2015 Year in Review Top News Stories No. 10-6

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

10. Flames on the Flint takes over Earle May Boat Basin

Seventy-five barbecue teams from around the country flocked to the Earle May Boat Basin the weekend of March 14-16 to compete in the annual Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off.

Teams whipped up their best chicken and pork barbecue recipes for a chance of winning some of the $30,000 purse.

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Way 2 Que from Sharpsburg, Georgia, was named the champion team. Its members, Mike Ashley and Robert Williams, were awarded $7,500.

“If you would have talked to us three hours ago, I would have told you this was the worst cook we’ve ever done,” Ashley said, laughing.

This marks the second year Ashley and Williams have been involved in the world of competitive barbecue, and the first grand championship they’ve won.

“With all these high-dollar teams, we are blown away,” Williams said.

One of the biggest announcements of the weekend was what’s on the horizon for Flames on the Flint .

The purse will be increased to $50,000 and cook off organizers plan on expanding the infrastructure of the boat basin to accommodate 100 barbecue teams.

9. Chrysler v. Walden case ends with $40 million in damages awarded to parents of son

After a nine-day trial held at the Decatur County Courthouse the family of Remington Cole Walden was awarded $150 million damages in the case Walden v. FCA-US, LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group.

FCA was found to be 99 percent at fault for the 2012 death of Walden, 4. He was riding in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee with his aunt on March 6, 2012, when the vehicle was rear ended and exploded in flames.

He was unable to escape and died in the fire. Brian Harrell, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended Walden’s Jeep, was sentenced for vehicular homicide and reckless driving in May 2012. The jury found Harrell 1 percent at fault for Walden’s death.

Plaintiffs claimed that an exposed gas tank on Walden’s Jeep was the cause of the fire when it ruptured after the collision.

Following the decision FCA filled a motion for a new trial claimed that the jury’s verdict is contrary to law, contrary to the evidence, strongly against the weight of the evidence and is the product of improper evidence and argument.

That motion was denied in July, but the Superior Court did reduce the damages to a total of $40 million, including $30 million for the wrongful death of Walden, 4, and $10 million for the pain and suffering.

8. Prison debt addressed by Board of Commissioners, warden resigns

After the Decatur County Board of Commissioners revealed the prison was losing more than $2 million a year, discussions were had the future of the institution.

A large portion of the officers from the Decatur County Correctional Institute appeared at the Decatur County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 24 to express concern for the possibility of the DCCI or Decatur County Prison closing.

“I’m a new commissioner, I know nothing about the prison,” Commissioner Rusty Davis said. “I know nothing about a lot of these departments in the county, but me sitting down and seeing a $2.1 million loss that an accountant brought to our attention, I would not be doing our job if I wasn’t interested to see where that $2.1 million is coming from.”

Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson explained how the yearly loss shed a negative light on the prison, but he and the rest of the board were currently looking deeper into figures provided to them by Prison Warden Elijah McCoy.

In an attempt to renegotiate the Service Delivery Agreement made between the county and city, a committee was formed to speak on the county’s behalf.

More news from the Decatur County Prison hit when allegations were made of Warden Elijah McCoy abusing his authority through misconduct and mismanagement.

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners suspended McCoy indefinitely and brought in retired Florida prison warden Ed Mercer to conduct a non-criminal investigation at the prison.

After a nine-day investigation, Mercer revealed his findings to the board and was paid $3,060 for his work, despite estimating an $1,000 bill before he began.

McCoy resigned as warden three days after the investigation concluded.

Mercer’s investigation report included allegations from co-workers about him dating an employee, ordering food for himself through the prison and McCoy’s granddaughter being picked up from school by prison vehicles and brought back to the institution.

Deputy wardens Gordon Screen and Anita Johnson took over running the prison after McCoy’s resignation.

7. Carter appointed BPS Director, Funderburke made chief investigator

It was a year of change for Bainbridge Public Safety following the resignation of Director Eric Miller in March.

“Eric made the decision based on personal reasons and decided he needed to step away,” said Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby. “We’re sorry to see him go, but we understand the decision and wish him the best in the future.”

BPS Major Jerry Carter replaced Miller with the expectation that he would serve as interim director through September at which time a permanent director would be named.

“We’ve had to move pretty quickly,” Hobby said at the time. “Jerry will be here Monday ready to work. We’ll have plenty of time for a search for a permanent director that we’ll likely begin this summer.”

In July it was announced that Carter would be retained the permanent director of BPS.

“Jerry has done a tremendous job as the City’s interim Director,” Hobby said in a news release. “As we began to consider a search for a permanent Director, it became obvious that we already had our man.”

After being named the director Carter announced that he would be bringing back former director Larry Funderburke as chief investigator. Funderburke served as the director of BPS from 1989 until his retirement in 2011.

6. Shaw Industries’ Bainbridge plant announces mass layoffs

Shaw Industries Group, Inc announced it June that they would be laying off 267 employees at Shaw Plant 70 in Bainbridge. The layoffs were scheduled to take effect on October 15th due to a “re-aligning” of the company’s production process, which resulted in the Bainbridge plant being downsized.

Shaw, a carpet and flooring manufacturer and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Company, operates two plants in Bainbridge. 70 and 86, but the planned layoffs only affected those employees working at plant 70.

Following the announcement, Industrial Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County Director Rick McCaskill said that the IDA would work to soften the blow and reach out to other possible employers.

“We’ve just talked about a little strategy right now. I’m talking with Abraham Levy at Bainbridge Manufacturing, because he’s got a unique opportunity,” McCaskill said at the time. “The fact that they’ve got jobs until Oct. 15 works really well with his timeline.”

Employees that were facing layoffs were able to attend a career fair in August hosted by Southwest Georgia Workforce 44. More than 90 Shaw employees attend the event where they had the chance to meet with eleven potential employers.

More than 200 Shaw employees were laid off.