2021 in Review Part 3: A look at June and July

Published 10:00 am Thursday, December 30, 2021

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a five-part series looking back at the year 2021.

June 1

Murder, rape and sodomy charges against Stacy Gray dropped

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LaFAYETTE — Murder, rape and sodomy charges were dismissed Tuesday against a man accused of killing a Muscogee County woman and dumping her body in a local creek in 2015.

District Attorney Jeremy Duerr announced Tuesday that charges against Stacey Gray were dismissed following a court ruling that excluded all the DNA evidence found on the body of the victim, Renee Eldridge, who was abducted from her Columbus home in 2015.

June 8

Trent McCants hired as Lanett recreation director

Trent McCants is the City of Lanett’s new recreation director. He was recommended to the full council by the recreation committee and approved in a unanimous vote.

June 11

Mike Reynolds appointed as new Valley police chief

The Valley City Council met and appointed Charles (Mike) Reynolds has been selected as the Valley Police Department’s new Police Chief. Reynolds will replace current chief Tommy Weldon who will retire on Oct 1, 2021.

June 14

Foreman named first Black, youngest probate chief clerk

The Chambers County Probate Office made history on June 1 when Chasity Foreman was promoted to the position of Chief Clerk of Chambers County Probate, making her the youngest (44) and first black female to hold the position.

June 16

West Point approves raises for mayor, council

The West Point Council unanimously approved increased compensation for the mayor and council effective January 2022, meaning it won’t go into effect until after the municipal elections in the fall.

The mayor will now earn $595 per month or $7,140 annually, a 40% increase from the position’s current salary of $5,100. The council will earn $420 per month or $5,040 annually, a 68% increase from the current $3,000 salary.

June 16

East Alabama Lumber indicates interest in rebuilding sawmill

East Alabama Lumber Company wants to rebuild its sawmill in LaFayette, according to Chambers County Development Authority Community Development Manager Chris Busby.

Busby spoke at a June council meeting in LaFayette, saying that the lumber company would like to rebuild after an April 23 fire caused major damage.

June 20

Eight in Girls Ranch vehicle die in Saturday accident, total of 10 perished

A Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch vehicle and a SUV were involved in a crash that killed 10 on June 19, including eight from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, according to Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock.

Garlock described up to 15 vehicles involved in the incident in the northbound lanes of Interstate 65.

“A vehicle likely hydroplaned on the bridge near mile marker 138,” Garlock said. “During the accident a 18-wheeler also became involved in a pileup. The driver of the truck pulled the driver of the Girls Ranch vehicle out but couldn’t get back in the vehicle as it became engulfed in flames.”

Garlock said the victims in the Girls Ranch vehicle who died ranged in age from 4 to 17.

June 23

Lanett approves new access road to airport

the Lanett City Council approved a resolution to seek a $6.7 million federal grant to build a new access road to the Lanett Municipal Airport.

June 26

GDOT announces roundabout construction in West point

GDOT Communications Director Penny Brooks said the upcoming construction will consist of two projects combined along interstate 85 at exit 2 and State Road 18 and 103.

As part of the first project, GDOT will install three roundabouts at the State Road 108 and I-85 interchanges as well as one at the intersection of State Road 108 and State Road 103. In addition, Brooks said the stretch of road that runs between the interchange and State Road 103 will also be widened.

Another project will be west of the interchange on State Road 108 at Long Cane Creek, where GDOT will replace both east and west-bound bridges.

Brooks says the plan is to combine the projects and have them overlap to minimize the impact time.

July 1

LaFayette council discusses McClendon Building future

The LaFayette council discussed what it wanted to do with the former McClendon Trucking building, which the city purchased in 2017 to use as its new city hall.

July 2

Senator Ossoff visits Kia plant, discusses U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff visited the Kia Georgia plant in West Point to discuss the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act with members of the press.

According to Ossoff, a semiconductor shortage that has plagued the American auto industry over the past year was made worse by supply chain disruptions and the pandemic.

“Sen. [Raphael] Warnock and I have been pushing aggressively in the Senate for expedited passage of legislation that will boost American production of semiconductors, these chips that are used in auto manufacturing and in electronics production, in so many different applications,” Ossoff said.

Ossoff brought up the plant shutting down for two days in May due to concerns over the shortage.

He said the Senate passed the legislation, which includes $52 billion to support semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

July 3

West Point Fire Chief Milton Smith announces retirement

Since 2005, Milton Smith has served the city of West Point as its Fire Chief and head of its EMS services, but after 16 years as the city’s chief, Smith announced he will retire.

July 7

45 Louisiana teens volunteer with Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project

A group of 45 teens from the First Baptist Church of Minden, Louisiana are in town this week taking care of a host of needed work details for the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project (CFCP). They will be in Lanett through Friday doing volunteer work inside the ReUse Store, completing rehab work on local CFCP homes and building an entire set of walls for CFCP Home No. 66 that will be going up in West Point the first week in October.

July 10

LaFayette officer recognized as officer of year

LaFayette Police Officer Devonte Allen has been recognized as one of the Central Alabama CrimeStoppers officers of the year.

July 14

Valley cracking down on fraudulent PPP claims

The City of Valley is sent out letters to anyone in the city who received a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan but did not pay for a business license in the city.

July 15

Langdale fountain operating again after restoration

One of the most beloved spots in the Langdale community is getting a makeover. The LaFayette Lanier Memorial Park, which was dedicated in late September 1935, has a fountain that’s working once again, and it will soon be working better than ever.

July 17

McDonald’s worker wins car giveaway after being vaccinated

Shirley Hill was one of the first people in Chambers County to be diagnosed with COVID-19. She was having a bad experience with it in early 2020 before a realization had set in that something bad was on the way.

McDonald’s in Valley is owned by Jack Pezold of Columbus. He owns 20 McDonalds stores in the east-central Alabama/west-central Georgia region along with several hotels in the Columbus-Phenix City area. He has been very proactive in encouraging the employees of his businesses to get vaccinated. He gave them $50 bonuses when they got their first shot and another $50 when they got their second one.

Employees who had gotten both of them could send a copy of their vaccination card to the corporate office for a drawing to win a Nissan Leaf. Hill was the winner of the drawing.