In a three day celebration that included a Grand Ball on Friday, March 8, Community Impact Day, Saturday, March 9 and A Sisterhood Luncheon, Sunday, March 10 at Embassy Suits in Tuscaloosa, the Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority observed its 40th chapter anniversary. The chapter, organized in 1978 currently has an active membership of 32. Isaac N. Atkins serves as chapter president. Nancy Cole served as 40th Anniversary Committee chairperson. Photo above shows the majority of participants at the Sisterhood Luncheon on Sunday, with chapter members and guests. The Greene County DST Chapter sponsored a Community Impact Day, as part of its 40th year celebration, for local residents in appreciation of the support the chapter receives for its projects and programs. Impact Day, held at the Eutaw Activity Center, included service booths, games, food and fellowship. The Sisterhood Luncheon gave tribute to charter members of the chapter and the former chapter presidents. — Photo by Cythina Crawford
Shown L To R: Shirley Ezell, Carolyn Young, Marva Smith, Miriam Leftwich, Tameshia Porter, Isaac Atkins, Phillis Belcher, Johnni Strode Morning, Carol Zippert and Jacqueline Allen
The Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. partnered with the Greene County Department of Human Resources to provide Christmas gifts for a local family of 10 children. The sorority members provided toys, games, books, various electronics as well as clothing for each child in the family. All the gifts were selected in attempts to fulfill the wishes of the children. The various lists of the children’s wishes were provided by the DHR staff.
Mr. Wilson Morgan is Director of the Greene County DHR office.
Mrs. Carolyn Young and Ms. Jackie Allen serve as chairperson and co-chairperson, respectively, of the DST Chapter’s Adopt-A-Family Committee. Mrs. Isaac Atkins serves as Chapter President.
Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Senator Doug Jones and Shown L to R: Greene County participants in Summit, Lovie Parks Burrell, Debbie Duncan, John Zippert, Phillis Belcher, Beverly Gordan and Johnny Coleman, Jr.
The University of West Alabama in Livingston held an all day ‘Summit on Rural Technology” on Friday, April 13, 2018. The session was attended by 200 political and community leaders from the Alabama Black Belt and surrounding communities.
The session highlighted the importance of high-speed internet connectivity and digital literacy for economic development, health care, education and quality of life for the future in all communities of Alabama. The session illuminated that not all communities, especially rural communities and the Alabama Black Belt area, were prepared and positioned to equitably access to the ‘broadband highways’ of the future.
In his keynote address, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama said “270,000 people in rural parts of Alabama do not have access to high speed internet and there was a need for equal access and opportunity for all zip codes in the state.
Jones said, “ The state’s economy depends on high-speed broadband and this is a bi-partisan issue which transcends the division between political parties.’ He also said that internet access was a key to ending the ‘homework gap’ between well-heeled urban/suburban school districts and rural areas. “Ending the internet access gap will also improve the availability of healthcare and telehealth capabilities in the rural communities of the state,” stated Jones.
Jones reported that $600 million was appropriated in the latest budget for USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) programs to improve broadband access in rural areas. Senator Jones said his staff would be working to help businesses and communities that wanted to take advantage of these programs.
Dr. Roberto Gallardo of the Purdue University Center for Regional Development gave the opening talk on Rural Development in the Digital Age. He said, “Big data will be the oil of the 21st century. The digital economy has a 6.5% share of the total economy or $1.2 trillion. Rural on-line transactions today are $1.4 trillion annually.”
As an example of the exponential growth of the internet economy, Gallardo said, “Airbnb generates an average of $6,700 in income for its members. In four years, it has grown to offer 600,000 rooms. It took Hilton Hotels 93 years to grow to offer 600.000 rooms!”
Gallardo called young people “digital natives” and said they have grown up with digital skills that the rest of us must catch-up and master as well or we will be left behind in the coming ‘digital economy’.
Gallardo said that the digital future was at least 25 megabits of information down and 3 megabits up. Communities without these capabilities would miss out on the benefits of the coming digital economy. “Digital exclusion may be our gravest problem in the future,” said Gallardo.
C. Wayne Hutchens of Alabama A. T. &T spoke on some of the technical innovations that his company was pursuing and testing to bring high speed internet to more people. He spoke about small cell technology to reduce the need for large-scale towers in congested areas. These small cells could be placed on lampposts, mostly in cities. He also said that AT&T’s Project AirGig was testing ‘inductive coupling’ which was a way of transmitting high-speed internet in conjunction with electrical power lines. “If these trials work then we will have a way to serve more rural communities,” said Hutchens.
The Rural Technology Summit also has a panel of Alabama State Legislators that spoke on state funds that will be available for broadband access in rural areas. There was also a panel featuring Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville and Mayor Gary Fuller of Opelika on ways they were providing broadband to businesses and residents in their municipalities. Fuller explained that Opelika had a municipally owned electric system which had borrowed $43 million in bonds to finance proving high speed internet anywhere in the city limits of Opelika. This system was serving as an incentive to attract businesses of all kinds to the east Alabama city.
At the end of a challenging day of information, Dr. Tina N. Jones of the University of West Alabama said the summit was the beginning of an effort by the university to reach-out and assist rural communities in west Alabama to benefit from the growing digital economy.
Phillis Belcher and Tiffany Gribsy talking to John Laney, Mayor of Demopolis
The Greene County Industrial Development Authority together with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority and the Marengo County Economic Development Authority sponsored a catfish dinner and barge ride last week to promote waterway transportation as a key element of an industrial and economic development strategy for the area.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the GCIDA, indicated, “Greene County has a thousand acre, Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee, that is served by the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Interstate Highway System, Colonial Pipeline and major railroads. We have one petroleum storage and distribution business in our park, which has a docking and loading facility on the waterway.”
