The mayor and first lady
Photo by Suzannah Solomon Wilson
2018 - The Year in News
By Michael Butler
365 days have come and gone. The year was eventful in Tallassee, right from the start.
It was Tallassee Times' tenth year as a weekly on-line production. Thanks so much for reading. Now, here's a rundown of some of the highlights from 2018.
In January, a rare snow event hit the city. Winter Storm Inga dumped enough snow to build Frosty(s) throughout Alabama.
Shot courtesy of David Lawrence
The Mount Vernon Theatre reopened in 2018 after being closed for five decades. Freddie Jones recalled going to the picture show as a youngster.
"I was five-years-old," he said. "I walked from Herd Street. I went to the double feature. When I got ready to go home it was dark and I ran home all the way."
The original theater was opened in 1935. The play, "Dear Mama: Letters and Music from WWII," brought crowds back to the historic landmark and was a smash hit.
Tallassee mayor Johnny Hammock introduced an extensive tax plan that was enacted by the city council.
"We need to start working on the future of the city. We need fiber. We need a new high school. We have recreation needs; new fields, a swimming pool and rec center," Hammock said. ""We have to think about this city as a whole not just the constituents of each ward."
A five mill ad valorem tax and an additional one-cent sales tax on the Elmore County side of the city was approved. Combined, the new taxes are expected to generate approximately $950,000 annually. The sales tax portion is to be divied up bewtween the Tallassee school system for a new high school and the city's infrastructure needs, specifically a new pump at the sewer treatment pond.
Plans for new facilities on the high school campus moved forward in 2018. The initial architecutal designs include a performing arts center with new buidlings to replace the existing high school over time.
Architectual sketch by McKee and Associates
"It's real tempting to get the cart ahead of the horse, but some of these processes take a little more time," Tallassee City Schools superintendent Wade Shipman said. "I appreciate everything that the city has done. This is a community project."
Shipman presented an overview of the school's progress at a work session at City Hall. Among the concerns noted in the meeting was school safety, the genesis for the city's part in a sales tax to aid with funding.
"Our main concern is the main building," Hammock said. "It could be 30 years before that's complete. Can we put our children at risk to wait 30 years?"
The priority in the order of the phasing for the project has been addressed. In addition, the school board noted that a concrete commitment is needed from the city to proceed.
"It's kind of like borrowing money for a car and not having somebody to sign off on it. We're not the authorizer of the tax. We can't bind that tax, but the city can. The last time we built a school, we built the elementary school. The city did the bond on it. They're in a position where they can't do that at this time. They're asking us to do that."
Dollars from the tax are accumulating in an account for the school.
"I think that we have pledged the funding for this project. We're glad to do that," city councilman and finance committe chairman Bill Godwin said. "We have never thought about any formal obligation for future administrations on long-term debt. It just doesn't happen."
Mayor Hammock presented a program on the current utility system debt being incurred by the city.
"We're losing money every time anybody flushes the toilet," Hammock said.
Jim Marshall, a consultant with Jackson Thornton Utilities, broke down the city's revenues and expenses on its utility services denoting an $833,491 loss per year.
After selling the Sizemore building and Seven Gables, the city agreed to put the Guest House on the market. Corrie Sid was the high bidder on the property at $229,000.
Sid will turn the home on Knox Street into an inn and continue utilizing it as an event venue.
"My experience as being a hotel owner, having seven strangers under the same roof takes a lot more effort," she said. "There are seven bedrooms. I want to remodel and make it very technically savy with flat screen TVs. I want to take the land and expand it with a pole barn on it where we could have 300 or so as a wedding venue. I would like to build cottages for additional places for people to stay."
The City of Tallassee received a Transportation Assistance Program (TAP) grant for improvements to the downtown district.
$725,000 in funds will be applied for work on sidewalks, pavers, handicap ramps, landscaping, lighting and minor infrastructure. The area encompasses the block across from the Tallassee Police Station from Sistrunk Street to James Street, Ann Avenue and Barnett Boulevard.
Federal dollars will cover 80 percent of the costs, or $580,000. The city's match will be 20 percent or $145,000 plus engineering fees.
The onset of a two-year gate replacement project at Thurlow Dam began in 2018. Phase one is complete.
"We didnt' want to bite off more than we could chew in one year,"Thurlow Dam superintendent Joel Johnson said. "We've had no recordable accidents in phase one. We did have some bee stings. Safety has been priority one."
The first two spans, roughly a third of the 36 gates, have been replaced with the newer Obermeyer Gate System. The remainder of the work is scheduled for completion in 2019.
"The spillway total is about 1,100 feet. Span one ended up being 40 feet, which were going to use to move logs over the spillway. Span two is 342 feet. Span three and four will be 346 feet each.
'Pouring the concrete, putting all the steel in the spillway, putting all the anchor bolts in, is very meticulous work. Your concrete has to be perfect. It has to be a certain temperature. We had to send several trucks back because they didn't meet specs. We have to test, put it on a barge, take it out and pour it."
Tragedy hit Tallassee over the past year. At Walmart, an gun shooting incident claimed two lives and then a third after the shooter turned the gun on himself. Another domestic situation occured in the Hudson Place neighborhood when a woman was stabbed by a man who then committed suicide by gunshot. A traffic accident on Highway 229 resulted in a fatality after a vehicle hit a tractor.
Former Alabama football running back Siran Stacy visited Tallassee and gave an inspirational speech at the Mount Vernon Theatre about how he has dealt with tragedy in his life.
Country music star John Conlee performed to a packed house at the Tallassee High School Auditorium. The making of future singing stars was showcased at the Mount Vernon Theatre's "Mt. Vernon Idol" with Scott Hammonds winning the inaugural competition.
Tallassee paid homage to native Osceola with a monument at the Superintendent's House next to City Hall.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby stopped by GKN Aereospace to test the F-35 flight simulator.
"As you all know, the 187th Fighter Wing at Danelly Field was recently selected to receive the F-35," Roby said to hundreds of GKN employees. I was absolutely thrilled to “fly” it myself and to join the GKN employees in seeing firsthand what they work so hard towards," she added. "Many thanks to GKN for hosting me, and a special thank you to Lockheed Martin for making this extraordinary afternoon possible."
The city announced plans to close its airport.
"Last year, we had our annual inspection at the airport and had a lot of violations," Tallassee mayor Johnny Hammock said. "I got estimates of what it would take to bring it up to speed. At that time it was $63,000. Last week we had our annual inspection. Guess what? We got hit up again with the same violations.
"If something happens out there, I'm afraid we're going to be liable. I called our insurance provider. I figured they covered the airport. They told us you don't have airport coverage. All these years the city has not had liability coverage on the airport."
Hammock said there is $11,000 in the operating account for the airport.
"Is it the feduciary responsibility of the city council to take taxpayer money and spend it bringing that airport up to speed that doesn't have any economic impact on the city at this time? I don't think it's right. The council doesn't think it's right when we're in the shape that we're in when only a handful of people are going to use it."
2018 was not all business for mayor Hammock. He tied the knot with Kimbery (Baird) on July 14. Kim opened a business in downtown Tallassee in December, Urban Tails Pet Salon Spa.
The Year in Sports
The Year in Pictures