2017 will be the year that KALB celebrates our 40th anniversary. Our organization, originally known as Athens-Limestone Clean Community, was established in 1977 as an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, with a concern for litter education and abatement.

Our organization has certainly evolved since that time, adding recycling and beautification to our efforts. But the original purpose of this organization has not changed. We are still working to educate our community on the dangers of litter and instilling community pride so that the littering will stop.

It is a difficult challenge because KALB cannot do this by ourselves. Our mission is to empower citizens of Athens and Limestone County to take greater responsibility for enhancing their community environment. This is not a one-man job. It requires government leadership and participation by businesses and individuals throughout Athens and Limestone County.

As I was looking through historical data reflecting on the history of KALB, I came across an article written for a Clean Community newsletter in 1982, author unknown. It spoke loudly and clearly as to the role of KALB and the role of the community in keeping our city and county roadsides, rivers, and parks clean and beautiful. Here are some excerpts from that article.

“What do you perceive as the role of the Clean Community Commission in Athens and Limestone County? Because of some comments heard recently, the Commission feels there are many mistaken ideas about the role of the Clean Community Commission (now known as the KALB Commission).

Commission (sic) members are not supposed to meet every Saturday morning on Hwy. 31 to pick up the median so everyone can ride by and wave and tell us ‘Hey, you are doing a great job – how about picking up the off-ramp from 31 to 72!’ Our job is not to call people with uncut lots and demand that they have them cut. Our job is not to demand that businesses ‘clean up their act’ in order to get a pat on the back from Sparky. Our job is not to purchase flowers and shrubs to plant all over town for your enjoyment. Our job is not to organize mass cleanups once a year to clean up Athens-Limestone County ‘once and for all.’ Our job is not to spend every day at the recycling center sorting cans, newspapers and office papers.

So, what is Clean Community? What do they do? Why do we need a paid coordinator if they don’t do anything?”

The article continues to share information about the Commission, which currently consists of 18 of some of the best volunteers Limestone County has to offer. The Commission’s task is to develop programs that offer YOU the opportunity to help improve YOUR community by learning more about the sources of litter and the many ways it affects us, how recycling makes a difference, and why beautification efforts can increase property values and decrease crime.

Working toward a clean community is an education process. KALB constantly tackles that in classroom across the county, at events such as our Elk River Cleanup, Earth Day & Outdoor EXPO, and litter-free Fiddlers Convention. KALB’s Facebook page, our website, and articles such as those in Athens Now contribute to this education process. Becoming a litter-free community will happen when enough people make lifestyle changes that will make a difference.

As stated in the 1982 article, “Clean Community is YOU doing YOUR part wherever you live and work to make sure the sources of litter dry up. It is only when each and every citizen does his part that Clean Community will be successful. We need your ideas and volunteer hours, so call us. The Clean Community System is YOUR volunteer program for a litter-free community.”

Please do your part each and every day. Learn why litter is harmful so you can make personal changes and teach others not to litter. Recycle all you can. Add your spot of beauty to the community by planting flowers and keeping your property clean.
I have been in Athens since 1999. I have seen Clean Community evolve into Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful with added programs, classroom presentation, and educational community events. I have seen change take place and KALB didn’t do it. We only provided the tools for YOU to make it happen.
By: Lynne Hart

Have you ever wondered what role our Tourism Office and Visitor Center have in Limestone County? The primary purpose of the ALCTA is to invite people to Athens and Limestone County to visit our attractions, enjoy our restaurants and shops, learn about our history, and take in the beauty of our county.

They are also known as “temporary tax payers” because in order to do these things, they spend money in our retail businesses and purchase gas and food, all of which includes sales taxes.
In Limestone County’s five towns, the tourism industry brings historians, naturalists, hikers, bikers, equestrians, kayak enthusiasts, fishermen, Civil War historians, artisans, storytellers, musicians, sporting events, horse shows, rodeos, seminars, meetings, conferences, class, church & family reunions, and many, many jobs!