“We supported this dinner and barge trip to promote our industrial park, which has sites for several potential industries, to insure that state and Federal officials as well as private industry representatives are aware of Greene County and other neighboring sites in the Black Belt. Greene County is surrounded by waterways and rivers. The Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway is our eastern boundary; the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway borders our county to the west. We also have the Sipsey River, which is not channelized to our north.”
The dinner on Thursday night, May 26, 2017 was held at the Demopolis Civic Center and attended by 100 public officials from Greene, Marengo and Hale counties. Greene County Commissioners Lester “Bop” Brown and Allen Turner attended as well as Mayor McAlpine and City Council members from Forkland. Several GCIDA Board members including: Dr. Warren Burke, Teresa Beeker and John Zippert also attended the dinner.
On Friday morning, a group of 40 people, boarded a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging and maintenance barge, docked in Demopolis for a three hour trip on the river system. The barge, which is generally used to maintain the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, took the group from the dock down river to the Demopolis Lock and then back north to the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers and five miles, up the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway.
Mitch May, Director of the TTWDA, based in Columbus, Mississippi said his organization was “a four state compact of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky to promote development of industrial and recreational sites along the waterway in cooperation with the state, Federal and local governments, like the Greene County IDA.”
Danny Hensley of the USACoE office in Tuscaloosa, pointed out during the barge ride, “that you can go anywhere East of the Mississippi on the waterway systems; and that the Tennessee Tombigbee and Black Warrior Waterways are a reliable, dependable and cost effective way to ship materials within the U. S. and to international destinations through the Port of Mobile.”
Phillis Belcher, Tiffany Grigsby (Vice Chair) and John Zippert (Secretary) of the Greene County IDA participated in the barge ride.
The barge passed under the Highway 43 Bridge and went past the Demopolis Cement Plant, which relies on barge transportation to ship in raw materials and to ship out its finished products. On the trip the barge met other barges going in both directions, many fishing boats with people enjoying the water and passed many fishing camps nestled along the banks of the river. The barge travels at about 5 to 8 miles an hour depending on currents and load.
“We were not able to take the barge up the Tombigbee to the Crossroads site at Boligee because of the distance. It takes 7 to 8 hours to reach our park by barge from Demopolis. We will plan another trip from the Heflin Lock at Gainesville, on the river to Crossroads some time in the future and invite more Greene County people to experience the values of barge transportation and our location on the waterway,” said Belcher.
The Greene County Commission held a work session on Wednesday, January 4 and its regular meeting on Monday, January 9, 2017.
The Commission appointed John Robert Isley II to the position of Assistant County Engineer to assist Willie Branch, County Engineer. Isley is a native of Springfield, Ohio who attended Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama and graduated in 2007 with a B. S. degree in Civil Engineering from A&M.
Isley has eight years experience with private engineering firms including Civil Solutions LLC of Huntsville (now Goodwin, Mills and Caywood), Geo Solutions, LLC and Babbs Engineering Consultants, LLC.
“Greene County is the first public organization that I have worked with but I bring a skill set with similar projects in the private sector,” said Isley. He is not married and plans to live in Greene County.
“ I went to Alabama A & M because I wanted to go to an HBCU which had all the engineering classes that I needed. It was a good choice for me and I urge young people who are interested in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to study hard and you can achieve any goal you set for yourself. Be patient and ask questions, people will help you learn, develop and grow on the job, “said Isley.”
Paula Bird, Chief Financial Officer gave the Commission a financial updated report for the first quarter of the 2016-17 fiscal year from October 1 to December 31, 2016. The Commission had $4.3 million in all bank accounts, plus $681,728 in bond sinking funds and an additional $390,094 and $86,031 in other bond servicing funds. The expenditures are within the 25% range, which is on target with the quarterly budget requirements.
In the General Fund, which covers salaries and expenses for most basic county services, $803,338 (26%) of the $3,143, 228 budget has been expended to December 31, 2016. The Commission approved $445,897 to pay all bills and claims for last month.
The Commission has received bids on the lighting project for the inside and outside of the Eutaw Activity Center. The bids are being evaluated for several factors and no action was taken at this meeting on this project, which is funded by grants.
Willie Branch, County Engineer reported that the solid waste exemption period has ended for persons on fixed incomes to apply for garbage stickers. Garbage will not be picked up unless the garbage can has the appropriate sticker, which has a number that has been assigned by the Solid Waste Department. Stickers are not available from the garbage truck operators but are issued only at the Greene County Engineers office.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority reported on an anticipated expansion of the WestRock box manufacturing plant in the Eutaw Industrial Park, which is expected to begin in the next six months. She will return to report on more of the details when they are available for action by the Commission.
The Commission requested and heard a report on the work of the Community Services Program of West Alabama which offers services to low income people in the Greene County community including help with utility bills, weatherization of homes, food pantry, Headstart and other programs. The Commission urged CSP of West Alabama to do more outreach and contact new people about its services instead of cycling the same people through each time. Latonji Hamilton who made the presentation for CSP promised to do a better job in the future.
The Commission approved travel for the County Engineer and Assistant County Engineer to attend training and regional meetings.
Probate Judge Judy Spree presented a resolution at the work session from the Alpha Epsilon Iota chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Shelton State Community College concerning an honors project for Greene County officials to symbolically reaffirm their oath of office and maintain ethical standards of operation. The Commission at the regular meeting tabled the resolution.