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2019 - Stories of the Year

By Michael Butler

Scrolling through the 2019 calendar year, there were numerous items of interest in the news in and around Tallassee.

2018 ended with an incident on Highway 229 South in Tallassee. On Dec. 30, a 68-year-old female was kidnapped after a traffic accident.

According to Tallassee police chief Matthew Higgins, the woman was apprehended by Terrance Cobb, a 20-year-old black male from Notasulga.

"When we arrived on the scene, we located the vehicle identified as one that had been stolen from Victoryland earlier in the night," Higgins stated. "We did not locate a driver. After some more investigation, it was determined that the vehicle had struck another vehicle. The person who had stolen the vehicle took the vehicle he had struck along with the driver of the vehicle.

"After locating the victim later on, it appears the offender had left the scene with the victim and traveled to an unknown location where she was robbed. She later ended up the Torch 85 Truck Stop. We were able to locate the suspect. We obtained three warrants and were able to respond to a location where he was staying in Macon County. He was taken into custody without incident."


On a brighter note, Tallassee High School student Emma Coyle received the Joe Sewell Award. The esteemed recognition honors senior athletes who represent the ideals of Christian leadership.

The Tallassee Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet highlighted the achievements of several local leaders.

The Business of the Year Award was given to Neptune Technology Group. Neptune has been in Tallassee since 1972. Suzannah Solomon Wilson was the recipient of the Francis Wagnon Volunteer Award. President's Awards were given to Caroline Herring and Joyce Vella.

"Nobody could argue with the winners," Chamber of Commerce director Jerry Cunningham said. "There are certainly others that are deserving, but everyone would have to agree they're deserving."

More accolades were given out early in 2019 with the Tallassee High School Hall of Pride inductions. The 2019 class included: Coach Derrick Ansley, Class of 2000; Dr. Henry Lee Taylor, Class of 1952 and Dr. G. Larry Whatley, Class of 1958. This service award recipient was Mrs. Marjorie Carter.


The city condemned the Hotel Talisi downtown. The structure was deemed unsafe.

"There's a huge crack. There's flashing that's been flying off the building and hit a young lady's car," Tallassee mayor Johnny Hammock said. "Our main concern is the people that own businesses downtown. It's a safety hazard."

Hotel owner Wylie Troupe has since made efforts to stabilize the building which was built in 1928 but closed in 2009 due to fire damage and has not reopened.

Work being done in 2011

The city received a grant of historic proportions. Tallassee was awarded a $2.4 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to help fund upgrades at the sewer treatment plant.

"We hit the jackpot," the mayor exclaimed. "That puts this administration since Nov. 7, 2016 at over $3.5 million in grants. I want to thank God. I've prayed a lot about this. This is a great win for Tallassee."

Also in 2019, Tallassee was designated an "Alabama Community of Excellence" (ACE).

"A lot of work went into it. A lot of people played key roles - probably 100 different people," Hammock said. "It's a great award for Tallassee. It puts us on the map. I'm glad we went through the process because it gives us vision now. We didn't have any vision before. Now we, have a comprehensive plan, a strategic plan and an action plan. We've just got to execute it."

(Left to right): City Councilman Darrell Wilson, ACE President Brandon Bias, ACE Coordinator for Tallassee Suzannah Solomon Wilson, Kim Hammock, Mayor Johnny Hammock, Alabama League of Municipalities Director Ken Smith.

A string of robberies took place over the past year. Among those hit included; First Community Bank, Subway and Sunoco.


A July 5 homicide occured at the 600th block of North Johnson Street. Julio Mercado, a 34-year-old Hispanic male from Freeport, Fla., was killed. An unidentified 34-year-old black male was injured.

Two suspects were taken into custody; 19-year-old black males Zan'guintavious Hughley and Ladrequez Holloway of Tallassee.

According to Tallassee Police Chief Matthew Higgins, authorities responded to the scene due to a report of gunfire after a verbal altercation at a family gathering.

"Detectives and patrol took Hughley into custody that night," said Higgins. "Holloway fled the city. (He) was later located through a joint effort of the Tallassee P.D. and U.S. Marshals and taken into custody."

