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14 months after COVID-19 , parks still closed

By Brendan Kirby

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    PRICHARD, Alabama (WALA) — Friday was a gorgeous day, perfect for youth sports or just hanging out in the park.

Just one problem in Prichard – they’re all closed.

Even as other cities long ago reopened their parks and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, city officials here say the virus still poses too great a risk to allow people in the parks or to participate in youth recreation programs.

“The numbers are still spiking,” city spokesman TJ Pettway said.

The prolonged shutdown has drawn increasingly loud voices of protest among youth sports advocates and others.

Community activist Quinn Austin-Pugh noted that COVID-19 transmission is dramatically lower and that health experts say outdoor activities are a low risk. He questioned why Prichard can’t reopen when other cities have long ago.

“My kids live in the city of Prichard. We have to go over to Africatown, which is in Plateau to even be able to play Tee-ball right now,” he said. “You know, it’s ridiculous that I have to go outside my city with my kids to be able to, you know, give them a piece of a piece of joy in their life.”

Austin-Pugh criticized city officials for not maintaining the parks during the shutdown.

“Right now, the grass is literally up to my knees,” he said, traipsing through the football field at Fagerstrom Municipal Park, commonly known as Eight Mile Park. “The grass is literally up to my knees as we walk through now. I mean, it’s disgusting, you know what I’m saying? It’s repulsive to see how the City Council neglects its people.”

Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner denied that the city has failed to maintain the parks during the shutdown.

“That’s not correct,” he told FOX10 News. “They cut those parks regularly. As you know, when it rains, it grows.”

Before COVID-19, the park was alive with the sounds of kids playing football. Austin-Pugh has fond memories of generations of football games here. Now, he said, the city risks its youth getting into trouble.

And it’s not just sports, Austin-Pugh said. He noted that Highpoint Park has a brand-new splash pad built with a grant from the Mobile County Commission. He it never has been used. Since COVID, a lock has kept the gate closed.

Bryon Gill, of the Mobile Youth Football League, said Prichard’s policy is bad for youths.

“It’s having a very bad impact,” he said.

Gill added that he has pleaded with the City Council to no avail.

“I’ve given them the paperwork on the COVID situation, as well as the governor lifting the mask mandate,” he said.

James Roberson, assistant athletic director of Eight Mile Park, said the policy is “giving our kids nothing to do” and that Prichard should reopen.

“The park belongs to the people,” he said.

Roberson also is CEO of the Alabama Youth State Championships, which hosted 5,600 athletes at Sage Park in November.

“Not one person caught COVID, because we followed all the safety measures,” he said.

City Council President Ossia Edwards said the council would revisit the issue next month. But the mayor said the time is not yet right.

“We still need to be concerned about the coronavirus, COVID-19. And, from my position as the mayor of the city, I weigh more to the life of those who are living here than I do to whether or not someone is going to get into a park,” Gardner said. “And I think we should be very careful of wanting to rush right into the parks and bring our young kids and gathering with football.”

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“It’s like drinking water, breathing air “: Obligation to attend mass to be reinstated for thousands of Catholics

By Marella Porter

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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — After 15 months worth of sacrifice and changes because of COVID-19, soon glaring signs of the pandemic, like roped off pews and masks, will be stripped away from many Catholic churches across South Alabama.

Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi addressed priests of the Archdiocese of Mobile in a letter, writing that regulations put in place to address COVID-19 will end on May 29th.

The latest guidance by the CDC, loosening restrictions for vaccinated people, prompted the Archdiocese to rid catholic churches of their current COVID-19 regulations.

“Now they really wanna get the last part done. They wanna take the last ropes off the pews and take the masks off and so they’re looking forward to doing that,” said Father John Lynes of Little Flower Catholic Church.

Archbishop Rodi telling Catholics across South Alabama coming to mass will no longer be optional at the end of this month, saying the “dispensation from the obligation to attend mass”will end on May 29th.

“It’s like drinking water, breathing air. Truly, just being able to come to mass is such a blessing and such a gift,” said Bette Szafranski, who was attending mass at Little Flower Catholic Church Friday afternoon.

Father John says of 800 families in his congregation 75-80% have returned to attend mass in person.

“Attending mass in person is everything for us as Catholics.”

He believes vaccines have given people confidence and is a key part to why the restrictions are being lifted.

“People are already.. they really want to come and they just.. some might need that last little push from the archbishop to get them to come.”

Some parishioners were overjoyed to hear the word from the archbishop.

“Hopefully a lot of people will be able to return now. For me there’s nothing more essential in my life than Jesus Christ and that’s why I come to mass, so I can receive him in the holy eucharist.”

Archbishop Rodi says church leaders should “use good judgment” and may continue regulations if they believe it is necessary.

At little flower, Father John says they will go back to how things were before the pandemic.

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Woman turns herself in after machete attack, police says; son still at large

By WALA Staff

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    DAPHNE, Alabama (WALA) — The Daphne Police Department says a woman wanted after a knife and machete attack several days ago has turned herself in, but her son is also wanted and remains at large.

Police say 36-year-old Tamekia Williams turned herself in but refuses to say anything regarding the whereabouts of her son, Jalin Williams, 22, also wanted in the violent incident.

Police say it was about 9 p.m. Saturday when a male victim was assaulted by the mother and son. The victim was held against his will at knifepoint for several hours at the Williams’ Daphne residence, police say.

Investigators say the victim attempted to flee the residence, and he was stabbed several times by Jaylin Williams and slashed with a machete by Tamekia Williams. They say he was able to escape on foot and sought help at a nearby restaurant.

The victim was flown to University Hospital for treatment of his injuries, which are said to not be life threatening.

Tamekia and Jaylin Williams both face charges of second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment.

If you have information regarding the whereabouts of Jaylin Williams, you are asked to contact the detective unit at the Daphne Police Department at 251-620-0150.

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Oil Chem owner sentenced for violating clean water act

By Stephen Borowy

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    FLINT, Michigan (WNEM) — A businessman has been sentenced for dumping nearly 48 million gallons of untreated landfill wastewater into the Flint sewer system.

Robert Massey, the president and owner of Oil Chem Inc., located at W. 12th Street, was charged with violating the clean water act. He’s been sentenced to one year behind bars after pleading guilty in January.

Federal prosecutors say the dumping occurred over a period of more than eight years.

“This case should serve as a warning to anyone who knowingly and willfully violates the environmental laws of the United States. You will be prosecuted,” stated Acting US Attorney Mohsin. “The EPA and our law enforcement partners are committed to enforcing regulations designed to protect our communities and our treasured resources.”

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City crews used to collect yard waste amid worker shortage

By Rachel McCrary, Stephen Borowy

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    FLINT, Michigan (WNEM) — With spring here, lots of people have been doing some sprucing up in their yard but as with many things during this pandemic, COVID-19 has now affected yard waste pick-up too.

“This is just something this experience that we work on our way through,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley. “I defined it as the intersection of crisis in our community, but we’re championing these things in a fantastic fashion.”

Neeley said the city is dispatching crews to pick up yard waste throughout the Vehicle City for the next three days because the service provider has not been able to complete the job and he said you can blame it on COVID-19.

“Through no fault of their own, we are understanding that through this pandemic, a shortage of operations and drivers has been hitting everywhere, every community, but for the residents to be penalized for that shortage, it should not happen,” Neeley said.

Neeley added that Republic Services will reimburse the city $32,000 for performing the work.

“Through this engagement, they will pick up all costs and all expenses occur by this community for our engagement in our activity using our workers and our vehicles that do to pick up,” Neeley said.

Republic Services issued notices this week and two weeks prior saying that pickup of yard waste would be temporarily delayed because of worker shortages and the high volume of yard waste. All residents have been instructed to leave their yard waste at the curb.

“We’re expecting before our provider to be back on track next week after we helped him out with this a little additional push,” Neeley said.

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NFL player leads shoe giveaway to middle school

By Chris Harris

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — The current Seattle Seahawks Safety Ugo Amadi is giving back the community that helped raise him.

The former Former Overton Bobcats star gathered some of his NFL buddies to help him distribute shoes to students at Rose Park Middle School.

“Getting new shoes, I don’t care how old you are. You’re gonna love a new pair of shoes,” says Amadi.

The kids sure did.

And the group of NFL players, from George Kittle, to T.J. Hockenson, to Derek Barnett to Corn Elder handed out 375 pairs of brand new Nikes to plenty of smiling faces.

“I saw some black air forces over there that were pretty sweet. I’d probably rock those ones,” says Detroit Lions Tight End T.J. Hockenson.

“They’re very appreciative. and it’s always good to give back. especially being from middle Tennessee. Being out here with Ugo and Derek, we all grew up here. It’s definitely great,” adds Carolina Panthers Cornerback Corn Elder.

“You don’t know what anyone’s going through in life,” says San Francisco 49ers Tight End Kittle. “But when you make someone smile, it puts a smile on your own face.”

It’s a nice way to help wind down the school year.

And the gesture is something Amadi takes pride in, having grown up in the area as a product of the Metro school system.

“I honestly did not think I’d be where I am right now at 17-years-old. I mean when I was 17 years old being able to give back to the community. But this is always on my heart. There’s gonna be another Ugo Amadi at this school. Or another Derek Barnett. Or another George Kittle. But they need those resources and that’s where we’re here to do.”

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Veteran’s account linked to another person, struggles to get help for over a year

By Caresse Jackman

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    SPRINGVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — For 17 months, a Navy veteran Carl Holland hasn’t been able to see his own benefits.

Why? Because he says the VA system accidentally linked his name to a complete stranger he’d never met.

Issues with his health, Holland says, stems from his time in service during Agent Orange, a type of weed killer, used as a tactic to clear out brush in the jungles during Vietnam was later determined to have health effects on veterans.

It’s what Carl Holland was exposed to as a young Navy man, and still affects him at the age of 74.

“I’ve had to have three back surgeries and I’m facing probably another one with the neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt. Right now, I’m trying to stay if off with pain medication, pain management, and physical therapy,” Holland said.

It’s the reason he’s seeking VA Disability Benefits. However, getting that information about his medical benefits through the VA has been impossible for the last 17 months.

When he tries to log in with his name, the system brings up another Veteran’s details who lives in Texas! When he told the VA, he says they labeled it as fraud.

“I could not get into my file! They told me you’re looking at someone else’s records, so we locked you out of your file. I said that’s insane. I’m the one that told you there’s somebody in my file. My login. Everything!!” Holland said.

Andrew Kester’s Director of the Montgomery County Veterans Service Organization. Kester helps hundreds of veterans get the help they need and referred Mr. Holland to News 4 Investigates’ Call 4 Action team.

Kester says what Holland experienced was a mixture of human error and fraud safety features set to protect veterans.

“One slip of the key, one slip of the typing, took 30 seconds to make the mistakes, has now taken a year to correct,” Kester said.

So, News4 Investigates got on the case. We contacted the VA, asking how did this happen? A week after we started asking questions, Holland can now access his benefits. He just wonders how many other veterans have experienced the same problem.

“If they’re not fighting the VA today to get what’s due to them, they’re going to be fighting them in the future, because they’re going to be blowing them off.

News4 reached out to the VA to get their reasons as to what exactly happened with Mr. Holland’s account. They stated that for privacy reasons, they cannot discuss his information. They did mention that it was reported to the appropriate office.

News4 also asked the VA about the concerns that another person’s name and information appeared where it didn’t need to be. We are waiting to hear back from the VA regarding the matter.

If you are having trouble getting answers from the VA, there are several resources available to you.

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‘Need more people like them’: Firefighters deliver orders after Instacart driver’s car destroyed in crash

By KMOV Staff

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    ST. CHARLES, Missouri (KMOV) — Firefighters are typically the first to arrive in an emergency. A St. Charles woman is praising firefighters for a surprising act of kindness, that kept her from losing much-needed money

“There needs to be more people like them,” Robetta Poss said.

Poss had just dropped her son off at work Thursday when she was hit by a driver near Zumbehl Road and Interstate 70, leaving her car totaled. She is an Instacart driver and had three more delivers to make.

With her paycheck on the line, firefighters decided to make the deliveries for her.

“It was great. I love it and I appreciate every one of you,” she added.

Watch the video above, News 4 captured the moment Poss thanked the men.

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Covid-19 cluster identified at high school

By WLOS Staff

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    BUNCOMBE COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Buncombe County Schools announced Friday, May 14, that a COVID-19 cluster was identified at Enka High School.

School officials say seven lab-confirmed cases were linked to one another. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more plausibly linked cases over a 14-day period.

Contact tracing was performed by Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS), and all school-related close contacts have been notified individually and given further guidance, school officials say.

“The areas related to these cases have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized,” a news release from the BCS said. “Operations at Enka High will continue as usual, and we will keep you apprised of further updates.”

Buncombe school officials said the cluster is expected to appear on the NCDHHS COVID-19 Ongoing Clusters in Child Care and School Settings Report Friday, May 14.

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Law center renamed in honor of fallen deputy

By WLOS Staff

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    HENDERSONVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — A special dedication was held Friday in Hendersonville in memory of a fallen deputy.

Ryan Hendrix died in the line of duty last September while responding to a break-in call. On Friday, the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center was renamed in his honor.

The ceremony included county and state leaders, Sheriff Lowell Griffin, deputies and members of the Hendrix family.

Hendrix’s father spoke of how his son was a unique person, who was strong-willed and independent as a child.

“And as he grew into manhood, he honed his God-given strengths and weaknesses into a servant’s heart. He was the ultimate sheepdog, the one who stands between good and evil.

And, although we raised him and disciplined him and loved on him and taught him, we could not make him a hero. That was all Ryan’s doing,” his father Don Hendrix said.

State Sen. Chuck Edwards presented Hendrix’s parents with a state flag that flew over the North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh.

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