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Year in Review: July through December

The Franklin County Times is taking a look back at some of the top headlines from the county in July through December of 2018. Although these stories provide only a taste of the busy year Franklin County has had, they are hopefully representative of 2018 and provide an overview of this year’s happenings. If you missed the January through June recap, be sure to grab a copy of the Dec. 26, 2018, Franklin County Times.


FBC mission team gets stranded

A week-long mission trip turned into a waiting game for the 14 Russellville First Baptist Church members who left June 30 for Haiti. Their return flight was scheduled for July 7, but unforeseen circumstances in the foreign country delayed that passage by three days. Six adults, two college-aged young adults and six high school girls went on FBC’s Haiti mission trip with the goal of helping and ministering at the Faith House Orphanage in Jacmel, part of ESPWA (HOPE) Ministries. The team members’ plans took a dip Saturday, however. They were preparing to leave at 7 a.m. when they were told there were blockades on the only road from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince, where the airport is located. Riots and protests began to break out across Haiti, which caused the blockades and flight travel to be stopped.

RPD substation opens at Russellville apartments

It’s been years since the Russellville Police Department has had a substation at the Ridgecrest Apartments on Washington Avenue, but the RPD has just opened one up in an effort to improve the safety of the community. The substation is located in the office building at Ridgecrest and is accessible to RPD 24/7. “Officers will be able to come here, do paperwork, interview people and just be on the premises as a deterrent and to help,” Chief Chris Hargett said.

Vina welcomes new principal

The Franklin County Schools Board of Education recently hired Brent Gillespie as Vina’s new principal at the July 18 meeting. Gillespie has 24 years of experience in the education field. He has been a kindergarten teacher, special education teacher, middle school teacher and senior government economics teacher. At Hatton High School he served as assistant principal for nine years and then principal for seven years. “This is what I was made to do – work with kids, be around people,” Gillespie said.

Vina starts demo

July 23 marked the first phase of rebuilding Vina School’s new science building and band hall. Superintendent Greg Hamilton, Principal Brent Gillespie and State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow were present for this first phase, which is the demolition of the current building.

Town of Vina honors Mayor D.W. Franklin

For almost 20 years now the Town of Vina has had the same mayor: D.W. Franklin. He has spent those years dedicating his time and money to make the town prosper and grow. Franklin has been elected five times now, and he said he has decided his current term will be his last. July 19 Franklin’s family, friends and coworkers gathered to celebrate his nearly two decades of service to the community.

FC ‘worms’ its way into ball team name vote

Minor league baseball is coming back to North Alabama in 2020, and the team name could have had a Franklin County origin – if enough people voted for it. The team, currently named the Mobile Bay Bears, will soon call Madison home. With the relocation comes the need for a new name. Team owners said they wanted a name that would fit the area and be unique. The community was invited to suggest possible names. The one that stands out for Franklin County is the GloWorms. As the MiLB explains it, “GloWorms are rare tiny bioluminescent creatures that call the caves at Dismals Canyon in North Alabama home.”


Russellville undergoes historic register review

After several months of waiting, the City of Russellville has received word that the Alabama National Register Review Board will be taking the city’s request to be added to the National Historic Register under consideration. Sept. 27 the review board will hold a public meeting in Montgomery, and one of the items they will be discussing is the Russellville Commercial Historic District.

Governor names RES, RBHS bicentennial schools

Aug. 3 Russellville Elementary School and Red Bay High School received good news when Gov. Kay Ivey declared them two of the 200 Alabama Bicentennial Schools. “It is an honor to recognize these outstanding schools and their projects as we head into Alabama’s bicentennial year,” Ivey said. RES and RBHS made the 200-school cut out of nearly 400 proposals.

Elizabeth Ann Pierce wins FC Distinguished Young Woman

The annual Northwest Alabama Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program was held at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Norton Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Alabama. The theme for this year was “Becoming Your Greatest Self.” Elizabeth Ann Pierce of Russellville High School was selected as Franklin County’s 2019 Distinguished Young Woman and will represent Franklin County in the state program in January 2019.