Alabama Power was in the headlines. Its appliance center on Gilmer Avenue closed after more than five decades in operation as part of a statewide reduction in business offices, while the company's .

Thurlow Dam, run by the same company, rehauled its 36 flashboard wooden gate system put in place in 1928 with a modern steel gate replacement.

“The new gates will allow us better control of the flow over the spillway,” said Thurlow Dam Superintendent Joel Johnson. "We wanted to do our best to make sure the improved Thurlow Dam looks like the Thurlow we all know and remember."

The price tag for the project was estimated at a hefty $20 million through the Birmingham-based company Brasfield and Gorrie. The length of the spillway is appoximatley 1,100 feet.

"(Before) you had 36 individual gates," Johnson said. "(Now) you have spans. The first span is about 45 feet long. Span two is 342 feet. Spans three and four are 380 feet each. Each span will operate independently of the other spans."

A celebrity visited Tallassee over the summer. Mike Rowe, known for the show "Dirty Jobs," rolled through the city while working on his latest production, "Returning the Favor."

On the show, Rowe travels across the United States in search of people who are giving back to their communities. Tallassee's Dr. Greg Dubay was highlighted on his trip to Alabama.

"Doc is one of several combat vets utilizing Operation Combat Bikesaver," Rowe noted. "Doc served as a medic in the Army. He’s seen some things. When we finished filming, he showed me the flag he wore on his uniform before he retired. On it, is recognition for his service in Vietnam, along with a medal from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his rank, (Specialist E-5,) and a Major Oak Leaf. We talked about the significance of the flag he wore, and the insignias attached. Then, he gave it to me.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I’m grateful to you,” he said. “I appreciate your commitment to excellence, honesty, and integrity.”

I didn’t know what to say. 
I still don’t.

One day, I hope to become the person Doc thinks I am. For now, I can only thank him for his service, and promise to care for the flag he once wore."

Rowe (left) with Greg "Doc" Dubay

Tallassee Parks and Recreation Department director Rick Golden announced that he would be leaving the department after 13 years, 12 as director.

"I got an opportunity to serve as a captain with the Pike Road Fire Protection Agency," Golden said. "It was a good move for me, both financially and it's something I love to do. After a lot of prayer and thinking about it, I decided to take that job."

Golden is now working with Matt Missildine, who is chief at Pike Road and a former chief in Tallassee.

Golden and Merrett

Tammy Merrett assumed the position of director with the rec department. She served for more than 10 years as programs coordinator.

"I am ready to take it on," Merrett said. "I know budget constraints are number one. When the mayor and I met, he was like 'budget, budget, budget.' We have to be good stewards of the tax payers' money."

Golden gave a nod of confidence in Merrett's ability to lead the department.

"After working with Tammy, I know what kind of person she is. (She) and Margaret are both outstanding people. I know it's going to be left in good hands. I had somebody say, 'Rick, you left it better than you found it.' That's what I tried to do. None of it could've been done without everybody that works with you."

Plans for a new high school continued with phase one beginning in 2019. Work on the new parking lot kicked off the project.

Estimates for the new high school and auditorium are around $20 million.

"The auditorium and replacement of the high school are basically going to be done at the same time,” Shipman said. “At the end of the school year, the high school will come down. If the bid is approved in February, they start working in March."

That scenario would allow about three months to set the foundation for the new building while closing out the current school year.”

"We’re trying to coincide, so we can get the school year finished in our building. It’s going to be a real challenge."

The new parking lot under construction

As part of Alabama's bicentennial celebration, the Talisi Historical Preservation Society (THPS) conducted a time capsule placement ceremony on Dec. 7 at City Hall.

THPS president Bob Taunton addressed the crowd.

"The Alabama Historical Commission and mayor Hammock asked if we had any plans for a historical celebration. It took quite a bit of planning. It culminated with the time capsule. Inside the time capsule are some 45 containers from clubs, churches, civic clubs and indiduals who thought it worthwhile to preserve the history of Tallassee as it is today."

The capsule will remain buried on the grounds at City Hall for 100 years.

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