2023 was a busy year for Jackson County and the City of Scottsboro. As reported by The Clarion Newspaper, the year began with Nourish One Child receiving $100,000 from the Jackson County Commission. The Commission designated American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the program. The funds were awarded and used to provide nourishing food items to students in the Jackson County Board of Education system.
The City of Scottsboro, with the help of other volunteers and Jim Olyniec, completed the installation of pickle ball courts. The courts were built in front of Bynum Park and are now open to the public.
With Scottsboro’s growth, the year brought several traffic changes. After months of construction, the County Park Road Project was completed. The project included new traffic sequences in both the north bound and south bound lanes of John T. Reid Parkway. New traffic lights were also installed in front of the recently opened Whataburger and High Country Toyota. With the help of the Scottsboro City Council, changes were made to the intersection of Veterans Drive and Micah Way. Council members approved a resolution to award a bid of $359,997.20 and approved a contract for the Micah Way Rehabilitation and Resurfacing Project to Rogers Group.
In late Spring of 2023, Scottsboro’s Community Development Block Grant began working to tear down condemned structures throughout the City of Scottsboro. With the approval of the property owners, the structures were demolished and cleared.
Prior to her death in March 2023, former Skyline High School teacher, historian and one of Jackson County’s finest, Mrs. Joyce Kennamer established a scholarship through the Skyline Farms Heritage Association to honor a former student and fellow teacher. Kennamer established the scholarship in honor of Deborah L. Helms. Kennamer stated, “I first recognized Debbie’s desire to help others as senior sponsor of her 1983 graduating class. When she returned to Skyline as a teacher, Debbie immediately made a positive impact on students and the community. Throughout her career, Debbie has given back to the people of Skyline. I’m happy to be able to help a deserving student in her honor, and I hope others who have been blessed by Debbie will donate to the scholarship fund.”
Ann B. Chambless’s memory was honored by The Scottsboro Tree Commission, who planted a tree in her honor. Chambless was well known for writing and cataloguing the Jackson County Chronicles, a compendium of Jackson County’s rich history, first published in 1975. Chambless was also responsible for the preservation of the historic Brown-Proctor House, which now houses the Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Museum. Chambless was also instrumental in the preservation of the Scottsboro Railroad Depot Museum while also preserving the historic Scottsboro Depot.
The City of Scottsboro announced that increases in revenue had been seen across the board. Sales tax reportedly increased by 11.4 percent; property taxes increased by 19.85 percent; business license increased by 29.52 percent; TVA in-lieu-of-tax dollars increased by 8 percent; the lodging tax increased by 6.55 percent; and budget revenue increased by a total of 7.89 percent.
During Scottsboro Mayor Jim McCamy’s State of the City Address in 2023, he announced several projects. These included plans for a $ 2.2 million, 30,000 square feet warehouse addition, creating eight new jobs in the Scottsboro Industrial Park and the installation of a 16-inch water main by Scottsboro WSG. McCamy stated that the main target was future residential, commercial and industrial growth, along Crawford Road from Highway 35 to Highway 72. McCamy also announced that during 2022, new retail brought 32 projects totaling $17.3 million in investments and 52 remodel projects totaled $8.3 million, including The Chik-fil-A site project, the Dunkin Donuts project, the Jersey Mike’s project and the What A Burger project. He also announced 450 new jobs in retail in the City of Scottsboro. Housing Development plans were approved to provide up to 80 single-family homes including a development on Snodgrass Road with eight new single-family homes; Snodgrass Road apartment development; and a Crawford Road apartment development with 56 units.
Sheriff Chuck Phillips announced his retirement in 2023. Phillips retired during his unexpired term on April 1, 2023. On Friday, April 14, 2023, Jackson County District Judge Don Word swore in Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen, who was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to serve the remainder of Phillip’s four-year term.
The local VFW announced several awards in 2023. For the Illustrating America Art Contest, K-8, the winners were: Jaxon Summers, Sadie Lewis, Kailey West, Ariel Chen, Maeleigh Golden, Chloe Keeter, Christion Petty, Lauren Woodall, Lydianne Passmore, Lindsey Popper, Coty Roberts, Brandon Phillips and Patrick Allen.
Ariel Chen, an 11th grade Scottsboro High School student, was recently recognized at the Scottsboro Board of Education meeting. Chen was awarded 1st place in the VFW Post 6073, Jackson County “Young American Patriotic Art Contest”, in both 2022 and 2023. In 2023 Chen was also awarded and received 1st place in the State Competition.