FCSO launches mobile app

In this age of rising digital technology, many organizations are finding ways to be more accessible through smartphones and other devices. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has made a big step in that direction by releasing a mobile app. The free app, called Franklin CSO, is available through iTunes and the Google Play store.


Red Bay welcomes Girard Systems

The City of Red Bay is making great strides toward industrial development – a fact council members celebrated at the Sept. 17 city council meeting. Mayor Charlene Fancher announced Girard RV Awnings, or Girard Systems, will be opening a branch in Red Bay in the West Franklin Industrial Park. Tiffin Motorhomes orders its awnings exclusively from Girard, but the company also provides awning services to other customers as well, Fancher said. The company is planning to provide 40 RV parking spots for customers who are getting their awnings serviced and 10 cottages for customers to stay in, as well. The new industry later broke ground in November.

FCBOE makes financial history

The Franklin County Board of Education made an exciting announcement at the Sept. 11 board meeting: for the first time since the 2003 Accountability Act that requires the school system to have a one-month fund balance, Franklin County has met that requirement. This landmark was achieved in large part thanks to FEMA finally providing the system with funding that was promised after the 2011 storms.

Former FCT owner, publisher passes away

Former Franklin County Times owner and Alabama Press Association president Claude E. Sparks, 89, passed away Sept. 19 at his home in Huntsville. Sparks was a committed journalist, dedicated to bringing superior news coverage to Franklin County. Dec. 24, 1953, following his purchase of the Franklin County Times, he published an editorial that read, “It is our earnest desire to serve you to a greater degree in the next and succeeding years. We serve you honestly to the best of our abilities. We are appreciative of your patronage, whether you are a reader, a subscriber, an advertiser or a resident.”


 State superintendent visits TES

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey took the time to visit Tharptown Elementary School Oct. 10, where he toured the building and classrooms and interacted with the students. “He seemed like a genuine person and like he enjoyed the visit and our unique school,” Principal Kelby Daniel said. The main focus of their conversation was on the growth and development TES has seen over the past few years.

North Alabama Medical Center celebrates grand opening with week of events

It’s been nearly eight years in the making, but North Alabama Medical Center is set to open to patients Dec. 6. The long-awaited opening will be marked with a week-long celebration, Nov. 3-11.

FC boy recovers from rare virus

The famous quote “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers” might be true, but the Vincent family is thanking God every day for their most recent answered prayers. Kevin and Hannah Vincent’s 3-year-old son Benjamin Vincent was recently diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis. Within a day of diagnosis, Benjamin was beating the odds and showing signs of recovery.

Worship center collapses

It was a nightmare on Jackson Avenue for owner Wayne Miller and the New Beginnings Worship Center as the front of the building crumbled Oct. 24. Around 3 p.m. at 127 Jackson Ave., in Russellville, Miller and his grandson were outside when the front of the property began to fall down. They were able to move out of the way in time to escape injury, and it wasn’t long before officials were on the scene managing the disaster. The property was later deeded to the city and sold to the highest bidder, Hovater’s Metal Works.


County votes Morrow, Kiel

Franklin County had 8,949 ballots cast in the Nov. 6 general election. The total voter turnout was at 48 percent. As far as straight party voting, 30 percent voted Democratic and 69 percent voted Republican. Johnny Mack Morrow (D) received the majority of votes against Larry Stutts (R) for State Senator District 6. Morrow had 54 percent of the votes, and Stutts had 45 percent of the votes.

Jury finds Gargis guilty

After a four-week trial, a jury finally delivered a verdict on Shannon Gargis. Nov. 7 the jury declared Gargis guilty of manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. “We hoped the jury would find him responsible for the death and abuse of the child, and we’re pleased that they reviewed the case thoroughly and reached this verdict,” said district attorney Joey Rushing.


Community Spirit Bank announces plans for Belgreen High School Bulldog Branch

Community Spirit Bank has formally announced plans to implement a new student-led Bulldog Branch of Community Spirit Bank on the Belgreen High School campus. “Community Spirit Bank places great emphasis on advancing the financial literacy of the students in our local schools, and we are excited about our new partnership with Belgreen High School,” said CSB vice president and senior marketing director Emily Mays.