Top 10 stories of ‘05
By By MICHELE GERLACH – Publisher
As the calendar rolls over to 2006, here's a look back at the Top 10 stories for 2005 in the Brewton area.
1. Changing of the guards. Perhaps the top story for the Brewton-East Brewton area for 2005 was the changing of the guards, so to speak.
Both Brewton and East Brewton named new police chiefs. First, B.C. Cooper was named East Brewton's chief when longtime Chief Wilson Mallard retired after 11 years on the job. When Brewton's Chief, David “Mickey” Lovelace retired in the fall, the Brewton Council named Monte McGougin chief. Lovelace had worked with the department for 25 years and spent approximately five as chief.
Cooper came to East Brewton from Lowndesboro, where he was chief. McGougin worked as an investigator with the domestic violence task force when he was named Brewton's chief.
2. Hurricanes, again. Escambia County fell victim to hurricanes again when Hurricane Dennis passed through in early July. Dennis turned out the lights in this end of the county for about four days, but caused more serious damage in the Flomaton and Atmore areas, where city officials found themselves dealing with major damages.
In August, Escambia County dodged the major bullet of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall far enough west of Escambia County to interrupt business only one day.
3. Soldiers killed in Iraq. The War in Iraq was one of the top stories for the United States in 2005. Unfortunately, the ravages of that war were felt here, when two local families learned they had lost sons in Iraq.
Christopher Winchester, son of Gail and Greg Williams of Flomaton and Al Winchester of Brewton, was working border patrols near Jordan when he was killed, in Iraq in July. He was 24.
In December, Staff Sgt. and Brewton native Philip L. Travis did at Tallil Air Base in Iraq. The 41-year-old was the son of James Otis Travis of Brewton and a city native.
4. Anniversary year. Time marches on! And people, places and events keep getting more mature.
In 2005, the Alabama Blueberry Festival, hosted each year by the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce, marked its 25th anniversary; Jefferson Davis Community College turned 40; First United Methodist Church of East Brewton celebrated its centennial; and the City of Brewton marked its 125th birthday.
5. Highway consensus. The county commission voted in December to support the Town of Flomaton in an agreement it had with Gov. Bob Riley for the four-laning of Hwy. 113 from Hwy. 31 to I-65 as a hurricane evacuation route. Riley promised the state would do the project if Flomaton could find $5 million. They've found $4 million in commitments from Florida, and with the help of the county, will commit $1 million themselves.
6. Regional effort. A regional economic development effort that began as the Tri County Industrial Development Authority and later repositioned as Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority got off to a great start, announcing in June it had raised $2.2 million with which to promote economic development in Escambia, Monroe and Conecuh counties.
CGEDA opened its new office at near the I-65 and Hwy. 41 interchange and celebrated the event with a reception that drew attendance from state and local officials.
7. National contenders. A group of 25 Brewton Middle School students and four teachers who coached them participated in the National Science Olympiad at the University of Illinois in May. They earned one of Alabama's two berths in the national finals when they finished second in the state competition in March.
8. Violent crime. The Greater Brewton area continues to be a safe place to live. There was one murder in the east end of the county, and the death of a man whose body was found behind Fred's in East Brewton was determined to be of natural causes.
Eugene Dubose, 74, was found dead at his home on Judge Level Road outside of Damascus in August. His death was ruled a homicide and two people have been indicted in his death.
Thomas “Jeff” Grantham was found dead near Fred's Discount Store in East Brewton the same week, but an autopsy determined he died of natural causes.
In November, a 41-year-old Brewton woman who had last been seen leaving the American Legion was found in the middle of Hwy. 31. Jeri A. Philyaw was LifeFlighted to a Pensacola hospital but later died.
9. Drugs and more drugs. The Brewton Police Department, along with the 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force, made perhaps the biggest marijuana bust ever when they confiscated 306 pounds of marijuana valued at $489,000 in October. The illegal substance was recovered after police stopped a suspicious vehicle on Belleville Avenue in the wee hours of the morning. The driver fled the scene on foot, but was later arrested in Montgomery.
In December, a Brewton man was arrested in Texas when border patrol agents recovered more than 600 pounds of marijuana in a tractor-trailer rig he was driving.
10. Animal cruelty. Early in 2005, the Escambia County Humane Society took over the operation of the animal shelter in Brewton. The Humane Society had a busy year, headlined by the rescue in June of 54 animals being hoarded in an abandoned mobile home on Hwy. 29 with no electricity, no running water and little ventilation. The temperature inside the trailer was 100 degrees with the Humane Society rescued the eight dogs, full-grown prairie dog, 31 exotic birds and 14 chickens.
The women who were hoarding the animals were located, but no charges were pressed in an effort to speed the adoption processes for the animals.