The year in review: Looking back at the top stories of 2020

Below is a look back at the top news stories in the U.S. 280 area from the first half of 2020. Look for a review of the second half of 2020 next week.

JANUARY

Law sponsored by Ellis will save county funds

Alabama Rep. Corley Ellis (R-Columbiana) was recognized by the Shelby County Commission on Monday, Dec. 23, for his role in the adoption of a law that saves counties money on appraisals for acquiring rights-of-way.

In the past, the Alabama Department of Transportation and county highway departments utilized waiver valuations to acquire rights-of-way when a mutual agreement was reached with private landowners.

But the Federal Highway Administration advised that Alabama law did not recognize the federal concept of a waiver valuation.

TreeTop Family Adventure closing its doors

After nearly a decade of business, TreeTop Family Adventure located off Dunnavant Valley Road off U.S. 280 closed its doors.

The family entertainment facility, which featured indoor activities such as laser tag, a laser maze and arcade games, as well as outdoor activities including go-karts and miniature golf, announced it would cease operation Sunday, Jan. 12.

“The decision to close was a tough one as we have loved serving the local community and getting a chance to meet so many wonderful people and groups,” owner Richie Parrish said. “We will miss seeing all the families and guests who have come out for a day of family fun and all the smiles and laughter from the children. We would like to thank everyone who has come out and supported us and our families for the past nine years.”

FEBRUARY

MLES grant funds instruments

More than $19,000 in grant money was used to purchase teaching tools and classroom supplies at Mt Laurel Elementary School, including keyboards and headphones for the school’s music program.

Approximately $1,000 of the funding went toward the purchase of 14 keyboards and 14 headsets that will be used to teach piano labs. A small amount from the school’s general music account was used to make up the difference.

The grants were made possible by a 1-percent sales tax increase approved by the city of Chelsea in August 2019.

New traffic signals to be installed near Chelsea Publix

Chelsea’s most dangerous intersection saw the addition of traffic lights.

Traffic signals were installed at the intersection of U.S. 280 and Shelby County 39 near the shopping center anchored by Publix, Mayor Tony Picklesimer said.

The traffic lights marked the conclusion of a process of working with the Alabama Department of Transportation for about two years, Picklesimer said.

County sees minor tornado damage

Parts of Shelby County were awoken during the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 6, by a sudden tornado warning, specifically the city of Helena, as well as other areas of North Shelby County along the Alabama 119 and U.S. 280 area.

Around 2 a.m. a tornado warning was issued for the county just to the west of Helena, and shortly after that turned into a “confirmed” tornado according to ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann.

MARCH

Honor band performs at OMHS

Shelby County’s best performed and learned from two prominent composers during the Honor Band Festival Feb. 21-22 at Oak Mountain High School.

The Honor Band is a select group of middle and high school band students chosen by audition that rehearse and perform together over the course of one weekend each year, OMHS Associate Director of Bands Travis Bender said.

Three denied parole in murder, rape cases

Three men serving time in prison for murder or rape in Shelby County were denied parole on Feb. 19 in separate hearings.

Parole was denied for Robert Earl Calhoun, Earl Preston Hawkins Jr. and Terrain Luven Mack, according to the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.

Hoover school system addresses coronavirus

Hoover City Schools announced that the district is canceling all school-related trips to locations where a state of emergency has been declared due to the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus.

“At this time, the cancellation or postponement is for school trips scheduled in March to areas in which a state of emergency has been declared,” read a letter from the school system. “Currently for HCS, these areas include New York, Florida and Kentucky.”

Hoover Superintendent of Education Kathy Murphy said at the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 10, that school system leaders met earlier that day with officials from the Alabama Board of Education, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Department of Public Health and others.

Oak Mountain student among eight confirmed cases in Shelby County

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, there were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, including an Oak Mountain student.

Shelby County Schools sent an email to the Oak Mountain community on Monday afternoon, March 16, letting them know that a parent had contacted them to say one of the students had a confirmed case of novel coronavirus.

