelby County municipalities.

Methadone clinic ready to open

Following two years and a ruling by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, the Shelby County Treatment Center was poised to begin operations in Saginaw pending only building inspections.

SCTC, operated by Susan Staats-Sidwell, will issue methadone, a drug which is used to treat addictions.


Shelby County Judge Crowson retires

Longtime Shelby County Judge D. Al Crowson retired after 17 years on the bench.

As presiding judge in Shelby County, Crowson was instrumental in changes which have made the county&8217;s court system and corrections run much more productively and efficiently than before.

Hayes appointed to Commission

Chelsea optometrist Dr. Robbie Hayes became Shelby County&8217;s newest commissioner, having been appointed to fulfil the spot left vacant by Don Armstrong&8217;s appointment as property tax commissioner.

Hayes, son of longtime Pelham Mayor Bobby Hayes, will represent District 9, the largest of the commission districts.

Columbiana defeats smoking law

After hearing from a number of residents and business owners, the city council of Columbiana decided to hold off on an ordinance creating a smoke-free Columbiana.

Allison takes over as chairman

Shelby County Commissioner Lindsey Allison took the reins for the next year as chairman of the County Commission. Commissioner Larry Dillard who served as chairman last year asked to be removed from several of the boards he has served on for a number of years.

FNBSC sees bright future ahead

A bright future lies ahead for First National Bank of Shelby County. The bank&8217;s board of directors approved an agreement to begin the process of a merger with First Merchants and Farmers Bank of Mississippi. Officials said First M&F would pay some $31 million for outstanding shares of the bank.

SCHS mourns student&8217;s death

Shelby County High School mourned the loss of basketball standout Cortez Cotton. Cotton, 18, was killed when the car he was driving struck a tree south of Columbiana on Highway 47. He had played in a tournament game the night before, scoring 24 points against Jess Lanier.

Calera fireman killing during call

Calera firefighter Chris Roy, 25, was killed while on a fire call. The fire truck he was driving was hit by an 18-wheeler. Roy, the grandson of Calera Mayor George Roy, had been a full-time firefighter since 2001.


Helena approves 2,300 new homes

The city of Helena approved 2,300 new homes with provisions to protect Buck Creek and the Cahaba River. The Hillsboro North subdivision will occupy 1,250 acres. Construction is planned for the next 20-30 years in three phases for a total of some 19,000 new residents.

ADEM grants air, water permits

ADEM granted the necessary air and water permits to Middle Tennessee Land Development Company LLC for its proposed quarry near Meadow View Elementary School in Alabaster. The permits were the final obstacle to beginning operations. A lawsuit has been filed by the University of Montevallo and the UM Foundation.

Montevallo police chief resigns

Montevallo Police Chief Steve Southerland resigned. Southerland was put on administrative leave by the city during an internal investigation into suspected procedural violations.

The city council appointed Tom Smitherman, former chief deputy for the Shelby County Sheriff&8217;s Department, as the city&8217;s public safety director. Smitherman is conducting the investigation.

Sheriff&8217;s website expands offerings

The Shelby County Sheriff&8217;s Department website has expanded to offer a dispatch log. The lot allows anyone with Internet access to view current calls for service by the department as well as calls for the previous 24 hours