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Filed 010/03/2006 Updated after 4PM for next day...
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Today’s News Headlines from Alabama 810 News 

  • Gadsden has new mayor and council president
  • Boat ban challenged
  • Store employee robbed in Gadsden
  • Amsouth merger vote set for Tuesday


Gadsden has new mayor and council president 

The Gadsden City Council has a new president after today's meeting and swearing-in ceremonies.  The council at a work session Sunday night elected Ben Reed as president, replacing Bob Echols, who had served as president since1990. That vote was formalized at today's council meeting.  Reed, who has served eight years on the council, was elected after Echols and Robert Avery failed to receive the four votes necessary to win.  Avery blamed race for his defeat and said a council member he did not name had said he would support the most experienced person for the post.
Avery pointed out he has 16 years' experience on the council. He served from 1986 to 2000, when he lost the mayor's race. Echols noted he has 20 years' experience.  Avery was supported by Walt Higgins and himself. They are the two black members of the council.  Bill Stewart and J.R. Countryman had first voted for Echols and then for Reed.  Stewart said he voted for Reed because he would handle meetings better and with dignity "and without bringing up race every time you turn around."
He said race was not a factor in his vote. Countryman also denied race was a factor in his vote, saying Reed had asked for his support.
Reed voted for himself, and Johnny Cannon also voted for Reed, giving him the necessary four votes.  Echols was elected council president pro tem, who presides over council meetings in the absence of the council president.
 Before today's council meeting Mayor-elect Sherman Guyton and the seven members of the council were sworn in at
10 a.m. at Convention Hall. 



Boat ban challenged 

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource Commissioner Barnett Lawley said state Marine Police will not enforce the law banning big and fast boats on three east Alabama lakes until a lawsuit challenging it has run its course in the courts.  Legislation prohibiting large and fast boats on Martin, Weiss and Harris lakes was passed by the House of Representatives on March 30, received the stamp of approval by the Senate on April 5 and was signed into law by Gov. Bob Riley on April 14.  
     The passage of the bill sparked a civil lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court on July 28.   As of Oct. 1, it was illegal to have a boat 26 feet, 11 inches long and rated by the manufacturer for or capable of a top speed in excess of 60 mph on Martin, Weiss and Harris Lakes.   
     A person violating the law could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and fined $100 to $1,000, if and when the new law is enforced by the Alabama Marine Police.  The new law also prohibits houseboats and recreational boats longer than 30 feet, 6 inches, but grandfathered in the existing houseboats and recreational vessels, which were used and licensed on the three lakes prior to July 1, 2006. 
     The big boat ban law is now pending in court after
Lake Martin boat owners and a Jasper boat dealer filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources challenging the constitutionality of it. This is not the first time the legislation has hit stormy waters. Initially, it was dubbed “stealth legislation” because the public was not aware of the proposal until media reports exposed it. Some lawmakers in the affected areas were also unaware of the bill introduced simultaneously by Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, in the Senate and Rep. Richard Laird, D-Roanoke in the House, until the bills reached the floor calendar of both houses. Opposition began to mount as provisions started surfacing. Initially, the legislation included nine lakes, including Logan Martin Lake, and the list of lakes stretched to 11 at one time before it was whittled down to Harris, Martin and Weiss lakes. 


Store employee robbed in Gadsden 

An employee of a Gadsden department store was robbed at gunpoint in the Canterbury Station parking lot Sunday night.  According to Gadsden Police, the robbery occurred around 6:25 p.m. Sunday evening in the parking lot off West Meighan Boulevard.  According to police officials, the robber, described by witnesses as a five-foot, six-inch black male, wore a mask, dark clothing and demanded money with a pistol. The robber then fled the scene on foot.  Police say they do have a suspect  in custody and the robbery was still under investigation.


Amsouth merger vote set for Tuesday 

Shareholders are expected to approve the $10 billion merger of AmSouth and Regions Banks Tuesday and that’s not good news for some.  The merger is will eliminate jobs, perhaps over 3-thousand of them in 16 states and the closing of many locations across the south, including Alabama and Calhoun County.
Banking industry experts say investors are likely to gain from the merger which will create a banking institution with over 2,000 branches and $140 billion in assets. It will make the merged company one of the 10 largest banks in the country.


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