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City sets special election date

By Alison James

Associate Editor

Tuesday’s city council meeting was the last for City Administrator John Seymour, whose term – ending at the end of April – was not renewed because of Seymour’s desire to retire.

“It’s been top-of-the-line to be here in Opelika,” said Seymour, who received a standing ovation from those assembled.

Seymour’s position won’t be left empty. Former councilman Joey Motley, who turned in his letter of resignation from the council Monday morning, was unanimously approved to step in the role and began work Wednesday.

The turnover makes necessary a special election, approved by the council to be held July 8, to fill Motley’s vacated council seat. Qualifying for the position will begin April 22.

The election will only concern citizens living in Ward 3.

The council tabled the demolition of four buildings on Jeter Avenue – SIRCO properties in similar deteriorating condition to the eight demolitions the city ordered in March.

“I’m trying to save our properties,” said Rosalyn Rosenblum, who once again appeared before the council on behalf of the properties. Rosenblum said a structural engineer/architect had recently been hired to assess the properties. “He’s putting together a prospectus for us. I’m requesting you table this until he has an opportunity to come in and speak with y’all ... so we can have a plan to go forward. He can’t find anything structurally wrong with those buildings. They’re solid.”

The council voted to table the demolitions pending plans and a rehabilitation timeline from the engineer at the council’s first meeting in May.

“Our main objective is not to tear buildings down,” said city attorney Guy Gunter. “We would prefer to have them rehabilitated.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting was the approval of a tax abatement for Pharmavite, which recently announced plans for $21.6 million of building additions and purchase of manufacturing equipment.

“We are so pleased that Pharmavite is expanding their Opelika operations,” said Mayor Gary Fuller, who sang the praises of the vitamins at the meeting. “This additional investment along with the opportunity for more jobs is good news for the citizens of Opelika.”

All expansion should be complete by the end of July 2015 and will mean about 50 new jobs for the area.

The council also approved several measures related to the city’s fiber network. Members approved a contract with Vubiquity, Inc., to provide Video on Demand and Pay Per View Content in the amount of $50,000 for the remainder of the budget year; an amendment to the sublicense agreement with Chattanooga Fiber company, resulting in a 50 percent discount toward the purchase price of caller ID and RDVR applications; and an amendment to the agreement with the electric power board of Chattanooga to extend the term three years and add a new Section 10 titled “consulting services.”

The council also:

reappointed O.D. Alsobrook to the Opelika City School Board.

appointed Chris Nunn to a supernumerary position on the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

approved an ordinance amending the text of the zoning ordinance defining liquor and package store.

replenished the 2014 sick pay account.

amended resolution No. 214-11 to increase the mayor’s authority to approve change orders to the ALCATEL-Lucent Contract for the Triple Play System.

waived subdivision plat fees for a proposed senior center in Beulah.

approved expense reports.

approved the proposal for a new Solid Waste Management Plan.

held the recognition of a number of service awards and proclamations for Relay for Life and the National Day of Prayer.

approved a master plan proposal from Market + Main for the preservation and revitalization of in-town neighborhoods in proximity to the historic downtown area.


Photo by Alison James

Valeri White, Randy Causey (co-chairs of Relay For Life of Lee County) and Councilwoman Patsy Jones accept a proclamation

by the mayor recognizing Relay for Life and announcing next week as “Paint the Town Purple.”

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Personal impact: Boys, Girls Club board member shares personal club experience

By Alison James

Associate Editor

Understanding the impact of community organizations can be difficult when you’ve never benefited from them yourself.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County board member Elaine Bak didn’t have that problem which she stepped into her role. As an alumna of a Florida BGC, Bak knows firsthand what the club means to the children who become members.

“They kept me super active,” Bak remembered. “We had a teacher who worked with us on gymnastics. She taught me how to do a back hand spring. I’ll never forget. It was a big deal to me.”

Bak joined the BGC in fifth grade. From then on, she had activities to participate in and people who cared about her.

“I still remember their names,” Bak said. “I mean, I was super young, but – a lot of the counselors there became like family.”

Bak said counselor and coordinators at the Boys and Girls Clubs saw to it that she was looked after, challenged and guided – like one night when she snuck out of her house for a date.

“I was dating this one boy – I was in ninth grade – and I was not allowed to go out of the house, so I snuck out of the house to meet him, and for this ‘date,’ I met him at the Boys and Girls Club to watch a basketball game,” Bak said. “If I was going to go get in trouble, I was in a controlled environment at least. And then, of course, I got in trouble – one of the counselors got mad at me because she knew I wasn’t supposed to be out.”

Bak stayed on with the club even after she aged out of the program, serving as a counselor at the summer camp she had once attended as a club member, the summer she turned 20.

“It was a very rewarding job,” Bak said. One memory, in particular, stands out to her from that summer – of an incident related to her handing out stickers for good behavior at camp.

“A a couple of weeks into it, a little boy had misbehaved, so I ended up putting him away from the group, and he came to me crying and said, ‘Am I not going to get my sticker today? Because my mom asks for that every day when I get home,’” Bak said. “It’s just a sticker, but it means so much more.”

Bak recently shared her personal connection to the BGC on Facebook, shortly into her first year serving on the board of directors. When BGC of Greater Lee County President Wanda Lewis saw the post, she knew it needed to be shared with others.

“It’s always a delight to have a board member or volunteer or anyone who has a story to tell and come back and be a part of a local organization,” Lewis said. “I feel blessed that we have Elaine.”

Lewis said she hopes this will be a catalyst to motivate others in the community to share their stories.

“We love to know who those folks are and would like to connect with them in some way. We want more of those stories. We’d like to publish those stories, if people are willing to do that.”

Lewis said people could contact her to share their personal accounts of time with the BGC.

“I think people who have been impacted by their involvement in the Boys and Girls Clubs really are our strongest advocates and many times our strongest supporters,” Lewis said. “They know what it means.”

What it meant to Bak was a childhood and adulthood she knows she wouldn’t have had without the support of the BGC.

“If you’re not around adults to control and guide you, and you’re making those decisions on your own with peer pressure only, it’s really hard to make good choices,” Bak said. “I was not very good with peer pressure, and I always wanted to fit in. If I hadn’t had that to keep me occupied, I probably would have made some really bad choices ... If Boys and Girls Club wasn’t here, imagine all those children who would have nowhere else to go.”

Bak said she also hopes to dispel negative stigmas associated with the BGC.

“I don’t think anyone understands, really, what happens there,” Bak said. “You can just see the way the club interacts here with the kids. There is that bond ... I strongly believe it is because of my personal experience with the club that I got involved. And it makes me sad – when you talk about things you’re passionate about like this with other people, and they have no idea how important it is. I wish more people could get to know how it’s really impacted the community.”

To get involved, share your story or find out more about the local BGC, call 745-2582

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One out of 200,000: Research center holds fundraiser for Opelika infant with rare disorder

By Alison James

Associate Editor

Porter Heatherly’s parents, Sara and Michael, know their time with him is limited. But with the heartfelt help of researchers at Scott-Ritchey Research Center at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, getting him the care he needs is just a little bit easier.

“The involvement with the vet school is very comforting to us, more than anything,” said Sara Heatherly. “We have someone who knows about Porter’s disease and what he’ll go through.”

At 4 months old, Porter was diagnosed with GM1 gangliosidosis, a rare disorder that affects one out of every 100,000 or 200,000 newborns, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Trisha Beadlescomb was just another master’s student studying the disease in cats until she met Porter’s parents through her mentor.

“We all found out we were from the same hometown,” Beadlescomb said. “We realized we were from Cullman.”

With that common ground, Beadlescomb said she felt drawn to do more for the Heatherly family of Opelika.

“I’ve been in research for five years – since I’ve been at Auburn – and I’ve never met a child with the disease,” Beadlescomb said. “It made me want to do something to help out.”

Through the Scott-Ritchey Research Center, Beadlescomb is heading up the third fundraiser for Porter – a raffle for a seven-day stay at a beach house in Gulf Shores. Tickets are $10 for one or $15 for two and can be purchased through April 28.

“East Alabama has set up a fund for him; it actually goes to any child who has GM1, but since he’s the only one in Alabama, it all goes to him right now,” Beadlescomb explained. The fund, available through the EAMC Foundation, can be accessed by the Heatherlys for any medical costs Porter needs.

Porter is the only child in Alabama who has the rare disorder, and Heatherly said that makes dealing with his condition even more unpredictable.

“We don’t know exactly what to expect,” Heatherly said. “He might require other types of machines that we don’t have yet but probably will need in the future based on what we know about the disorder ... It just alleviates a lot of stress on us (to have more funds available.)”

Currently there is no treatment for the rare condition. Unless you’re a feline – which is what gives Beadlescomb hope.

“A untreated cat only lives about eight months, but we have a treated cat that’s been living over four years,” Beadlescomb said. “I know how well the cats are doing, and there’s only one more step that needs to be done before it’s in human trials, and that’s working with non-human primates, like monkeys ... And if the cats are doing so well, then I have no doubt humans are going to do that well.”

Although Porter likely won’t see the day that treatments are made available to humans, taking it one day at a time are the things that keep the Heatherlys going.

“We’ve been dealing with it for a while,” Heatherly said. “It’s more of a reality. It’s day to day stuff. If you stop and think about all the stuff ... it can get overwhelming.

The support from Beadlescomb and the research center is also invaluable.

“It’s just a blessing to us – it really is,” Heatherly said. “It’s hard to put into words what it means.”

So far 317 tickets have been sold – far outstripping the original goal of 150. With a new goal of 500, Beadlescomb said the winner will be contacted by phone and email and have 24 hours to claims the prize. The trip may be booked between September 2014 and March 2015, excluding any dates already booked and Nov. 22-9 and Dec. 20 through Jan. 3.

For more information or to purchase a ticket, call or email Beadlescomb at 256-339-1032 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Special to the Opelika Observer

Porter and his friends at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center celebrated his 19-month birthday Tuesday with cupcakes and balloons.

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County tackles multiple road problems

By Fred Woods


At Monday’s county commission meeting, Commissioner John Harris continued to state his opposition to the changes in two county polling places, which occurred at the first regular March meeting of the commission in accordance with Alabama law. Harris alternated between threatening to sue the county commission to reverse the changes and stating he does not want to sue the county. No action was taken.

The Lee County Highway Department has closed a portion of Lee Road 56 about 0.2 miles east of its junction with Lee Road 57 to replace a deteriorated drain. LR 57 joins Alabama Highway 14 just east of Loachapoka.

Longtime Lee County Chief Appraiser Bobby Armstrong announced his retirement, as of April 30. He will be succeeded by Richard (Richie) LaGrand, an Opelika native who joined the appraisal staff just after graduating from Opelika High School in 1996. LaGrand was selected after an extensive job search.

Several citizens also addressed the commission about various concerns.

Margaret Young Brown, resident of Lee Road 392 in the extreme southern part of the county near B.W. Capps store, addressed a problem she said was created when the county highway department put a red clay mixture on her dirt road several years ago. Brown said the red clay mixture has made travel on her road difficult and dangerous, particularly when it is wet. County Engineer Justin Hardee said he had inspected the road and found no immediate danger to the driving public – a substantial difference of opinion. Hardee expressed his willingness to relook at the issue.

Martha Leonard reported that her son Kelly was temporarily transferred back to Lee County (from the Tallapoosa County Jail) because his lawyer had resigned. Leonard said she was very disturbed that Kelly’s prescriptions for high blood pressure and anxiety, which had accompanied him, had been withheld during the period he was in the Lee County facility.

Mike Ward, owner of Bar W Farm and RV Park on Lee Road 395 off U.S. Highway 29 southwest of Auburn, complained that poor road conditions had made it impossible for RVs to access his park without risking substantial damage to the vehicles. He said his complaints to the commission had not been addressed for more than a year.

