Author: Jane Nicholes

Subdivisions spring up all over the Eastern Shore

Fields of cotton and corn, pecan groves and woods have lined the road for so long that it’s easy to ignore the “For Sale” signs. Then one day a new sign announces the next subdivision on the Eastern Shore. Soon the streets are paved, lots are marked off and construction crews pull in. Houses spring up. A few miles up the road or in the next field over, the process repeats. Through the end of November, 1,506 single-family residential building permits were issued in Baldwin County, according to the Alabama Center for Real Estate at the University of Alabama....

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Baldwin school tax openly debated at work session

Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler declared Tuesday that the permanent penny sales for public schools passed by the County Commission was the start of a new partnership between the two bodies. During a school board work session at Silverhill Elementary, Tyler asked for a unanimous vote in favor of the second piece of plan: giving the County Commission 55 percent instead of 40 percent of a second penny sales tax dating back to 1984. The county would receive some $5 million in additional revenue for roads and bridges, and the school board would receive the 40 percent split. The board is scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday. On Jan. 3, the commission unanimously enacted a 1-cent sales tax for the public schools that would take effect when the current temporary tax expires May 31, 2018. Tyler, who had declined to speak about his role in the process until Tuesday, described the event as “surreal” and something he did not expect until he learned that at a least a majority of commissioners favored the idea. “I had a hard time believing this because we live in the most conservative county in Alabama. We do not often see such bravery among politicians that runs contrary to the general anti-tax policies of the South,” Tyler said. “Boy, was I wrong.” The temporary penny tax has been in effect for several...

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Nominees announced for Baldwin district judge

The Baldwin County Judicial Selection Commission on Tuesday nominated three attorneys for Gov. Robert Bentley to select a new district court judge. They are Michael J. Hoyt, James Lynn Perry and William E. Scully Jr. Bentley is expected to select one of the three to replace J. Clark Stankoski as district judge. Stankoski appointed to the vacant circuit court judgeship in December upon the retirement of Judge Langford Floyd. Eight people applied for the seat but one later withdrew, Presiding Circuit Judge Carmen Bosch told Lagniappe on Monday. The governor’s office has 30 days to make a selection, but Bentley has been taking less time than that with other recent appointments, she said. “District court deals most directly with the people themselves,” Bosch said. Circuit judges preside over jury trials, often putting a layer of decision-making between themselves and the general public, she said. “It’s a very important job, because that’s how most people are going to come to meet a...

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Baldwin’s permanent tax vote was crafted behind closed doors

When the smoke cleared on the morning of Jan. 3, a once-temporary sales tax for Baldwin County public schools had been made permanent by the County Commission. The vote at the commission’s first meeting of the new year came as a surprise not just to citizens, but even to some school officials and local legislators. How and why did the penny sales tax abruptly become permanent with little if any public discussion and no referendum? By offering an incentive for the county and by keeping things quiet. “Of course in that first meeting they had, they said, ‘You can’t talk to anybody about this,’” said Commissioner Frank Burt. ‘Let’s help the schools’ In a back room at Street’s Seafood Restaurant in Bay Minette last week, Burt explained what he knew about the process to several members of the Common Sense Campaign TEA Party, a couple of school principals and a couple of reporters. “While we understood the Board of Education’s fears about going before the people again, the reality was this really came out of nowhere,” said Lou Campomenosi, president of the Common Sense Campaign. “The tactics involved here smack of what happened in Washington and in Montgomery. It’s all about draining the swamp.” The penny tax brings in some $40 million annually to a school system that was hit hard by state budget cuts, the 2008 recession and...

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Commissioner’s DUI license suspension hearing delayed again

The judge who was scheduled to hear Baldwin County Commission Chairman Chris Elliott’s legal challenge of the suspension of his driver’s license recused himself Friday because Elliott’s attorney is the judge’s brother. Elliott’s civil case was set Monday for a bench trial before Circuit Judge Clark Stankoski. But Stankoski recused himself Friday afternoon because his brother, Rob Stankoski, represents Elliott. The commissioner was arrested in May in Fairhope on a charge of driving under the influence. He refused a Breathalyzer test, which under state law would have required an automatic 90-day suspension of his driver’s license. Instead, Elliott filed the civil suit against the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency challenging the suspension. Circuit Judge Langford Floyd stayed the suspension until the case could be heard this month. Floyd retired in December and Stankoski, who had been a district judge, was appointed recently to fill the vacancy. With his recusal, another judge will have to be assigned to the case and a new trial date set. Rob Stankowski has previously said Elliott is seeking the continuation of his driving privileges because otherwise “he will be unable to work and serve in his elected capacity as a Baldwin County commissioner.” Allegedly, Elliott was arrested for DUI after running a red light more than two hours after the end of the Fairhope Rotary Steak Cook-off May 14. As Lagniappe reported in October, anonymous...

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