8 months ago

Alabama jobs hang in the balance in dispute over former military facility

Several dozen high-paying jobs hang in the balance as a defense contractor and local economic development authority square off over the future of an aging military base in northeast Alabama.

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

“We worked out a deal that allowed us to lease the property, make $1.4 million in improvements to the facilities and ultimately purchase it over time,” Xtreme CEO Landon Ash explained in a recent Anniston Star op-ed. He called it “a win for the community” because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement.

“As we moved to purchase the Starships property in accordance with our agreement with the MDA, communication broke down and unfortunately spilled over into public meetings and news stories,” Ash wrote in his op-ed, which included a pitch for the two sides to put their differences aside and preserve the roughly three dozen jobs currently provided at the once-dormant facility.

“It is my desire to do whatever I can to protect these hardworking Alabamians, many of whom are veterans,” Ash wrote.

But to this point the MDA has held the line. In March, the MDA agreed to give away 900 acres of the former Army base to be turned into recreational horse trails, but there does not appear to be any companies interested in succeeding Xtreme Concepts to create additional jobs if they are forced out.

Late last week, the editorial board of the local paper urged the two sides to come together and patch up their differences.

But for now the two sides remain embroiled in a legal dispute with uncertainty continuing to surround roughly three-dozen jobs.

“I am optimistic that we can put our differences behind us, come together and do what is best for the community we all love by approving our purchase agreement,” Ash wrote.

The MDA is set to meet Thursday for another round of conversations.

The group’s executive director did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

Mooney: Why every day should be Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

As a nation, we recently mourned on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, the almost 62 million babies of all races killed by abortion since the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. This solemn occasion is the result of President Ronald Reagan’s historic 1984 Presidential Proclamation of National Sanctity of Human Life Day on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Sanctity of Life Human Sunday, the third Sunday of each January, commemorates the lives lost to abortion and proclaims protecting human life at every stage

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Life is precious and begins at conception. It’s heartbreaking and unfortunate that this is a controversial statement. I strongly believe that as a society we are judged by how we protect those who are the most vulnerable, and given the unborn cannot speak for themselves, there is no group more vulnerable. Having watched my children experience the miracle of life with their growing families and welcoming eight grandchildren into this world, as well as expecting two more, have only further cemented my unwavering belief in safeguarding the unborn’s right to life.

In 47 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, the medical community has made massive medical advances that clearly establish that life begins at conception. A heartbeat can be heard as early as six weeks after conception! Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows the unborn, and God is growing that child with a purpose in our world. The black and white ultrasound picture clearly shows this growing baby.

The day after our tribute to the millions of unborn babies, the third Monday every January, our nation honors the most famous American civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s peaceful struggle against racial discrimination and civil rights was valiant, and the delivery of his 1963 speech “I Have a Dream” was the impetus of a movement that led to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Is it coincidental that the day our nation honors the unborn, and the day our nation honors the man who was instrumental in the decision to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin are on consecutive days? I think not. As a nation, we still have unfinished business to protect the lives of the unborn as we continue our nation’s civil rights fight.

This is a fight against the worst form of discrimination, discrimination against life.

Arnold Mooney is a State Representative representing District 43 and a candidate for U.S. Senate

60 mins ago

February event promises answers to VA health care concerns

The Veterans Affairs departments of the state and federal government are teaming up to put on the Montgomery Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC).

VEAC will be on February 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Campton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery.

The agencies promise it will be a time “for veterans to get answers—and sometimes resolutions—regarding their benefits and healthcare.”

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Veterans Service Officers will be in attendance, as will workers trained to handle claims both new and existing.

The groups welcome both veterans and family members, saying the event will provide the opportunity to “receive one-on-one service to address any and all issues” with the VA.

The Alabama Department of Veterans affairs reminds those attending that “for assistance with VA claims and services, veterans should bring proper documentation about their case: DD 214, all medical records about any military and civilian disability, and dependency documents.”

Other services available at the event will be the American Red Cross, Still Serving Veterans, and job opportunities from the Alabama Department of Labor.

Anyone seeking additional information can call (334) 625-3480.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

1 hour ago

Alabama lawmakers renew push to create lifetime concealed carry permits

Members of the Alabama legislature introduced bills this week that would create a standard, statewide process for any individual that wants a concealed carry permit for a firearm. Under the proposed system, permits would be issued for terms of one year, five years or the remaining lifetime of the permit holder.