We also develop tourism through the promotion of permanent attractions such as the Alabama Veterans’ Museum and Belle Chevre Creamery tours. This year, we had outstanding attendance at our many tours of our Historic Districts, Cemetery Stroll, and Antebellum homes. Our largest tour was from India. The group was made up of students learning about the U. S. and our education programs. They toured Athens State University and received greeting from Mayor Marks and the President of ASU, Dr. Robert Glenn. The University’s Archivist, Mrs. Sarah Love, toured the group throughout the campus of ASU and invited them to consider ASU for their collage of higher education.

The Alabama Travel and Tourism Department sent 9 Music Travel Writers to Athens for the 50th Anniversary of our Old Time Fiddlers Convention. These nine travel writers each stayed two nights in our local hotels, dined in our locally owned restaurants, and also shopped in our downtown businesses. We not only received great publicity from the articles they wrote, but the sales tax money from every place they enjoyed.

Also, the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention also brings in approximately 15,000 people to Limestone County. Most come in early in the week for the 2-day competition and take the time to visit our attractions, trails, and places like Russell Stover and Preston’s Western Ware.

Another area you may not think about as a tourism activity is the Limestone County Archives. People of all generations are searching for their ancestors. They come to Athens because they are looking into their family genealogy. As our families spread across the United States, discovering and preserving those precious times of yesteryear can take several days, and many make it their primary goal of their vacation time.

Athens also can boast about its very own drive-in theater positioned alongside our walk-in theater. This drive-in is one of only nine in the state of Alabama still operating. Though many others have closed, we still enjoy reminiscing about our youth while attending our outdoor drive-in theater, which brings people to Limestone County for their opportunity to experience the family fun.

Tourists come into Limestone County communities to Elkmont for the Songwriters’ Night, and to hear the performers at the Red Caboose. The free Summer Concert Series we know as “Singing on the Square” from April to August, hosted by the Tourism Office, is always well attended. Entertainment facilities such as Yesterday’s Events feature nationally recognized singers and impressionists like Kevin Adams and the music group, “The Flashbacks” which brings in 90% of out of town guests for each performance. You see, music is in the fabric of Limestone County.

Our Athens Storytelling Festival, a week-long celebration of our tales, liars, and lies bring people from over 25 states to hear the best storytellers in the South. Our Amateur night also brings in not only local residents to try their hand at stretching a few yarns, but people from neighboring counties to see how good they can tell a big-ole-whopper!

We encourage our guests to attend our educational and historical activities such as our free guided historical walks held each Saturday in April, and programs like Earth Day, High Cotton’s Art Camps, as well as the Athens Main Street Farmer’s Markets held throughout the summer. The Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association / Athens Visitors’ Center is located in the historic Athens Utilities Building, built in 1906. Big Spring Memorial Park sits just behind our location, with beautiful, relaxing fountains and various species of ducks. Athens-Limestone County is rich in history, culture and music, but our eye is fixed on the future and new growth opportunities for our town. We invite you to visit with us.

ALCTA is open Monday-Friday, 8:00AM – 4:30PM, and in the summer on Saturdays from 8:00AM to 12:00PM. Come by for a tour of our historic building. Look through the rack of brochures, information leaflets, and post cards. We are always pleased to tell you more about Limestone County.
By: Teresa Todd, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association

Mayor Ronnie Marks, Limestone County Commissioner Mark Yarborough, and I met at the “not new, but definitely improved” Limestone County Courthouse, which is due to open back up for business by the first of the year. Having grown up in a remodel that lasted more than 20 years, I can appreciate what it means to have “wrangled this thing to the ground and tied up all four of its legs.” I can say with a full heart it is going to have been worth the wait. The Courthouse is the embodiment of understated elegance, within and without.

Any remodel is going to have its own set of nightmares, and the Courthouse is no exception. There were structural deficiencies that didn’t show up in the old blueprints, 18 inch thick walls to deal with, antiquated wiring and plumbing, marble topped steps that could no longer be used but were ultimately rescued, and the need to increase the building’s structural soundness and resistance to natural disasters. There was also the need to get the IT capabilities of the Courthouse up to speed for all the technological needs of the 21st century.

