Year in review: April – June

Published 11:03 am Friday, December 29, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a four-part series looking back at the year 2023 in Chambers County.

April 5

‘WE’VE HAD A HISTORIC FLOOD’ 

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The Chambers County Commission declared a state of emergency after the March 26 storms that at one point caused an impassable travel advisory for every road in the county. In a unanimous vote, the commission declared a state of emergency. Doing so allows for a quick response to the county’s needs and opens up funding to repair damages caused by natural disasters.

April 5 

Kia America announces new EV9 SUV to be produced at West Point facility

Kia America announced the all-electric 2024 EV9 SUV would be manufactured in the West Point plant at the New York International Auto Show. As the first three-row EV SUV from Kia, the EV9 is the flagship of the global Plan S strategy and a pioneer in its segment and the automotive industry.

April 8

Houston Rapper Trae Tha Truth renovating home of Martha Menefield

In April, Houston Rapper Trae Tha Truth sent out a plea for a contractor to renovate the home of 82-year-old Valley citizen Martha Menefield, who made national headlines last year after being arrested for a $78 unpaid trash bill. 

April 12

West Point public defender arrested 

In April, the City of West Point’s public defender was arrested after allegedly trying to use counterfeit money to pay for drinks, tips and dances at Commotions adult entertainment club in LaGrange. Brian Joel Aplin, 38, was arrested and charged with forgery-first degree, a felony, according to a LaGrange Police Department incident report.

April 16

Four shot, multiple others injured at Dadeville birthday party

During a press conference, local, state and federal law enforcement announced an update into the investigation of a fatal Dadeville shooting. Jeremy Burkett, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) public affairs coordinator, said a birthday party on April 15 turned into tragedy after four people were shot dead and multiple others injured.

April 20

Man killed in forklift accident at Hyundai MOBIS

A forklift operator was killed at the Hyundai MOBIS plant in West Point on April 19. Keith Wheeler, of Columbus, was killed during an apparent forklift accident at the plant.

April 26

LaFayette community celebrates new health and wellness center

The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for the new Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center in LaFayette in April. 

May 3

MATTRESS MAYHEM: More than 200 mattresses dumped in LaFayette

The city of LaFayette cleaned up approximately 200 used mattresses illegally dumped in five locations along County Road 92. The mattresses were dumped into culverts, private lanes and three major creeks along the road in city limits. About 80 mattresses and box springs were cleaned up from the first two sites.

May 6 

70-year-old achieves 45-year goal of graduating from Auburn

Sherry Potts, a 70-year-old Lanett native, has spent the last two years of her life working hard to be an inspiration for her family and for others who have a seemingly insurmountable goal. After 45 years, Potts graduated from Auburn University with her bachelor’s degree in political science in May. 

May 20

Deadline missed: What now? Cities, county must find a remedy

A new law regarding how taxes are collected in police jurisdictions, known as Act 2021-297, was introduced by State Senator Chris Elliot, R-Baldwin County, and required disclosure of revenue through police jurisdictions. LaFayette, Lanett and Cusseta, plus more than 100 others around the state, missed the March 1 deadline to file a collections report, putting tax funding in jeopardy.

June 2

Coca-Cola announces its closing West Point facility

After 50 years, the West Point Coca-Cola sales center closed on June 16. The company planned to donate its land and facility to the city of West Point, according to a press release from Coca-Cola United. Operations moved to a facility in Auburn. 

June 6

Chambers County’s Kids Fishing Rodeo makes a splash

In June, the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce held its first annual Kids Fishing Rodeo. Almost 100 kids and their families gathered around the lake at 9 a.m. to fish for 750 pounds of deposited catfish. 

June 7

Alabama moves to protect newborns with baby boxes

A bill introducing Safe Haven Baby Boxes in Alabama passed through the Senate on June 1 and was later signed by the governor. House Bill 473 gives parents 45 days to surrender a baby to the baby box at a local fire station or hospital.

June 9

Local shoppers and community leaders react to the passage of grocery tax reduction

As the grocery tax bill awaits a signature from the governor, Lanett shoppers have given the bill their stamp of approval. The bill passed with bipartisan support and granted a tax cut of 1% on food starting Sept. 1. Another tax cut would follow in Sept. 2024. 

June 12

Man dies after suffering medical emergency in Chambers County Jail

A Cusseta man was pronounced dead after suffering what was called a medical emergency while in a holding cell at the Chambers County Jail Sunday, according to a press release from the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office. 

June 18

Overturned truck carrying flammable propanol shuts down I-85 in Valley

In June, a tractor-trailer carrying approximately 6,000 to 9,000 gallons of propanol on the northbound side of Interstate 85 overturned causing an accident around mile marker 73. Propanol is a high flashpoint chemical that can ignite at a very low temperature. As a result, East Alabama Fire District Captain Levi Richardson said the decision was made to shut I-85 down in both directions between exits 70 and 77.

June 21

Springwood student Charlie Key crowned Miss Georgia Teen

Springwood student Charlie Key became a hometown hero for winning the 2023 Miss Georgia Teen Competition. Key is the first LaGrange resident to win the pageant. 

June 21

FEMA denies request for assistance after March storm

Troup County announced in June that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied the State of Georgia’s request for a major disaster declaration regarding the severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding that impacted the West Point community from March 25 – 27.

June 23

Local representatives weigh in on Supreme Court ruling to redraw Alabama’s congressional map

The Supreme Court ruled recently that Alabama’s new congressional voting map violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it dilutes political power of Black citizens. A committee was assigned to redraw the congressional map, which was later denied again by a three-panel judge. 

June 23

Court orders LaFayette HS students to stay put during new school construction

In June, Judge Keith Watkins issued an order in the desegregation case for Chambers County School District, stating that temporary consolidation at Valley High School places an undue burden on the Black students in LaFayette. However, the order also gave the school board permission to move forward with the construction of the new high school on the Valley site. 

June 27

UNVEILING A LEGACY: Historic LaFayette school site honored with landmark

Steeped in 104 years of racial history, the former Chambers County Training School site was honored with the unveiling of a historical landmark near the end of June. During the ceremony, community members and former teachers told the school’s history and impact on the education of the Black community in LaFayette.