Construction on the campus of Caldwell Elementary School for classroom additions and a new gymnasium were announced and began just before the first day of school. The projects, costing $9.9 million, began just prior to August 2023. The project included the addition of 10 classrooms, a work room and restrooms. The auxiliary gym will consist of approximately 10,000 square feet, which would include about 8,500 square feet of play area.
The Jackson County Commission unanimously voted and approved a resolution and loan agreement in the amount of $4.5 million with repayment over 15 years. The funds were dedicated to road and bridge work in Jackson County.
Five Alabama schools, including Skyline High School, were named as a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups on assessments.
Jackson County’s Greg Bell, with WWIC AM 1060 was named as Broadcaster of the Year and inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Scottsboro’s own, Dr. Clyde Wilson Butler, Jr. has been awarded the Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award. This award is based on character, contributions to society, professional achievement and service to fellow men. Previous honorees for the award, include John Croyle, Bart Starr, Ozzie Newsome, Lee Roy Jordan, Jeremiah Castille and Sylvester Croom.
A Stand your Ground hearing was held in the case of Defendant, Jerry “J.J.” Carl Hicks, Jr. Hicks is charged with the murder of Aaron Morris Nix, who was shot in April 2023.
The Kevin Dukes Career and Innovation Center held its grand opening ceremonies. The Ceremony was attended by hundreds. The Center takes the place of Jackson County’s Ernest Pruet Center of Technology.
The annual CEO Expo, which began in 2011 was held at the Kevin Dukes Career and Innovation Center, after being cancelled due to Covid for a couple of years.
Scottsboro City Council announced and discussed that several Scottsboro businesses have failed to pay the collected sales tax as provided by law. The Council is currently working to implement a plan of action against these businesses. Council members also discussed the businesses being submitted to the Jackson County District Attorney for review by a Grand Jury for criminal charges.
Northeast Alabama Community College (NACC) was recognized by Intelligent.com as the best community college in Alabama. NACC was awarded the top ranking after receiving an “Intelligent Score” of 99. This ranking was awarded as part of Intelligent.com’s Best Community Colleges in Alabama 2024 report.
The Huey helicopter obtained by the Veterans Memorial Park and transported to Scottsboro in December 2022 was restored and placed at the Memorial Park.
Google announced awards in the amount of $210,000 in grant funding to five recipients in Scottsboro, Stevenson and surrounding communities. Funding will support projects providing technological equipment to stimulate early STEM-focused learning, expanding higher ed dual enrollment opportunities, implementing programs aimed at increasing literacy skills, and distributing meals to food-insecure schoolchildren. Jackson County Board of Education, Northeast Alabama Community College, Scottsboro Public Library, Jackson County’s Twenty First Century Council Impact Learning Center and Nourish One Child were the recipients of the grants.
Qualification for the 2024 election cycle ended in November. Local offices on the upcoming ballot include United States Representative District 5; Jackson County Circuit Court Judge; Jackson County Circuit Clerk; Jackson County Probate Judge; Jackson County Commission District 3; Jackson County Commission District 4; Jackson County Board of Education District 1 and Jackson County Board of Education Superintendent. On the Democratic ballot incumbent John H. Graham qualified for Jackson County Circuit Court Judge. Graham will face Payton Edmiston who qualified on the Republican ballot. Republican incumbent Bart Buchanan will run unopposed for his position as the Jackson County Circuit Clerk. Republican incumbent Victor Manning will also run unopposed for his position as the Jackson County Probate Court Judge. For Jackson County Commission District 3 Republican incumbent A.J. Buckner will face Hugh Lewis, Jr. For Jackson County Commission District 4 Republican incumbent Kevin McBride will face Mike Sisk. For Jackson County Board of Education District 1 Republican Mike Matthews will face David Blizzard. For Jackson County Board of Education Superintendent Republican incumbent Jason Davidson will run unopposed.
In August 2023, David Wayne Adams, of Pisgah, was found guilty by a jury in Jackson County on three counts of Sexual Abuse of a Child under 12; three counts of Rape 2nd degree; three counts of Sodomy 2nd degree; two counts of Enticing a Child for Immoral Purposes; one count of Production of Obscene Matter with a Child under 17; and one count of Sexual Abuse 2nd degree. Jackson County Circuit Judge M. Brent Benson’s courtroom handed down one of the largest, if not the largest sentence in Jackson County history. Adams was sentenced to ten life sentences, two sentences of 99 years and one sentence of 12 months. Each sentence was ordered to run consecutively. Adams will not be eligible for probation or parole.