Commissioner Yarborough sat on the afore-mentioned marble topped steps and said, “It’s been a labor of frustration, love, and aggravation. Some people love it, some hate it. They’ve worked on it for 20 years,” he said with a relieved sigh, and added, “we’ve had it for two, and the only thing left is to put up the blinds, put all the furniture in place, and hang up the art.” He laughed when he talked about his own sense of color and decoration, and wanted to make sure that people knew that the reason the interior is going to look so good is because of the hard work of Judge Jimmy Woodruff, Trish Black, and Liz Anderson.

There are several things I learned as a result of this tour. Did you know that the original base for the Confederate statue sank with the Titanic on its way over here to Athens? Did you know that the Courthouse has gone through several remodels, including in 1939 during FDR’s administration? Did you know that the Courthouse also used to house the jail? I looked at the spot that used to keep all of Limestone’s miscreants behind bars as well as what used to be the sheriff’s office and thought, “My, how times have changed.” A decision has been made to hang the brass plate that commemorates Judge Horton’s landmark decision regarding the Scottsboro Boys case on the outside of that courtroom, rather than where it was on the interior north wall. The reason is that more people will be able to see it, irrespective of what is going on inside the courtroom.

Mark told us more. “We are now connected to the Blue Line,” he said, which is the software system that is linked to Montgomery that gives instant access to all the records that pertain to any judicial case. Also, the outside street lights have outlets in them now, which will make our many outdoor festivals and events that much easier to power up.

On a decorative note, there are some high-tech additions that blend in well with the goal of maintaining the building’s historical significance. The Rotary Club, Spirit of Athens, and Tourism went together and chipped in money for an outdoor lighting system which subtly lights up the columns at night time. While it has the ability to show all kinds of colors, it will largely be used to commemorate holidays as well as the colors of local schools who may have just won a championship. There is also an art display system that will make it possible to change out art seasonally with very little labor. Security throughout the building has been increased, and at some point, Mark hopes that eventually there will be funds to open the original west side staircase access with all the necessary upgraded security measures, but that’s not in the budget yet.

I watched as the Mayor and the Commissioner talked about bringing this project to a close. It has not been easy for either of them. “We have restored and preserved our Courthouse, and not everyone has been able to do that, including Huntsville. We’ve not always agreed on everything,” said Mayor Ronnie, and Mark nodded when he finished our time by saying, “but working together just makes sense.”

And then it was time for Ronnie and Mark to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Every single Saturday, Sunday and holiday, our plant manager, Ruby McCartney, and assistant manager, Keri Chalmers, come to work to dump the collection bins in front of the Recycling Center on Lucas Ferry Rd. These dedicated employees work 6 or 7 day weeks nearly all year long.

This year we would like to give these employees a full holiday weekend to enjoy their families. In order for us to give this gift to them, your help is needed.

On Friday, December 23rd, all of the drop-off bins in front of the recycling center will be removed. There will be no recycling drop off from noon that Friday through 7:00 a.m. on Monday, December 26th.

It is amazing how many people drop off their recycling on Christmas Day! Maybe they are on their way to Grandma’s for Christmas dinner and the center is on the way. Maybe some people just like to get rid of the clutter as quickly as possible.

This year we are asking everyone to hold on to their recycling until Monday, December 26th. We want our employees to enjoy an uninterrupted Christmas weekend. They work awfully hard all year long and we’d like you to help us give them this gift of time.

The Fourth R
We talk about the three Rs all the time. You know them: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. When we visit classrooms, we often share with them the fourth R – RESPECT.
When we have a job to do, it is so important to do it well. A good job reflects well on us; however, the other part of the equation is consideration of the person who must handle our work next. That might be someone painting a wall we’ve primed, adding the next part on an assembly line, or editing an article we’ve written. It might also be the person who handles the recycling we’ve dropped off at the center. We are respecting the next person who must handle our work by doing the very best we can with our part of a process.

