Top Stories of 2019 (Part Two)

Top Stories of 2019 (Part Two)

By Southern Torch Staff

At the end of each year, we look back and choose our most important stories and narrow the list down to ten. After last week's post on stories 6-10, we are featuring the top five stories (1-5) of 2019!

1. Southern Torch Cranks Up the Radio

By Nick Jones, President • Published on February 12

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Southern Torch, Inc. is thrilled to announce its agreement to purchase the assets of KEA Radio, Inc. which includes two FM radio stations currently based in Scottsboro. The radio stations are WKEA-FM 98.3 and WMXN-FM 101.7 with coverage areas including DeKalb, Jackson, and Marshall Counties as well as the other northeast Alabama counties.

In August, the two stations rebranded as 98-3 Wild Country and 101-7 The Torch, respectively. 

“We are unbelievably excited about the potential to grow our audience and put Southern Torch into a better position to serve this region of the state,” said Southern Torch General Manager Eloise Smith. 

Southern Torch, Inc. has continued to publish its weekly newspaper in the DeKalb County area and grow its regional online audience alongside the current radio coverage map. The coverage map for the two FM stations reaches the outskirts of Huntsville to the west, South Pittsburg, Tenn. to the north, Summerville, Ga. to the east, and Gadsden to the south.

2. Revealed, Reprimanded, Resigned

By Marla Jones, Managing Editor • Published on March 7

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — At this week’s meeting of the Rainsville City Council, the Council went into executive session. Shortly after, the Council announced that they had received the resignation letter of Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center (Ag Center) Director Mike Sweat. The Council unanimously voted to accept.

Allegations of misuse of funds at the Ag Center surfaced in January when the Southern Torch reported an exclusive investigative report that revealed misuse of public funds associated with the Ag Center. The report followed a review of financial documents obtained from the City and the Public Building Authority (PBA), the entity that owns the Ag Center.

Sweat’s resignation comes amidst controversy regarding the misuse of funds at the Ag Center. Following the initial report of misuse of funds, Councilmember Bejan Taheri confirmed that Sweat was in fact disciplined for his alleged misuse of funds with employment probation, reimbursement, and a written reprimand. Sweat’s final day on the job was Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

3. Alabama Passes Gas Tax Increase

By Zach Hester, Reporter • Published on March 13

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After passage through the Alabama House of Representatives and the State Senate, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Rebuild Alabama Act into law. This is the first time that the gas tax has been raised since 1992. 

The Rebuild Alabama Act will raise fuel taxes by ten cents per gallon over the next three years and includes additional tax measures like annual fees for electrical and hybrid vehicles.

The bill passed the House by a margin of 83-20 and by the Senate, 28-6. 

When signing the bill, Governor Ivey stated, “What the members of the Alabama Legislature have done today is to improve Alabama’s infrastructure for generations to come.”

The bill will raise the gas tax from 18 cents to 24 cents beginning in September 2019 with two-cent raises per year in 2020 and 2021. Beginning in 2023, the gas tax will be adjusted annually according to the national highway construction cost index.

4-tied. Plainview Wins Back-to-Back at State

By Marla Jones, Sports Editor • Published on March 8

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the second year in a row, Plainview High School guard Caden Millican found himself with the ball in the final seconds of the Class 3A State Championship with his team needing a bucket to win. 

And just like last year, Millican delivered — grabbing a pass from guard Tristan Willingham in the lane with three seconds left and sinking the game-winning shot to give the Bears a 54-52 victory over Hillcrest-Evergreen. 

The shot was inside — a play called "leopard" that Coach Robi Coker knew would work.

Millican finished with 15 points. Koby Tinker had 25, including five 3-pointers and three rebounds. Taylor Haymon and Haden White had seven points each and Willingham finished with two assists and just one turnover at point guard. 

4-tied. Fyffe Outruns Reeltown at State

By Marla Jones, Sports Editor • Published on December 12

AUBURN, Ala. — The Fyffe Red Devils rolled to an insurmountable 42-point lead in the opening half and cruised to a 56-7 victory over Reeltown to claim their second straight Class 2A state championship at the 2019 AHSAA Super 7 State Football Championship. 

Fyffe, coached by Paul Benefield, finished with 325 yards, all but 20 on the ground, on 55 plays to just 51 total yards for Reeltown (13-2), coached by Matt Johnson. The Red Devils’ defensive effort was the second fewest yards allowed in AHSAA Super 7 history dating back to 1996 and secured the school’s fourth state title overall. 

Reeltown has been a regular visitor to the AHSAA state championship game, with three titles (1987, 2001, 2009) and six runner-up finishes (1984, 1991, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2019).  Fyffe’s other state titles were in 2014, 2016 and 2018 – all at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Red Devils finished second in 2007 and 2015. The coaching win for Benefield was the 297th of his 28-year career. He is now 297-53 overall.  The Red Devils outscored opponents 639-43 in 15 games and had nine shutouts.

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