2018 in review: North Baldwin and Central Baldwin

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 1/2/19

JanuaryBucee’s breaks ground in LoxleyLOXLEY — Construction of the new Buc-ee’s Travel Center, located off of County Road 68 and the Baldwin Beach Express, began in January.The …

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2018 in review: North Baldwin and Central Baldwin



Bucee’s breaks ground in Loxley

LOXLEY — Construction of the new Buc-ee’s Travel Center, located off of County Road 68 and the Baldwin Beach Express, began in January.

The 50,000-square-foot facility is the first to be built outside the state of Texas and will include 120 fueling stations.

Founded in 1982, Buc-ee's has approximately 40 locations, almost all of which are located in Texas.

The company also operates the largest convenience store in the world, located in New Braunfels, Texas. The New Braunfels Travel Center covers 68,000 square feet and features 120 fueling positions, 83 toilets, 31 cash registers four Icee machines, and 80 fountain dispensers.

Buc-ee’s is based in Lake Jackson, also home to the company’s first convenience store, which is still in operation.

Construction is set to be completed in January 2019 with a soft opening on Jan. 21. On Saturday, Jan. 19 the store will open its doors to host a reception for local military and first responders.

Brock resigns, Silverhill hires Taylor as new police chief

SILVERHILL — After serving 18 months as the town’s police chief, Kevin Brock resigned Jan. 25 in Silverhill.

According to a notice posted at Town Hall, the Silverhill Town Council called a special meeting Jan. 25 to discuss “professionalism” but a second notice was posted beside the first notice saying that the meeting had been canceled.

Mayor Tim Wilson confirmed that Brock had turned in his resignation earlier that day, but would not comment further out of respect for Brock’s privacy.

Brock’s resignation came just over two years after the council voted to terminate Chief Kim Wasdin during a special meeting on Jan. 14, 2016.

The town went without a police chief, contracting with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department from January until the hiring of Brock in June of 2016.

After several months of discussion and various options, the council voted Sept. 10 to appoint Michael Taylor as chief. Taylor, a retired FBI agent, had served as the town’s acting chief since Brock’s resignation.

Brock has since been hired by the Summerdale Police Department and now serves as that town’s police chief.


BCSO investigating possible murder-suicide at Wilcox RV park

WILCOX — The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating what could be a murder-suicide Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Wilderness RV Park in the Wilcox community.

Deputies responded to a possible medical emergency on Thursday in an RV at the park on Patterson Road. Upon entry into the RV, deputies discovered the bodies of a male and female, both from gunshot wounds.

According to a release issued by BCSO Lt. Andre Reid, preliminary evidence indicates that the female was shot by the male, who then shot himself.


I-10 bus crash claims life

LOXLEY — A bus crash in the early morning hours of March 13 near the Wilcox exit of Interstate 10 claimed the life of the driver and injured several others including students from Channelview, Texas.

The bus was just an hour away from making a driver exchange when it crashed at 5:33 a.m. Tuesday, heading home to Texas westbound on I-10.

The driver, identified as 65-year-old Harry Caligone of Houston, was killed in the crash and more than 20 people were injured. There were a total of 52 people on board the bus at the time of the crash, according to reports, including students and teachers.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the crash May 1 and is continuing its ongoing investigation into the cause and whether or not increased safety measures are required to prevent future incidents.


Joe Sharp hired as RHS principal

ROBERTSDALE — Silverhill native and Robertsdale High School graduate Joe Sharp was hired in May to replace Joe Roh as principal at RHS after Roh accepted a newly created assistant principal position at Fairhope High.

A 1986 graduate of Robertsdale High School, Sharp received a scholarship to play football at the University of Southern Mississippi, returning to teach physical education at Robertsdale Elementary School and coached for the Golden Bears under David Stapleton (1992-93).

Sharp served as defensive coordinator under Fred Riley (1994-98) before taking the athletic director/head coach position at Fairhope High in 1999 leaving to help start the football program at Spain Park High School in Hoover in 2001.