Please remember that all our materials are sorted by hand. In order to receive the best prices for materials, they have to be as free of contaminants as possible. We are always amazed at some of the things we find mixed in with the recycling. I’ll just leave it to your imagination!

Here are a few things each of us can do to help streamline the work being done at the recycling center, saving time and expense. I know that I am probably preaching to the choir here. If you read these articles, you already care. Here they are to be shared as needed:

• Remove all Styrofoam, ribbons, bows, peanuts and other items before recycling boxes. These items are not recyclable and must be removed by hand.
• Flatten boxes. This saves room in collection containers and reduces the need for them to be emptied – especially on the weekends.
• Rinse milk jugs before recycling. Soured milk does not make for pleasant working conditions, especially during warm weather.
• Separate recyclables from your garbage.
• Follow the signs that indicate things we DO NOT accept, such as household hazardous waste, tires, and paint. Tires can be taken to one of the four Limestone County Garages for recycling.

A gift you can give all through the year is to just keep recycling! It is good for the environment, good for our community, and it keeps your neighbors employed. Every effort you make is greatly appreciated!
By: Lynne Hart

12-2-2016-9-31-17-amExercise may help! Research has shown that certain levels of physical activity can positively affect mental health – stress, depression, anxiety.

People with higher levels of fitness are capable of handling stress more effectively than those who are less fit. Cardiovascular exercise is the activity that benefits stress reduction the most. Cardiovascular exercise (often referred to as cardio) is any exercise that raises your heart rate. This usually involves using the large muscles in your body – walking, running, biking, skating, etc.

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The antidepressant action is one of the most commonly accepted psychological benefits of exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce stress more effectively than antidepressant drugs. Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise seem to be equally effective. Both a one-time exercise session and long term programs have positive results. However, greater improvement is seen after several weeks of regular exercise. Both men and women show the positive effect of exercise on depression.

12-2-2016-9-31-33-amResearch also shows a reduction of anxiety with exercise. Even short bursts (5 minutes) of cardiovascular exercise stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Again, regular training offers the greatest benefits. .

So to reduce your Holiday Stress, reduce your Holiday Blues, and burn the extra holiday calories – exercise! If you need a little help getting started, join some activity programs that are available or consult with a personal trainer.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

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12-2-2016-9-14-26-amIf you’ve been past Big Spring Memorial Park, or the duck pond as locals know it, you’ve probably seen the Christmas trees lined up and ready for decorations. This is all in preparation for the 2nd annual North Pole Stroll that will kick off on Saturday, December 3rd and continue through the holidays. It’s not too late to adopt a tree! Just give the Tourism office a call at 256-232-5411.

KALB always strives to be different, so our “tired” snowman family will once again make an appearance at this year’s North Pole Stroll. Last year, they were “tired” tourists exhausted from visiting all of the great destinations in Limestone County. This year, they will be “tired” of waiting for Santa. It just makes perfect sense that an organization such as ours that advocates recycling would reuse something for our display. We are all about the 3 Rs!

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Most of us probably don’t give much thought to the fact that millions of tires are discarded each year. Tire mountains used to be a common sight, and I have personally seen one in Cleveland, Ohio that caught fire. Tire fires are difficult to put out, often take weeks or months to extinguish, and create large amounts of noxious fumes. Scrap tires can cause huge environmental problems.
Over the years, changes have been made to the way tires are handled. In our state, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has taken measures to assist with proper handling of old tires. Our state generates about 5 million scrap tires annually and an additional 4 million are brought into Alabama from other states.

According to the ADEM website, since the Alabama Scrap Tire Program was instituted, approximately 7,092,000 scrap tires from all sources are beneficially reused annually. About 96.5% are utilized as fuel or substitute raw material and 3.5% are reused through engineered and other uses. Of course, the steel belts are also recycled.

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The Limestone County Commission has secured a grant through ADEM that allows them to accept tires for recycling from Limestone County residents through September 30, 2018. Our recycling center is NOT equipped to accept tires; however, you may take them to any of the four Limestone County District Tool Sheds where collection trailers are located.

