Entries from March 2008 ↓

Marine police target drunk boaters

Each year Alabama Marine Police have their hands full patrolling the waterways. With the number of boaters picking up when the weather gets warmer, it just raises the chances for them finding someone boating under the influence.

That’s exactly what happened over the weekend.

“Every boat we came in contact with had somebody drinking on board,” said Sgt. Joseph Kelley who says while the problem has become more apparent over the last few years, the excuses aren’t really changing. “Mostly the standard answer to any time we ask how much they’ve had to drink is two beers. So that’s usually a sign that they’ve had more than that,” Kelley went on to say.

Marine police target drunk boaters

Portuguese Man of War Invade Gulf Coast Beaches

Gulf coast beaches are being invaded by something more dangerous than spring breakers.

Portuguese man of war are washing ashore from Pensacola to Gulf Shores and that’s reason enough to stay out of the water. With overcast skies, a misty rain and strong easterly winds, it wasn’t the best day to be on the beach and most everyone stayed away except for one visitor that is not welcome, Portuguese man of war.

Purple flags are up in Pensacola, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores warning swimmers of the danger.

Portuguese Man of War Invade Gulf Coast Beaches

‘Data warehouse’ to help teachers

State Assistant Superintendent Ruth Ash said a “data warehouse” should become operational later this spring, giving teachers online access to 2006 and 2007 data from the Alabama Reading and Math Test and Stanford Achievement Test, as well as demographic data.

The information will be password protected, Ash said, and test scores will be added in each subsequent year. So, in three years, teachers will have access to five years of student data, a move aimed at improving student performance and helping teachers target at-risk students.

Baldwin County Superintendent Faron Hollinger said principals may ask teachers to put together a report that shows the past performance of a single demographic group. That could take hours for a teacher to compile, but the data warehouse will eliminate that problem, he said.

‘Data warehouse’ to help teachers

Expat hangout in Gulf Shores

Formerly an insurance agent’s office, the squat building a mile north of the beach on Alabama 59 is now furnished with funky Italian sofas, wall-hung flat-screen televisions and several computers.

When the sign arrives, it will announce the facility as the 831 House, a gathering place for young foreign workers offering free Internet access, international sports and news programming on the tube, English lessons, access to social services and even necessities like toiletries and medical attention. Basically just about anything a college kid from Estonia or Thailand might need during his or her stay in south Baldwin County will be available.

The brainchild of Mike and Cynthia Harding, the 831 House will be free to any foreign workers who need its services. The Hardings said they’ll fund their charitable enterprise through a nonprofit they started, called the 831 Foundation. The 831 is a sort of code the Fairhope couple has that stands for “I love you,” they said. “Eight letters, three words, one meaning.”

EXPAT HANGOUT

In state tests, participation is key

One student can make a difference. In school of 500 students, only 25 students can be absent, even if they’re sick, or the school will not meet state standards.

“That’s why it’s important for them to be there,” said Daphne East Elementary Principal Tommie Conaway.

Over the past few years, several local schools have been hurt by the 95 percent participation rule. In 2006, two Baldwin County schools — Bay Minette Middle and Foley Middle — failed to meet state standards because too few students showed up to take the tests. Last year, all 42 Baldwin schools met the 95 percent requirement.

In state tests, participation is key

HealthRatings

  • Bubba’s Seafood House, 24621 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach — 78.
  • Tijuana’s Mexican Restaurant, 25637 Canal Road, Suite K-L, Orange Beach — 79.
  • Lillian Coffee Bar, 33925 U.S. 98, Lillian — 80.
  • Mani Market’s Inc., 27960 U.S. 98, Elberta — 82.
  • Waffle House No. 925, 25101 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach — 83.
  • Waffle House No. 884, 2660 S. McKenzie St., Foley — 83.
  • Reds, 27267 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach — 83.

HealthRatings

Water systesm merger vote set April 8

White House Fork Water System members will decide the future of the rural utility April 8, when a referendum will determine whether it should merge with North Baldwin Utilities.

White House Fork Water officials sent a letter to its estimated 2,000 members last week, alerting them of the vote at 6:30 p.m. April 8 at Delta Elementary School. Residents served by the water authority — which covers a swath of land stretching from Bay Minette to Spanish Fort — can vote in person or by proxy.

Under the current proposal, North Baldwin Utilities will assume all White House Fork system assets and customers and freeze rates for two years.

Merger vote set April 8

Search continues for missing boat

U.S. Coast Guard crews continued searching the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday for two boaters — one of them from Gulf Shores — and their vessel missing since the weekend.

