Tuscaloosa

Police across central Alabama say three mosques in the state have been burglarized in recent days, and one Islamic leader hopes the cases aren't part of a conspiracy of hatred.

Tuscaloosa police say two safes containing cash and a handwritten Quran were stolen from the Islamic Center of Tuscaloosa earlier this week. Police have released a photo of a car believed to be involved in the robbery that was captured on surveillance video.

Construction is still ongoing in Tuscaloosa for a new$16 million 911 dispatch center serving all county emergency agencies and the Emergency Management Agency.

The Tuscaloosa News reports work on the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations and Communications Center is expected to finish by the end of the year, with staff occupying the building next spring. Work on the building began last August.

Some high school students in Tuscaloosa are meeting with their state representative later today to ask him to sponsor and introduce a new bill regarding pets in hot cars.

lynching memorial
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Community members gathered alongside the Equal Justice Initiative in Tuscaloosa earlier this week to shine a light on one of the darkest periods in Alabama’s history. The EJI’s Community Remembrance Project unveiled a marker commemorating the eight documented lynching victims in Tuscaloosa County.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon prepared this look at the unveiling and program.

Some Alabama Voters Heading to Polls Today

Mar 7, 2017

Voters in Tuscaloosa as well as a House district in the Birmingham area are heading to the polls today to decide the future of their community representation.

District 58 needs a new representative in the Alabama House after Oliver Robinson retired last fall. Today the district is holding its primary election. If there is no need for a run-off, the general election will be held May 23.

Amtrak passengers between New Orleans and Atlanta will be affected by routine maintenance on the tracks next week, and will be put on buses instead.

The National Weather Service says get ready to bundle up today through the weekend.

Frigid temperatures are in the forecast with the possibility of up to three inches of snow across the central part of the state. Forecasters think the I-20 corridor from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham will see snow accumulations which could make driving hazardous.

Gary Goggins is a forecaster with the National Weather Service. He says Alabamians should make preparations regardless of the local forecast, because trying to predict where snow is going to fall is tough.

More than $2 million dollars in federal funding is coming to Alabama and two other Southern states to restore and improve passenger rail service.

Yesterday, the Southern Rail Commission announced Federal Railroad Administration funding for eleven communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The communities will get money for station-area planning and construction projects to improve safety, access and convenience.

UACCS puts on gift drive

Dec 15, 2016

As the holiday season rolls along, groups in Tuscaloosa are working to make things a little bit easier on veterans. The University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama for a gift drive for the patients at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

Leroy Hurt is the associate dean for community engagement at the College of Continuing Studies. He says they’re taking typical household items on their visit…

SantaCon
David A. Smith / DSmithScenes

Dozens of Santas took to the streets of Tuscaloosa this weekend for an event known as SantaCon.

The Santas followed a winding route to hit many of the city’s bars and microbreweries. But the main focus of the evening was on charity. The group donated hundreds of toys to Turning Point of West Alabama, an organization serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children. They also received donations of toiletries for the mothers at Turning Point.

Former astronaut pleads not guilty in deadly wreck

Nov 30, 2016

A former space shuttle commander has pleaded not guilty in a fatal wreck that killed two girls in Alabama.

Court records show 60-year-old James Halsell Jr. entered the written plea last week. The former astronaut is charged with reckless murder in a crash that killed two girls riding in a car near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in June.

Authorities say they suspect alcohol was a factor. But Halsell's lawyers filed a document in a civil lawsuit blaming the other driver for failing to yield.

ribbon cutting
Alex AuBuchon / APR

State lawmakers and education officials gathered in Tuscaloosa yesterday to celebrate the expansion of public preschool in Alabama.

The dignitaries cut the ribbon on two new preschool classrooms at Verner Elementary School in Tuscaloosa. Those are two of 155 new preschool classrooms opening this year throughout the state, serving 2800 more of Alabama’s four-year-olds than last year. That’s thanks to a $16 million increase in funding from the Alabama Legislature.

The annual Druid City Pride festival is taking place this weekend in Tuscaloosa. 

This is the second year for the Pride event, with a lot more activities than last year’s. The theme is One Love, which festival organizers say could not come at a better time.

The events begin this evening at5:30 p.m. with a Happy Hour Kickoff Party at the Lookout rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo in downtown Tuscaloosa. Tomorrow, there will be a tailgate with PRIDE on the University of Alabama quad for the Alabama vs Texas A&M football game, with pride members from both schools in attendance.

Tuscaloosa officials seek return of passenger air service

Oct 17, 2016

Tuscaloosa officials are making a concerted effort to return passenger air service to the city's airport.

The city council has approved a contract with Sixel Consultants Group to help lure a passenger airline to the Druid City.  They want upgrade the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport's existing facilities to accommodate the service.

A commercial airline has not operated at the airport in nearly 20 years.

Druid City Garden Project
University of Alabama

It’s time once again for Tuscaloosa's annual Garden Party.

The food fest is this Sunday evening at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Ten area farmers will be pairing with chefs from ten local restaurants to create a menu of dishes that won’t be available anywhere else.

The event benefits the Druid City Garden Project, a nonprofit educational organization in Tuscaloosa. Lindsay Turner is the Executive Director of the project.

Alex AuBuchon: Lindsay, your group puts gardens in local elementary schools—what benefits do the students get from the gardens? 