State Representative Proncey Robertson (R-Trinity) is sponsoring the effort in the House, and State Senator Randy Price (R-Opelika) is carrying the Senate version. Robertson spent over 25 years as a police officer in North Alabama.

The cost of a lifetime permit would be $200, with a reduced fee for senior citizens. Robertson wrote on Facebook that active and retired military service members would pay nothing. Currently, Alabamians can purchase a permit from their county sheriff’s office for up to five years. The price of a permit varies by county.

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Sheriff’s offices often benefit from the revenues brought in by pistol permits. Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran once told AL.com that his department depends on the income from the permits “for a number of things.”

Various efforts by Republican lawmakers to alter Alabama’s gun laws have run out of steam before becoming law in recent years.

As part of the new permitting system proposed this week, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would have a new role in streamlining the permit process and administering background checks.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of the effort, telling members they should contact their state legislators “to secure passage of this critical legislation.”

“The NRA strongly supports this streamlined permitting process,” NRA Alabama State Director Art Thomm told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“Not only would it bring much-needed 21st century technology to Alabama’s antiquated system, but it would be the first time law-abiding Alabamians were given the option for a lifetime concealed carry permit,” he added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 hours ago

Doug Jones: Schiff speech, impeachment evidence presented by House Dems ‘compelling’

In a video tweeted out by his office on Friday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) opined that evidence is “continuing to mount” against President Donald Trump as the impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate.

The video, lasting just over five minutes and 30 seconds, started with Jones praising the Thursday speech given by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the lead House impeachment managers.

Jones used Schiff’s line of, “In America, right matters,” as a theme for the video and even turned it into a hashtag when sharing the video on his personal Twitter account.

Alabama’s junior senator opened the video by reciting the line twice, placing heavy emphasis on it. He would also later close the video with the line.

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“That was the most compelling statement to me yesterday,” Jones remarked about the line.

Senator Jones’ newfound usage of #rightmatters may very well remind Alabama voters of what he tweeted when announcing his “nay” vote on confirming Justice Brett Kavanaugh: #RightSideofHistory.

Jones in his Friday video went on to say about the case presented by House Democrats, “Yesterday’s evidence was pretty compelling. It continues to get compelling.”

“Remember we have talked significantly about direct evidence,” he continued. “We have heard a lot of direct evidence on the president’s abuse of power. We’ve heard it from witnesses who talked to the president. We’ve seen press conferences. We’ve seen text messages. We’ve seen emails. Not all of those emails were provided by the administration; they were done pursuant to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and a lawsuit. But we have them nonetheless.”

“And the circumstantial evidence begins to mount,” Jones added.

He then recited the definition of circumstantial evidence as, “Proof of a chain of facts and circumstances that tend to prove or disprove a fact.”

“That is continuing to mount,” Jones asserted.

The senator commented that he is “anxious to see” what the president’s legal team will “say and do” when given the chance to present their case.

Later in the video, Jones renewed his call for Democrats to be able to call witnesses during the trial. However, he mocked the idea of “reciprocity,” the concept that Republicans would be able to call witnesses if Democrats are allowed to, as “silly.”

Jones specifically said that Hunter Biden should not be allowed to be called as a witness. Jones has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, saying that he would ultimately back whomever the Democrats nominate against Trump, no matter how radical that individual is.

Watch the full video:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Alabama State Port Authority signs concession agreement for automobile RO/RO terminal

The Alabama State Port Authority and AutoMOBILE International Terminal (AIT) this week signed a concession agreement for the $60 million automobile roll on/roll off (RO/RO) terminal currently under construction.

AIT will operate the facility when completed in early 2021.

The agreement was signed at the Port of Mobile. AIT is a joint venture between Terminal Zarate, S.A., a Grupo Murchison company headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Neltume Ports, headquartered in Santiago, Chile.

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“We’re extremely pleased to see these world class services companies invest in both our region and our port. AIT’s investment will create a new U.S. gateway for shipping finished automobiles for both U.S. and global manufacturing and consumer markets,” James K. Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, said in a statement.

The under-construction 57-acre (23.06 hectares) terminal is located on the ASPA’s main port multimodal complex, and when completed, will have an annual throughput of 150,000 units. The facility is located on Mobile Harbor and is serviced by five Class I railroads and a rail ferry service with connections throughout North America and immediate, unencumbered access to major U.S. interstate and highway systems.

The Port Authority and AIT over two years ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the automobile RO/RO terminal.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn