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Top stories of 2018

New hospital plan, YMCA closing among biggest local news

News Staff Writer

Those who look back on the year just past will recall a much less violent 12-month period than the previous year, as only one murder was committed and only three locals lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents.
But plenty of excitement was created by announcements that construction of a new hospital is imminent, that a local non-profit was closing after nearly a quarter-century and that one of the city’s longest-standing commercial enterprises had been sold.
Some of the biggest local news stories of 2018, in no particular order, were:
New hospital
Officials of the county healthcare authority and the city hospital board announced in July that they would exercise a contractual option and end their relationship with Infirmary Health, which had been managing and overseeing operations of Atmore Community Hospital for three years.
At the same time, local healthcare officials announced plans for construction of a new medical center, which would be built at an estimated cost of $32 million in the retail section of the city owned Rivercane economic development park near Interstate 65, on 10 acres of land owned by the city of Atmore.
ECHA and ACHB leaders appeared at a city council workshop in early September to plead their case, but the plan hit a snag a month later, when the city council effectively rejected the acreage donation request by refusing to introduce a motion to do so.
The land issue was still up in the air as the year ended.
YMCA closes
Officials of Atmore Area YMCA announced in September that the organization, which had been in existence for more than 23 years, would close its doors on November 30.
Declining revenues, the increasing cost of maintaining the former Atmore High School building in which the Y operated and an over-stretched donor pool were cited as the major reasons for the decision to cease operations.
Farewell to W-D
Officials of Ramey’s Inc. announced that the company had purchased the assets of Atmore’s Winn-Dixie store, ending W-D’s 60-years-plus presence in the local retail community.
The Mississippi-based regional grocery chain closed its Lindbergh Avenue location in May and moved into the Church Street building formerly occupied by Winn-Dixie.
Sunday sales
Atmore City Council members gave unanimous approval in January 2018 to the sale of beer and wine on Sundays. After the local measure was approved by the Alabama legislature, such sales began in late March. City officials discovered in April that the legislation required that the city council pass an ordinance before it allowed the sales, and the matter was finally resolved when such an ordinance was approved by the council.
Huxford slaying
The only local homicide of the year occurred in June, when Huxford resident Thomas Matthew Nall, 32, shot his 72-year-old father, Donald Nall, to death in the yard of the home the two shared.
Bodies dumped
While the Nall shooting was the only murder committed in Atmore or its outlying areas, another grisly shooting was literally and figuratively dumped on the community’s doorstep.
Two men and two women — all residents of Walnut Hill, Fla. — are charged with shooting two men, one of them fatally, and driving a pickup containing the body of Dalton Davis, 22, and the still-living Troy Boutwell, 50, to a spot off Deere Creek Road and driving the truck into Brushy Creek.
Fatal crashes
Three community residents lost their lives in automobile crashes during 2018.
Antonio Richardson, 38, of Freemanville died from injuries he suffered in April when he and another passenger were ejected from a vehicle driven by a third man who lost control of the vehicle and crossed Alabama 21.
In May, 25-year-old Tracie Shenaye Young of Atmore was killed when her car crossed the center line of U.S. 31, just west of the city, and slammed into another vehicle.
Four months later, Brad Stinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, died from injuries he suffered when a log truck went into a skid and crashed into the vehicle in which he was a passenger.
New sheriff
Heath Jackson, who had twice run unsuccessfully against Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith, won election to the office in a race against Chief Deputy Mike Lambert.
Jackson, an investigator with the Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office at the time, will become the first new sheriff in the county in 16 years. Smith, who took office in 2003, did not seek a fifth term.
Headed South
Just three weeks after leading ECHS’s football team to its first winning season since 2010, Rico Jackson, who was hired in 2017 to rebuild the school’s program, announced that he had accepted the head coach-athletic director positions at Murphy High School in Mobile.
Other stories of significance:
* In April the clergy and congregation of McCullough’s historic First Baptist Church dedicated a new sanctuary, the third physical house in the church’s 113-year history. The previous church building was destroyed when an electrical short started a fire that swept through its attic area and consumed most of the brick structure in 2016.
* In July federal marshals apprehended Phyllis Reinoso, 31, who was wanted by New York authorities for causing the death of one of her children; JaQuavious Pennington, 24, who was wanted for a sex crime in Michigan, was captured here in December.
* Seven individuals — Stephanie Bryan, Willie J. Parker, Earl Miller, Weldon Vickrey, Dale Ash, Bill Farr and Joan Helton Crawford — were inducted into the Atmore Area Hall of Fame in April.
* A 2,000-square foot, water-themed children’s park — later named Atmore Community Splash Pad — was officially opened in May to high acclaim.
* Habitat for Humanity’s local chapter turned over in March the keys to the organization’s first-ever Atmore build to new homeowner Kim Fountain. The house was not built from the ground up but extensively remodeled and rehabilitated.
* A July train derailment near Canoe prompted the closing of a portion of U.S. 31 for several hours. Four hoppers and two boxcars of a CSX freight pulling more than 300 cars left the tracks, spilling plastic microbeads and rolls of fiberboard along the railway.