Judge lifts driver license suspension of former astronaut

Sep 22, 2016

A judge in Tuscaloosa has delayed the driver license suspension of a former astronaut charged in the traffic deaths of two girls.

Records show the court delayed the state's move to take James Halsell's driver's license. An order issued earlier this month says the one-time space shuttle commander can keep his license until his case is resolved.

Law officers in Tuscaloosa County were able to rein in a wayward horse by corralling it in a gated softball field at Holt High School.

They're trying to find the horse's owners, which remained a mystery as of early Friday.

Sgt. Alex Miles tells the news site that deputies were sent to the area late Thursday night after people spotted the loose horse, which appeared to have an injured leg and hoof.

Physical and mental health is the subject of a town hall tomorrow at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

A representative from the Veterans Benefits Administration will be on hand to teach veterans how to file claims for illnesses or injuries while they were on active duty.

Damon Stevenson is the Public Affairs Officer for the Tuscaloosa VA. He says learning how to file claims can help veterans take care of their health.

Lyric and Alabama Theaters
Joe de Sciose

The Alabama House of Representatives approved Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed state lottery last night by an extremely tight margin.

Representatives voted 64-35 for the bill late last night, barely clearing the 63 votes required to clear the 105-seat House. The vote came after 10 hours of back-and-forth debate and two vote attempts.

Lottery supporters cheered in the House as newly-elected Speaker Mac McCutcheon announced the bill's eventual success.

Federal aviation investigators say a pilot told air traffic controllers that fuel pumps aboard the plane were failing before it plunged to the ground and caught fire near Tuscaloosa, killing six people from Mississippi.

A preliminary report on the crash released this morning by the National Transportation Safety Board says the pilot reported one fuel pump failure.  After that, when he was a few miles from Tuscaloosa's airport, reported that the plane lost "the other fuel pump."

Alabama Senators will be debating how to divvy up the state’s portion of oil spill settlement money amid a looming hole in the Medicaid budget.

The Alabama Senate is expected to take up the settlement bill today. A version of the legislation passed the House last week. Debate on the Senate floor could get contentious, though, as Senators can’t seem to agree on how much money should help Medicaid and how much should go toward road projects on the Alabama coast.

Alabama's unemployment rate is on the decline.

A statement issued Friday by the governor's office says Alabama's July unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, down three-tenths of a percent from June. It's also below the jobless rate of a year ago.

State unemployment is still well above the U.S. rate of 4.9 percent. But the Labor Department says the July rate represents the fewest number of unemployed people in Alabama since 2008.

The state has added almost 28,000 jobs in the last year.

Alabama Senators have once again failed to vote on a lottery proposal.

The Senate spent much of the day yesterday debating and revamping a lottery bill backed by Senator Jim McClendon that would establish a state lottery as well as electronic gambling machines in several Alabama locations. But Senators ultimately decided not to vote, after a test vote indicated the bill didn’t have enough support to pass.

Alabama’s Legislature is once again scrambling to find additional funding in a special session.

Governor Robert Bentley reconvened the House and Senate in order to find new revenue for Medicaid, infrastructure, and state debt repayment. One of the most popular approaches seems to be constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery to direct revenue into Alabama’s General Fund budget. Several legislators are pushing their own versions of lottery bills, many of which include other forms of gambling as well.

The fate of Alabama’s embattled Chief Justice now rests with the Court of the Judiciary. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has the latest from Montgomery.

Supporters of Chief Justice Roy Moore and gay rights advocates packed the steps of the Alabama Judicial Building this afternoon.

The state Court of the Judiciary heard oral arguments this afternoon in a case that could result in Moore’s removal from office.

Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore will appear before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary this afternoon.

Moore is facing judicial ethics violations that could result in his removal from the head of the Alabama Supreme Court. The charges stem from an order Moore gave the state's probate judges back in January encouraging them not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. That was in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

2011 Tornadoes: A Forecaster's nightmare

Aug 6, 2016

The April 2011 tornado outbreak caused widespread destruction, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage.  Local TV weathercasters helped spread the word on where tornadoes were and where they’re going. But what happens when the weatherman becomes a victim of the severe weather while he’s on the air? APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the story of one forecaster where on April 27th, 2011, the saying the story hits close to home takes on a whole new meaning.

Ask anyone in the TV news business, and they’ll tell you people tune in mostly for the weather.

Advanced Band
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Say “the blues,” and Mississippi might come to mind. But Alabama has just as much heritage when it comes to this musical form, and for the past 20 years, the Tuscaloosa-based Alabama Blues Project has been working to preserve that heritage for future generations. Tomorrow, the nonprofit will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert in Tuscaloosa. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports some of the musicians are only as big as their guitars.

State lawyers are hoping to set a date for the execution of a death row inmate who unsuccessfully challenged Alabama's lethal injection method as unconstitutional.

Last week, the Alabama Attorney General's office asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set an execution date for Thomas Arthur "as soon as possible." The request comes after a federal judge ruled for the state and against Arthur's claims that the state's lethal injection method was unconstitutional earlier this month.

Democratic National Convention
Wikimedia

Alabama lawmakers are currently being polled about support for lottery legislation as Governor Robert Bentley contemplates calling a special session on Medicaid funding.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says legislative leaders are gauging interest from state legislators. Marsh says the discussions come as Governor Bentley contemplates calling a special session that could include a lottery bill.

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