“While it is unknown when this student contracted the virus, this family was advised by the ADPH to contact everyone that the student has had contact with over the last two weeks,” read a release from Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks. “Therefore, out of our responsibility to you and your family, we are sending this notification to inform you that students attending Oak Mountain Intermediate School and Oak Mountain Elementary School may have been exposed to COVID-19 through contact with this student.”

Schools will remain closed until April 6

Gov. Kay Ivey addressed the state of Alabama in a press conference on Friday afternoon, March 13, and declared a state of emergency, while also declaring that all public schools in the state would be closed for 2.5 weeks as of Thursday, March 19.

This comes after two confirmed cases of COVID- 19 (Coronavirus) were confirmed in the state, one in Montgomery County and one in Jefferson County. Since then, the state total had risen to 68 as of Thursday, March 19, with eight cases in Shelby County.

COVID-19 cases rising, first state death reported

Alabama on Wednesday, March 25, reported its first coronavirus death as the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state neared 500.

For Shelby County alone, the numbers have taken their largest jumps since the pandemic reached the state on Friday, March 13, as the numbers had risen to 45 confirmed cases. That mark was still the second highest number in the state as of Thursday morning, March 26.

APRIL

Neighbors surprise Hoover couple on wedding day

Though the official guest list was small, a Hoover couple’s neighbors made sure they felt loved on their wedding day.

Keri McLendon and Charles Hyde were married Saturday, April 4, at their residence in Kirkman Preserve, a subdivision near Spain Park High School.

They held a ceremony with only their closest friends and relatives because of concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but afterward a surprise parade thrown by neighbors made the event more festive.

Shelby County coroner shares message following first two COVID-19 deaths

It was confirmed on Tuesday morning, March 31, that Shelby County had its first two confirmed deaths from COVID-19, but Shelby County Coroner Lina Evans warns it’s just the beginning and that there are more.

Both confirmed deaths happened at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, but Evans said two others have died from complications due to the novel coronavirus at home in North Shelby County that have not yet been confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“All of them have had pre-existing conditions,” Evans said. “Either COVID exasperated those conditions or played a role in the death. I’m not sure if it was pneumonia or heart disease, but it impacted each one.”

What does state stay-at-home order call for?

Gov. Kay Ivey announced a statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19, but questions remain about what is allowed under the order.

The order, which went into effect at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, details a list of “essential activities” and “essential businesses and operations.”

Outside of those umbrellas, people are required by law to remain in their place of residence, and even when they leave their homes for one of the given purposes, to always maintain a 6-foot distance from others.

Chelsea Council declares state of emergency

The Chelsea City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 7, approved a resolution declaring a state of emergency in the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution gave Mayor Tony Picklesimer the authority to take “expedient, appropriate or necessary” action consistent with the council’s intent for the sake of the safety and welfare of residents.

“What this does is give City Hall and myself the authorization to make emergency purchases should we need equipment for our fire and rescue department—anything down to disinfectants or things like that we need at our community center or library or any of our city facilities that would be over and above the bud- get,” Picklesimer said.

Hoover balancing expected $11.5M shortfall

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could cost the city of Hoover between $8 million and $15 million in lost revenue, and city officials put together a plan to cut expenses to counteract the shortfall.

As many businesses closed and residents complied with a stay-at-home order, Hoover’s sales tax receipts dropped.

Mayor Frank Brocato and City Administrator Allan Rice presented the start of a plan to deal with the crisis at the City Council’s meeting on Monday, April 13.

Male Room in Inverness to remain closed, owner Scott Farr says

The Male Room, a full-service barbershop located at 620 Inverness Corners, agreed to remain temporarily closed as of Friday, April 17 after initially announcing it would reopen in a controversial Facebook post that was shared April 14.

“We have reached an agreement with state and local governments not to reopen at this time in exchange for assurances that they will advocate on our behalf to reopen as soon as possible,” The Male Room’s voicemail greeting stated on April 17.