Hardee had already checked out the road earlier in the day and agreed with Ward that tree limbs and other vegetation overgrowing the roadway was a major problem. He promised Ward men with pole saws and chain saws immediately and to schedule the county’s specialized tree trimming machinery a quickly as possible.

In other action the commission

- heard a request for financial support to the Silver Haired Legislature presented by local businesswoman Selena Daniel, accompanied by J.O. Conway. Both are delegates to the SHL. The request will be considered at budget-time.

- approved a temporary position in the Probate Office due to an unusually high number of employees with medical issues.

- awarded the Justice Center reroofing project to low-bidder Superior Roofing Systems, Inc., of Griffin, GA. Their bid was $479,823.

- approved a contract for a structural design to replace the bridge over Osanippa Creek on Lee Road 375 in the northeast corner of the county.

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Harris patriarch exemplifies history of serving others

By Fred Woods


Dr. William M. Harris – “Uncle Bill” to Bob, Bert, J.T., and Jim Harris – was born on the family cotton farm, just outside Opelika, in 1918, younger brother to John T. Harris. The farm has been in the Harris family since before the Civil War. “Uncle Bill” still has many relatives living in the Opelika area, including Bob and Bert – whose mother, Eleanor, was also in the area until she died last week on her 102nd birthday.

The Harris family is noted for maintaining its roots to the home place, holding reunions, birthday celebrations, weddings and many other family events there, and “Uncle Bill” was no exception, returning to the Opelika-area home of the Harrises several times a year until his death in 2008.

William grew up, as all the Opelika Harrises did, working on the family farm and learning the value of hard work. During his teenage years, however, he committed to the study and practice of chiropractic after seeing a Dr. Ezell of Birmingham cure his father of a serious ailment after medical doctors had given up.

Harris graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, and practiced for many years in Albany, Ga., before moving to Atlanta in later years. He was widely acclaimed, both in the United States and abroad, as a philanthropist, doctor, educator, lecturer and elder statesman to the chiropractic profession.

B.J. Palmer, the acknowledged developer of chiropractic and president of Palmer College of Chiropractic, under whom Harris studied, authored 36 books, only two of which were dedicated to chiropractors.Harris was one of the two.

Palmer personally inducted Harris as a Fellow of the International Chiropractic Association during its annual convention in 1958. Harris was the very first southerner to be so honored. Other professional honors included a number of honorary doctorates and “fellow” awards from most of the leading chiropractic colleges, Chiropractor of the Year (by the Parker Resource Foundation) and Humanitarian of the Year (Georgia Chiropractic Association). Harris was also a member of the Board of Directors of Life University in Atlanta, Ga.

He was also active in Lions International, the well-known civic club, serving in various offices in his local Albany club, as chairman of the Board of Governors for Georgia Lions International and, later, as an International Lions Counsellor. He was honored with the Melvin Jones Humanitarian Award, named for the founder of Lions International.

Due in part to his own struggle with the business side of chiropractic practice, Harris was determined to do something to improve the business management skills of younger chiropractors. To this end he established, in 1978, the nonprofit Foundation for the Advancement of Chiropractic Education (FACE), initially to fund the creation and perpetuating of chairs of  practice business management in chiropractic colleges.

More recently, the foundation has funded chiropractic research projects and construction of academic buildings and research centers. FACE has contributed more than $15,000,000 to these various projects (and several charities since making these eligible for grants in 2007). In addition Harris, through the foundation, was instrumental in contributing $300,000 to the Centennial Foundation in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of chiropractic in 1995.

The foundation changed its name in 2007 to the William M. Harris Family Foundation, making changes so that various charities could be included in the grant program. The Harris Family Foundation now serves more than ten charitable organizations, as well as chiropractic institutions.

Not a bad legacy for a man who spent his boyhood years chopping, hoeing and picking cotton on an Opelika-area cotton farm.

One of the most recent charitable grants was a $5,000 award to Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County to support a homework help and tutoring program for youth.

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