The 35-foot sailboat, Fly Away, was reported missing Monday by the wife of one of the two men, according to Coast Guard reports.

The men were identified Thursday as Thomas Edwards, 68, of Gulf Shores and Charles Daggett, 66, of St. Petersburg, Fla., according to Coast Guard reports and public records.

Search continues for missing boat

County plans to vote on final list

On Tuesday, the Baldwin County Commission plans to approve the final Pay-As-You-Go road-building and maintenance projects. On June 3, voters will decide if they want to approve the actual Pay-As-You-Go funding mechanism.

Voters will also be asked to decide whether they support a list of projects in municipalities and in unincorporated Baldwin.

If voters approve the mechanism and the list, the commission would essentially borrow $70.3 million to repave, widen and build roads across Baldwin.

To cover the estimated $70.3 million in debt, the commission would increase property taxes, which would include vehicles, by 4 mills. A mill refers to $1 in tax for each $1,000 in assessed property value.

County plans to vote on final list

Another tax increase? We give the city and county governments enough money already. They should spend that money more wisely before coming back to citizens for more money. Pay-as-you-go or tax-as-you-spend?

Complicated testing leads to frustration

Teachers and administrators approach spring testing with such trepidation, knowing a handful of students in one demographic group — special education, for instance — could doom the school to the ranks of “school improvement.”

The federal No Child Left Behind Act’s requirement that schools track each demographic group also has a benefit: Teachers can identify groups of students who are falling behind their classmates and offer remediation and tutoring. That’s the intent of the law.

The complicated nature of the testing has been one of the most challenging features of No Child Left Behind, causing frustration for educators and parents alike. Just as baffling, schools take the tests in April but must wait several agonizing months before receiving the results.

Complicated testing leads to frustration

Mobile Bay destinations spotlighted by Southern Living

A popular lifestyle magazine now on newsstands is giving its readers some excellent reasons to visit the Alabama coast. In the April issue, Southern Living’s profile, “Spring Getaway on Mobile Bay,” touts the beauty of Bellingrath Gardens and Home near Theodore, the luxury of the Marriott Grand Hotel Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Point Clear and the quaint shopping opportunities to be found in downtown Fairhope.

Mobile Bay destinations spotlighted by Southern Living

Fairhope mayor to discuss conservation, growth

Energy conservation, preserving green space and controlling economic growth in Fairhope will be among the many impending issues Mayor Tim Kant plans to discuss this afternoon during his annual “state of the city” address at the Fairhope Civic Center.

“The city needs to adopt its own energy conservation plan,” Kant said in an interview Friday.

Tightening energy supplies throughout the world, and resulting price increases, have placed the burden on local and national leaders to encourage energy efficiency, he said. The city’s own utilities department should be part of a push for local conservation, he said.

Fairhope mayor to discuss conservation, growth

Emergency response improvement in works

Months after a make-believe gunman stormed the Central Baldwin Middle School gymnasium, county and school officials are taking steps to help improve the mental and physical safety of students in such situations.

On Jan. 3, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency and Baldwin County Public Schools held a mock school shooting. More than 40 public and private agencies used the drill to learn how to deal with a Columbine-style shooting.

On Friday, county and school officials discussed some of the lessons learned and actions they are implementing to improve school staffers’ response. The conversation took place during a three-hour joint meeting of the County Commission and school board at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center on the Causeway.

Emergency response improvement in works

Daphne Rec complex master plan gets OK

The master plan of a 122-acre sports complex — to be located a half-mile east of North Main Street and Park Drive — received majority approval at Thursday’s Daphne Planning Commission meeting, though the site plan was tabled.

The park will hold basketball and volleyball courts, as well as baseball, softball and T-ball fields, according to Brandon Adams, the project’s landscape architect.

“We’ll also have one miracle field. It’s similar to a T-ball field but with an artificial surface for the handicapped,” he said. “We’ll have an official-sized swimming pool where you can hold swim meets.”

Rec complex master plan gets OK

Woman critically injured Wednesday in collision

A well-known Fairhope businesswoman was seriously injured in a traffic accident on Wednesday. Kathie Byrd, 53, suffered a torn aorta, ruptured spleen, collapsed lungs and several bone fractures, and was airlifted by LifeFlight to the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.

At press time Friday, she was still listed in critical condition following two surgeries. Byrd remained in an induced coma, but was likely to be brought out of it as early as today (March 29) to determine whether her brain was damaged as a result of the crash.

Sarah, her 12-year-old daughter who was also in the car, was taken by ambulance to Thomas Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries and released. No other injuries were reported.

Woman critically injured Wednesday in collision