Just prior to Veteran’s Day, Jackson County lost its oldest, and one of the last living, World War II Veterans, Vesta Lou Skelton. Skelton would have celebrated her 104th birthday on December 19. Skelton stated in a recent interview that what she wanted most out of life was to make a difference. This goal was achieved throughout her life. Skelton will always be remembered as a positive, kind, caring and loving person. Skelton can be credited for many positives throughout our community.
Scottsboro City Council was questioned by Scottsboro Board of Education Dr. Gary Speers regarding the Scottsboro School Resource Officer Program. Speers spoke regarding the safety of Scottsboro School children. Scottsboro City Council President Richard Bailey explained to Speers, “I appreciate your speech. I could have stopped you early. Whatever misinformation you’ve been given, this council, mayor and police chief are actually working on a program right now that will put SROs in your schools longer than they are right now. Yes, it will save the city money. That is our job, is to save the city money.” Bailey stated, “There will be a different title. Yes, they can make more money than a regular retiree. So, we are going to look at a program that can actually keep them in our schools for a lot longer than they are now. So, your kids are covered more for less money. There will be more hours available to be used. Now your board will have to make decisions because you’re financially responsible for three, where we are responsible for two. So, your board will have to make those decisions on how many hours you want them there.”
In 2023 the State of the County address was given by Jackson County Commission Chairman Bill Nance. Growth in Jackson County’s population has led to growth in our key economic areas,” stated Nance. Nance announced that 2023 data showed that appraised value of Jackson County real and personal property has increased to $611 million. Single family homes have increased to 18,103 and business and personal property accounts has grown to 2,129.” Nance explained Jackson County’s workforce data shows that the county unemployment rate was 2.3% as of July 2023, with the national average being 3.8%. The county’s top industrial sectors are manufacturing, retail, trade, healthcare, public administration, education, hospitality and food services, construction and agriculture. Jackson County’s gross domestic product, as of the end of 2022, was slightly above $1.5 billion. Nance stated that Jackson County is seeing a growing expansion of existing and new retail across the county that is adding jobs and increasing county revenue. Also, the expansion of existing and new industries has accounted for a capital investment of over $124.5 million. Nance explained that the top ten industrial employers accounted for 3,794 employees. Nance announced that with the 2024 budget, they were able to give a 5% cost of living raise to Jackson County employees. Two Sheriff’s deputies were added to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and a strip paving road crew has been added to Public Works. The supplement for family health insurance has also been increased. He also announced that the county plans to renovate the former Department of Human Resources building on Liberty Lane. Once renovated, Jackson County Revenue Commission offices, Jackson County Probate and Community Action will be moved to the building. The renovations are expected to begin February 2024.
Kevin Baugh with JMR+H spoke regarding the 65% design for courthouse structural repairs and the Liberty Lane Courthouse Annex.
Baugh reported that the final floor plan and layout for Liberty Lane will include updated lighting and energy efficient features, among other things. Jackson County Probate Court, Jackson County Extension Services, Jackson County Driver’s License offices, Jackson County Mapping and Appraisal and Jackson County Community Action will be housed in the Annex. The cost of the project is approximately $2.2 million.
A motion to approve and sign ADEM grant agreements in the amount of $450,000 for Jackson County Public Works’ storm water projects was approved.
In November 2023 SEPB announced that it had installed two fast chargers at their main office located at 404 E. Willow Street through a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), and Seven States Power Corporation.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization, is awarding a record $1.5 million in grants to educators in public schools to develop science, technology, engineering, and math education projects across the Tennessee Valley region.
The competitive STEM classroom grant program is operated in partnership with the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network managed by the Battelle organization. The program received 715 grant applications this year, and 343 were selected for funding. 69 of those were to Alabama schools. Five Jackson County schools were awarded the grant and included, Bridgeport Elementary School, Caldwell Elementary School, Kevin Dukes Career and Innovation Academy, Scottsboro Junior High School and Stevenson Elementary School.
Grants up to $5,000 were awarded in a competitive process, and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic development, and community problem-solving.
by Heather Dohring