In 2005, he left Alabama for Cobb County, Georgia, serving at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, 20 miles northwest of Atlanta before leaving in 2008 to serve as principal at Thomas County Central High School in Thomasville, Georgia, 225 miles south of Atlanta.

Sharp served as director of Administration Services for the Thomas County (Georgia) School System completing his education with a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Valdosta State University before returning to Sprayberry in 2012 as assistant principal. He was promoted to principal at Sprayberry before accepting the same position at RHS.

Roh served four years as principal at RHS, appointed in 2014 to fill the position following the resignation of Dr. Craig Ross.


Greer’s takes over former Winn Dixie location in Robertsdale

ROBERTSDALE — Greer’s CashSaver Cost Plus moved from its former location on Alabama 59 in Robertsdale in June just a few blocks south to he former location of Winn Dixie.

Greer’s CashSaver Cost Plus took over the former Winn Dixie location after Southeastern Grocers announced in March that they would be closing 94 stores in seven states, including three Winn Dixie stores in Baldwin County and one in Mobile.

The announced closings included Winn Dixie stores in Daphne, Gulf Shores and Robertsdale in Baldwin County, along with Mobile’s Schillinger Road location. It was also announced in March that the Orange Beach location of Winn Dixie would become a Rouse’s Market.

The closings include 57 Winn Dixie stores, 10 in Alabama. Other locations closing include Anniston, the Bessemer Road location in Birmingham, three locations in Dothan, Monroeville and the Atlanta Highway location in Montgomery.

All of the planned closings were carried out by April 30.


Three fox bites reported in Central Baldwin

ROBERTSDALE — Several fox attacks reported over a short period during the summer included reports in Loxley and Robertsdale.

Two people were attacked over a July weekend near a park in Robertsdale. On Friday, July 6, a young teen and her dog were attacked at a park on East Chicago Street. The next day, a fox attacked a disabled man outside his home on Mattingly Street, just blocks from the previous incident. The fox would later text positive for rabies.

In August, a fox reportedly attached a dog on County Road 65 in rural Loxley. That fox also tested positive for rabies.

Several incidents of fox bites were reported in on the Eastern Shore of Baldwin County in May.


Robertsdale employees among Coca-Cola workers on strike

ROBERTSDALE — Several employees from the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Alabama 104 were among striking workers of Coca-Cola United in August.

The union began its strike, which affected about 275 members, in the early-morning hours of Thursday, Aug. 9. Workers cited “unfair labor laws” among the reasons for the walk-off, including lower wages, higher insurance and a proposed wait-period for benefits of up to two to three years for newer employees.

Striking employees went back to work on Monday, Aug. 13, but without a contract.

Burris Farm Market closes, reopened by Burris family

LOXLEY — Burris Farm Market closed its Loxley location on Aug. 12, reopening in December under the original owners.

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, a Facebook post attributed to owners Rick and Jeanine Stewart, Tanner Tolbert and Ethan Tolbert, announced the closing, thanking Loxley customers for their patronage through the years, “but due to the traffic diversion from the new Beach Express and increased competition from super markets/ grocery stores our volume of business in Loxley has fallen off drastically.”

The post also said business was slow following the BP oil spill, “and never fully recovered,” also directing customers to the Wharf location next door to the Orange Beach Convention Center.

The Loxley market, located at 3100 N. Hickory St. (corner of Alabama 59 and County Road 64), was opened by the Burris family in 1987.

After months of renovations and negotiations to retain the name of the business, it was reopened in December by the Greg Burris family.


Gary Branch retires as CACC president

BAY MINETTE — Gary Branch, who served as president of Faulkner State Community College, later to become Coastal Alabama Community College, for nearly 40 years, announced his retirement in September.

When he was first hired at then-Faulkner State, Branch said he had the unenviable responsibility to balance the budget which, for a school in the midst of a financial crisis, involved a “reduction in force” which cost 13 employees their jobs out of a total staff pool that included less than 50. After a short period, Branch employed nearly all those employees back.