The original post, signed by owner Scott Farr, announced The Male Room would reopen April 17 at 10 a.m. despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s pleas with Alabamians to continue observing a stay-at-home order.

MAY

Gov. Ivey downgrades to safer-at-home order, some businesses to reopen

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey made a major announcement on Tuesday, April 28, during a press conference as the state neared the end of its current stay-at-home order expected to expire Thursday, April 30.

Instead of renewing the stay-at-home order, the governor decided to downgrade to a safer-at-home order, which allowed certain businesses to start reopening starting on Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. when the safer-at-home order goes into effect.

“While maintaining focus on our personal health, it’s now time that we also focus on our economic health, and this too will be a thoughtful and methodical process,” Ivey said. “I’m pleased to say that because of the efforts during these unprecedented days, we can roll back many of the restrictions that have been placed upon certain social gatherings and businesses.”

Drive-thru graduation ceremonies planned

Shelby County Schools announced plans for graduation ceremonies for all seven of the district’s high schools.

In an email to the Senior Class of 2020, SCS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks shared the current plan is for students to receive their diplomas at drive-thru graduation ceremonies to be held at each high school the week of June 15.

However, Brooks noted that a more traditional graduation ceremony will be offered if the governor’s health order is changed or lifted.

Chelsea business owners optimistic as reopening begins

This week marked the beginning of a new chapter for many local business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s amended safer-at-home order effective May 11 allowed restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses throughout the state to reopen with social-distancing and sanitation guidelines in place.

For business owners and leaders in Chelsea, the new order served as a big step forward in the process of slowly resuming normal operations.

Spain Park graduates honored at outdoor commencement

The members of the Spain Park High School Class of 2020 might not have finished their senior year with the usual activities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were not denied the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments at a live ceremony.

Students and a limited number of their guests gathered at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Wednesday, May 20 for an outdoor ceremony that, despite its social distancing constraints, held the same amount of excitement as a normal ceremony.

Local YMCA branches set to reopen June 1

The YMCA of Greater Birmingham reopened its branches to members on Monday, June 1, nearly two months after the COVID-19 outbreak prompted facility closures.

The organization, which operates three locations in Shelby County, announced it was taking a phased approach to reopening all of its branches to ensure the safety of employees and members.

“As we carefully plan for the doors to open, we are following the guidance and recommendations of the CDC, Jefferson County Health Department and UAB’s medical and public health experts,” YMCA of Greater Birmingham President and CEO Dan Pile wrote in an email. “And, we are listening to you. Having read many of your comments, I am clear that you will partner with us in efforts to maintain a safe and healthy YMCA.”

Meals on Mission

As Valleydale Church’s Community Connections pastor, Patrick Sawyer is constantly looking for ways he and the church’s Local Missions Team can serve the area.

They ramped up their efforts after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, holding food drives and furnishing meals for first responders.

But after a conversation with a church member, Sawyer saw the potential for another initiative through which people could extend support to local restaurant owners trying to stay financially afloat.

JUNE

Oak Mountain 2020 graduates celebrated

More than 300 Oak Mountain High School students celebrated the completion of their high school careers at an outdoor graduation ceremony on the evening of Monday, June 1.

With their family members and friends in the bleachers of Heardmont Stadium, the members of the OMHS Class of 2020 walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, marking the end of what became an unusual senior year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Mayors unite for peace and racial equality

Mayors of cities and towns in Shelby County have released a collective statement supporting peace and racial equality in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.

The statement reads as follows:

“Shelby County Mayors strongly support peace and reconciliation within our respective communities and across the nation. While we fully acknowledge we have differing political beliefs on some key topics, we are fully united in these shared commitments.”

Chelsea halts workouts due to COVID-19

Less than two weeks into summer workouts, the Chelsea Hornets had to shut down due to positive cases of COVID-19 within the football program.

The Hornets began summer workouts on June 8 in preparation for the upcoming season, but Thursday, June 18, marked the day two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus forced them off the field and out of the weight room until Monday, June 6, following the Fourth of July holiday.