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Charlyne DeBardelaben is honored as Union Square’s Neighbor of the Month for April. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Union Square Neighborhood Watch held its monthly meeting Monday, giving area residents the opportunity to enjoy a potluck meal while having fellowship with neighbors and hearing from elected officials.
A highlight of the meeting was a straw poll conducted by Neighborhood Watch President Steve Baker. Attendees received a ballot and were able to cast votes for their chosen candidate for each office, as well as a proposed statewide amendment, just as they would if they were at the polls.
Ballots were collected and tallied, with Baker announcing the winners of the straw poll at the end of the meeting before guests left. He said they would keep the results on hand to compare how the Union Square group’s votes compare to the official votes.
The results of the straw poll were Tim James for governor; Mike Durant for U.S. Senate; Mike Rogers for 3rd Congressional District U.S. representative; Steve Marshall for attorney general; Greg Cook for associate justice of the Supreme Court, Place 5; a tie between Wes Allen and Jim Zeigler for secretary of state; Rusty Glover for state auditor; Jeremy Oden for Public Service Commission, Place 1; Robin Litaker for Public Service Commission, Place 2; Michael Howell for sheriff; John Forbus for County Commission District 1; Taminko Kelley for County Commission District 2; Ronnie Joiner for County Commission District 4; Jenny Kimbrell for Board of Education District 5; and yes on the proposed statewide amendment.
Elected officials present for the meeting were Judge of Probate Richard Dean, Sheriff Michael Howell, Superintendent of Education David Stover, and District 3 County Commissioner Unzell Kelley. No candidates running for office were present for the meeting.
Neighborhood Watch President Baker mentioned that at the last meeting some residents had questions about in which district they reside. To help with that, Judge Dean brought a county map showing the district lines for residents to review, as well as copies of sample ballots they could take home.
Each elected official was given the opportunity to take the floor to provide updates and share information with attendees.
Sheriff Howell provided everyone with a copy of this month’s “Coosa Journal” provided by his office, and he highlighted some items from it. He also mentioned the retirement of Robert Shaw, who worked courthouse security, and new hires made at the Sheriff’s Office.
When taking questions from the audience, a question arose regarding the new law regarding concealed carry permits. Howell mentioned that he was “kind of put on the spot” with the question, adding that he would be sharing more information later.
However, he spoke some about the law and answered some questions regarding it. He said the new law goes into effect in January, but that his office will continue to issue concealed carry permits.
Howell also encouraged citizens to continue getting their permits, especially if they plan to travel, since he said the permit would still be needed to carry a concealed weapon in other states.
The law in question was just recently passed and makes Alabama the twenty-second state to allow individuals to carry concealed firearms without a permit. It essentially allows Alabama residents to carry a concealed weapon without being required to obtain a permit or undergo a background check.
Once it goes into effect on January 1, the new law will allow people to have a firearm in their jacket, purse, car, or other such concealed location without having a permit.
Superintendent Stover highlighted some news from the school system, including the robotics team going to New Orleans for a competition, the walking track getting redone, getting new bleachers for the Joe N. Belyeu Gymnasium, and the bus fleet now being all buses from 2018-2022.
He also reported that the school’s dual enrollment program with Central Alabama Community College has been a great success. He added that the nursing program is going well and that they will be doing that again next school year.
When asked about an agriculture program for the school, such as a trade school course, Stover said that they are hoping to revive that program next year. He said they did not have anyone to teach it this year.
Stover also mentioned that the school system will be hosting a summer program and activities in June, with more information forthcoming.
Stover also highlighted the new Upward Sports program, which is currently getting ready for basketball season and cheer league. The first registration day was held Sunday afternoon, with 59 youths signing up to participate in the leagues this season.
The Upward Sports program includes weekly practices in home communities throughout the county, with weekly games held at Central Coosa’s gymnasium. Other sports will be held as the year progresses.
For more information on Upward Sports, contact Debi Stover at email@example.com or 256-401-3281, or see their Facebook page at Upward Coosa Sports.
Commissioner Kelley spoke about County Road 40 and spent time reviewing details on that road project and answering questions and concerns raised by area residents. After providing updates on the process and status of the road project, Kelley ultimately said that the road still needs to be striped, but that otherwise the project is done and meets the project specifications.
Kelley also highlighted some proposed plans for county districts utilizing the American Rescue Plan Act funding, as reported on previously. He reviewed the allocation plan that was approved by the County Commission last month.
Kelley added that the funds are going toward things needed in the county. He also advised citizens to look at investing in their own county going forward.
When asked about him not seeking reelection, Kelley stated that he made the decision not to qualify in order to give someone else the opportunity to represent District 3 and help move the county forward.
Judge Dean spoke briefly about absentee voting now being open and also reminded everyone of which car tags are due this month, encouraging them not to wait until the last day to get their tags. He also mentioned the new drivers license system that will go into effect, which will also cause the system to be down at the end of the month.
The new, state-of-the-art system; known as LEADS, or Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Driver License System, will launch on April 26.
In order to ensure all data is transferred to LEADS and that the entire system is ready for that launch day, the Drivers License Division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will shut down its offices across the state April 18-25.
Also during the meeting, Jodi McDade spoke on behalf of Tim James and Mo Brooks, candidates for governor and Alabama Senate respectively, representing their campaigns.
In conducting regular Neighborhood Watch business, the group briefly discussed possibly holding a firearm raffle again this year and having a trash pickup day for the community.
After some discussion, the group agreed to hold a spring cleanup April 18-23, giving everyone more opportunities to fit it around their schedules. Commissioner Kelley said that he would supply bags for the cleanup, courtesy of People Against a Littered State, or PALS.
Janice McKinney won this month’s door prize, which was a gift certificate to Dollar General.
Watch President Baker also recognized Charlyne DeBardelaben as this month’s Union Square Neighbor of the Month, presenting her with a certificate for that honor.
Union Square Neighborhood Watch regularly meets the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at Union Church.