12-2-2016-9-14-51-amHere is where you can help. If you have old tires on your property, you have the perfect opportunity to dispose of them free of charge and ensure they are recycled. Only you have the power to gather and recycle tires located on your property.

There is never an excuse for tossing tires in the river, over banks, or on roadsides. Disposal is FREE and the hazards of discarded tires include mosquito and rodent breeding, water pollution, and more. If you see them, consider picking them up if you are able, or at least let your commissioner know where they are located.

It was at one of the county tool sheds that KALB found the size and number of tires needed to put our snowman family together.
Be sure to schedule time during the holiday season to visit the North Pole Stroll and the “tired” snowman family at Big Spring Memorial Park. When Santa visits, be sure to let him know that you recycle!
By: Lynne Hart

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11-18-2016-2-49-02-pmIt is that time of year when we turn our focus to the holidays. For most of us, that means lots of family time, cooking, baking and, of course, eating! The first thing that comes to my mind is the wonderful smell of a roasting turkey. I’m obviously not the only one. Forty-five million others in the United States will be enjoying turkey, too – although our cooking methods may be different.

Some love to grill their turkey and others will deep fry it in peanut oil. I prefer a turkey roasted in the oven. No matter how the turkey is cooked, there will be grease. When our plates are clean and the leftovers stored, there will be a lot of kitchen fats, oils and grease (FOG) to be handled.

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FOG can originate from vegetable or animal sources, such as dairy products, vegetable oil, olive oil, or fats from cooking meats. Fats, oils and grease poured into the wastewater system (sewers) will cool and become a sticky layer on sewer pipes. The sticky mess then attracts and holds other food particles and debris that flows through the drains causing blockages or clogs. These clogs can then cause overflows. Removing these blockages is very costly, both financially and to the health of the environment.

The Athens Wastewater Department spends tens of thousands of dollars removing these clogs, the cost of which is passed on to the consumer. We all know who that is!

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In 2012, the Wastewater Department, in cooperation with Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, developed the FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease) Collection and Recycling Program to help reduce the occurrence of clogs. This program provides an easy way to recycle household FOGs. KALB continues to work with the Wastewater Department educating residents about the dangers of improper disposal of fats, oils and grease because there is still so much that is not being captured.

In our haste to get things done, we often think that “just a little bit” of grease down the drain won’t hurt. With a hot water chaser, it will be ok. That is false thinking. Eventually that small amount of oil or grease will cool and attach itself to the pipe. All those little fatty party animals will get together and invite everything else you let slip down the drain to join them. That could become a costly plumbing repair bill for Joe Homeowner. If you don’t create enough fats, oils or grease to collect for recycling, let the fats cool, then wipe the pan and discard the fats into your trash.

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How To Participate
FOG Collection and Recycling containers are available free of charge to Athens and Limestone County residents. Just pick one up from the white FOG cages located at the following locations:
• Athens-Limestone Recycling Center – 15896 Lucas Ferry Rd.
• KALB Office – 125 East Street
• Utility Building – 1806 Wilkinson St.
• Various apartment complexes in Athens (check with apartment management)

Once the container is full, return it to the bottom shelf of any of the collection cages. The contents will be processed and used in a variety of products.

Since the program started in 2012, nearly 4,000 gallons of fats, oils and grease have been recycled. If you produce fats, oils or grease in your kitchen, then this program is designed for you. Please take the time to keep these harmful materials out of the wastewater system and allow them to be useful again.

Pick up your FOG container now so you have it ready for your holiday cooking, then continue to keep grease out of the sewer lines by using the program throughout the year.
Call KALB or the Athens Wastewater Department if you have questions about this program.
By: Lynne Hart

11-18-2016-2-44-28-pmI really can’t believe that it is November already; as usual this has been a very busy month for the Alabama Veterans Museum! As this is the month for thankfulness, I wanted to take this time to say “Thank You” to each and every one of you for your support this year. Without the support of the Limestone County Commission, the City of Athens, the Limestone County Delegation, and of course the community, we could not do what we do to honor our veterans.