Bay Minette’s Kirk Jay takes third on The Voice

Bay Minette native Kirk Jay's journey to stardom began airing on NBC in October, ultimately taking third on Season 15 of The Voice.

After getting a four-chair turn with Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road,” Jay went through Battle and Knockout rounds on Team Blake Shelton before making it to the live elimination shows on Nov. 4, Jay finished third during the live Voice finale on Dec. 18, following a three-song performance, a cover of Rascal Flatts’ “I Won’t Let Go,” a duet with his coach on George Straight’s “You Look So Good In Love,” and an original song, “Defenseless,” co-written by Voice alum Nicolle Gaylon. Jay also performed with Rascal Flatts during Tuesday’s live finale.

Friday, Dec. 21 was declared Kirk Jay Day in the city of Bay Minette.

Jay was given a parade around Courhouse Square. He was given a key to the city and a proclamation was read by Mayor Bob Wills. He was also given an American flag flown over the Capitol building in Montgomery by Baldwin County Judge of Probate Tim Russell on behalf of Mayor Kay Ivey.


Manning family hosts groundbreaking for new Loxley facility

LOXLEY — Officials broke ground Friday, Nov. 2 on a new 31,500 square-foot Piggly Wiggly Cost Plus facility, scheduled to open next summer at 1078 S. Hickory St., across from Loxley Town Hall.

The Manning family opened their first grocery store in Mobile County in 1972, then purchased the existing Baldwin County Cain’s Piggly Wiggly stores in 2016. In addition to the Loxley location, the Manning family owns Piggly Wiggly stores in Foley, Fairhope and Spanish Fort, along with eight locations in Mobile County, five in Mobile, one in Saraland, Chunchula and Mt. Vernon.


Irwin caps great year with NFR bid

LAS VEGAS — Robertsdale’s Kyle Irwin got as high as fifth in the standings in the steer wrestling competition at the 2018 National Finals Rodeo held Dec. 6-15 in Las Vegas.

After starting strong, Irwin finished as high as second during the fourth round of competition Dec. 9. He finished in a three-way tie for third on Dec. 11 to climb to fifth in the standings before falling to 12th by the end of the competition.

Weather wreaks havoc on Christmas activities

ROBERTSDALE — After two attempts to host a Christmas in the Park and Parade, the city of Robertsdale canceled its annual festivities on Saturday, Dec. 8 because of severe weather.

Weather also canceled Loxley’s Christmas festivities, postponing several others.

Officials in Bay Minette break ground on airport expansion

BAY MINETTE — Officials with the City of Bay Minette and Bay Minette Airport Authority broke ground on a project Monday, Dec. 3 that will effectively triple the hangar space at the airport. Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wills and Airport Authority Chairman Mack Byrd were joined by city officials, Airport Authority Board members, and officials with Volkert Inc., the engineer for the project; and M.W. Rogers Construction, the winning bidder, for the Monday ceremony. The $1.5 million project is being funded by an Alabama Department of Transportation Airport Development Grant, General Obligation Development Warrants, and local financing. The city currently has 10 T-hangars and this project will triple the hangar space at the airport.

Brothers arrested in connection with Summerdale homicide

SUMMERDALE — Twin brothers were arrested in connection with a homicide after a man was found dead Dec. 3 morning near his home in Summerdale.

Aaron Alan Willis and Brady Bruce Willis, both 28, of Gulf Shores were both booked into the Baldwin County Jail facility on assault and domestic violence charges, which were later upgraded to murder.

According to a release issued by Summerdale Police Chief Kevin Brock, fire, EMS and officers with the Summerdale Police Department responded to a home at around 11:30 a.m. Dec. 3 on County Road 83 in Summerdale for what was initially reported as a medical call.

Powers was found dead outside his residence. The other injured person, identified as Powers’ fiancée, found him unresponsive and called 911 for medical assistance.

The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office was called in to assist in the investigation and was able to located the Willis brothers as persons of interest in the case who are reportedly related to the female victim.