I would like to thank my wonderful volunteers; the museum really could not function without them. I hesitate to list them because I am afraid I will leave someone out, but here goes; our faithful volunteers are: Ed Adams, Jerry Barksdale, Johnny Beck, Tyre Benefield, Price Boyd, Anne Crutcher, Mike Criscillis, Yvonne Dempsey, Ralph Green, Anthony Lindner, Sal Ragona, Bill Scheuler, Ewell Smith, Julia Smith, and Jim Watson. We have a sign in our breakroom that I read daily which says “Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” No statement could be truer! If you would like to join this awesome team, come on down to the museum because we are always looking for new volunteers.

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I would also like to thank Steve Hornberger, who takes care of the office, Teddy Dutton and Ron Thrift, who take care of the building and our visitors. These guys always go the extra mile for me, whether it be getting here at “0 dark thirty” the first Saturday of every month for Coffee Call or setting up for an Elvis show, they work tirelessly. Thank you to our sponsors for Coffee Call; we literally could not do it without them each month.

And last, but certainly not least I want to say a big “Thank you” to my Board of Directors. I would like to give a special shout out to our board president, Jerry Crabtree. I always know I can count on Jerry for support! No matter what crazy event we come up with, he is always there to do the introduction and to work to ensure it is a success! I could not do what I do without the support of each and every one of you!

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Now, a little bit about who we are and why we do what we do every day. The vision of the Alabama Veterans Museum is to keep our military history alive for the education and enjoyment of the public. What makes our museum different and unique is that everything we have has been donated and each piece has a story behind it. We have artifacts from the Revolutionary War until present day. Most of our tour guides are veterans so you get the stories from the people who were actually living it.

The role of our museum is not only to entertain, but to educate. Last year we had over 10,000 visitors, over half of them children. We want to convey the incredible sacrifices and intensity of a world at war. Everyone should learn that our freedom is not free… it was bought by men and women, many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice. Throughout history and even today, ordinary individuals have given their life for this country; we owe these individuals a debt that can never be repaid.
“Thank you for your service.”
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

11-4-2016-10-51-48-amAthens State University’s Center for Lifelong Learning will be hosting The Story Behind the Song: A Songwriters Showcase. The event will be held on Friday, November 11, 2017, at 6:30 pm in McCandless Hall on the Athens State campus.

We are so excited to bring these talented musicians to McCandless Hall in an unplugged format. Each songwriter will play his songs and talk about the inspiration behind his writing.Tickets are $20 for the reserved seating show and are available now for purchase at the Center for Lifelong Learning at 121 South Marion Street on the east side of the Limestone County Courthouse Square. For more information about the concert, call 256-233-8260 or visit www.athens.edu/cll.

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Songwriter Phillip White is a Rogersville native, a graduate of Austin High School in Decatur, and the winner of the Academy of Country Music’s Song of the Year for his hit “I’m Movin’ On” (Rascal Flatts). He has written songs for artists such as Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Wynonna, George Strait, and Kenny Rogers. During the past twenty years he’s been published by some of music row’s most respected publishers including Murrah Music, Disney, Universal, and Sea Gayle Music. He recently signed with Fluid Music Revolution and Spirit Music Publishing.

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Monty Holmes grew up in Lubbock, Texas. His grandfather exposed him to a great record collection and such artists as Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. From Ray Price to the Rolling Stones, Holmes’ songs reflect his varied musical influences. Throughout the years, Holmes has worked with Whitey Shafer, Hank Cockran, Glenn Martin, Don Sampson, Donnie Kees, Tony Mullins, Leslie Satcher, Scotty Emerick, Brice Long, Buddy Cannon, and Phillip White. He has written songs for George Strait, including chart toppers “I know She Still Loves Me,” “When Did You Stop Loving Me,” and the 2009 Grammy Award winning Country Album of the Year, “Troubador” and “House of Cash.” Holmes is currently an ASCAP writer but is a multiple BMI “million-air,” an honor for writers with over 1 million broadcast performances.

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Clint Daniels is a Florida native, inspired by bluegrass music. After graduating from high school, he moved to Nashville to pursuit a career in country music. He had two singles on the charts – “A Fool’s Progress” and “When I Grow Up.” Since leaving Epic Records, Daniels has co-written songs with other country artists, including the Number One hit “Brokenheartsville” by Joe Nichols and “Roll with Me” by Montgomery Gentry, as well as Brooks and Dunn’s “God Must Be Busy.”

This is going to be a wonderful concert. I know you will enjoy yourself. The show is sponsored by Guitar Center, Huntsville. Stop by the Center to pick up your tickets today.
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262

11-4-2016-10-23-59-amI am told that fall has arrived, but the temperatures make it difficult to tell! Although we are experiencing cooler nights, our daytime temperatures have frequently felt more like summer.

The biggest problem we are experiencing in North Alabama is lack of rain. Limestone County is under extreme drought conditions, which is the second-highest intensity level. It will take over 10 to 14 inches of rain to take our area out of drought conditions. Climatologists are saying that this is the worst drought we’ve experienced in nearly 10 years.

Vegetation is drying up due to lack of water as you can tell by the crunching sound you hear when you walk across the grass. This creates a very dangerous situation. The simplest spark can cause the dried vegetation to catch fire. According to the Alabama Forestry Commission website, from October 1st through October 28th there were 1,028 wildfires in the state destroying 11,232 acres.

Currently there is little rain in sight.

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“No Burn Order” in effect
Governor Robert Bentley has signed a Drought Emergency Declaration, or a No Burn Order, into effect which includes Limestone County. So what does that mean?
Due to extreme risk of wildfires, it is illegal to do any of the following while a No Burn Order is in effect:
• Set fire to plants, trees, or grass.
• Build a campfire or bon fire
• Burn trash or debris
• Any other type of open burning
Failure to comply could cost the offender up to a $500 fine or 6 months in jail.

Cigarette Litter
As I drove to work earlier this week, I saw a cigarette butt in the middle of a road which was still smoking. All it would have taken was a bit of wind to blow that smoldering filter to the grass and start a fire. These drought conditions have led to a high number of grass fires in our area. I know that there are many causes for this such as farming equipment hitting a rock, vehicles dragging chains, etc. That does not negate the dangers of cigarette butts causing fires, especially in this serious drought situation.
KALB has pocket ashtrays which allow smokers to safely store cigarette butts until they can be properly discarded. PLEASE, if you are a smoker, be a responsible one. Do not toss your butts into the environment where they can cause fires and leach dangerous chemicals into the environment. KALB is not interested in lecturing anyone about the act of smoking; however, we do feel a responsibility to remind those who do smoke to choose not to pollute the environment or take a chance on starting a wildfire.

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Once No Burn Order Lifted
Once the drought conditions have improved and the No Burn Order has been lifted, there are still things we need to remember about open burning. The following information is taken from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management regulations under section 335-3-3-.01.

Open burning authorized by this paragraph shall comply with the following conditions:

• The burning must take place on the property on which the combustible fuel originates;
• The location of the burning must be at least 500 feet from the nearest occupied dwelling, other than a dwelling located on the property on which the burning is conducted;
• The burning must be controlled so as to avoid creating a traffic hazard on any public road, street, or highway as a result of the air contaminants emitted;
• Only vegetation and untreated wood may be burned. It is unauthorized to open burn heavy oils, asphalt products, plastics, vinyl materials, insulation, paper, cardboard, natural or synthetic rubber, salvage or scrap materials, chemicals, garbage, treated or painted wood, or any trash;
• Initial burning may be commenced only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. No combustible material is to be added to the fire between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. the following day;
• Burning shall be conducted only when there is good ventilation and when the prevailing wind direction is away from any built-up area in the vicinity. No burning shall be conducted in areas under a current air stagnation advisory issued by the National Weather Service or during a “Drought Emergency” declared by the Governor;
• The fire shall be attended at all times.

Let’s work together to keep our community safe.
By: Lynne Hart

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