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Shelby announces $25.9 million in FAA Grants for Statewide Airport Infrastructure Upgrades

Brandon Moseley



Friday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) announced that 20 local airports throughout Alabama will benefit from more than $25.9 million in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for various airport improvements to support infrastructure construction, safety advances, and equipment acquisition.

“The FAA grants awarded to these local airports across Alabama support key projects that aim to improve safety, security, and efficiency,” said Senator Shelby. “Airport infrastructure impacts overall economic success, and as a result of this funding, twenty of Alabama’s airports will receive the upgrades and advances needed to continue serving communities and driving development.”

The FAA grants range from $10.4 million for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to $100,200 for the Camden Municipal Airport. They are funded through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and federal appropriations.

The 21 FAA grants, total $25,902,595.

The grants will support the following airport projects in Alabama:

  • The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham Airport Authority will receive $10,395,000 for attaining an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle; and for building aircraft rescue and firefighting building.
  • The Bessemer Airport has been awarded $2,277,393 for runway rehabilitation and runway lighting rehabilitation.
  • The Mobile Regional Airport, Mobile Airport Authority has been awarded $2,361,754 for taxiway rehabilitation.
  • The Merkel Field Sylacauga Municipal Airport, City of Sylacauga has been awarded $1,948,542 for runway rehabilitation and runway lighting rehabilitation.
  • The Cullman Regional-Folsom Field Airport, City and County of Cullman will receive $1,543,500 for taxiway reconstruction.
  • The Pryor Field Regional Airport, Counties of Morgan and Limestone will receive $1,150,000 for runway rehabilitation.
  • The Walker County-Bevill Field Airport will receive $1,108,500 for runway lighting rehabilitation.
  • The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham Airport Authority has been awarded $1,080,000 to conduct an environmental study.
  • The Northeast Alabama Regional Airport in Gadsden will receive $900,000 to improve airport drainage and taxiway rehabilitation.
  • The Ashland/Lineville Airport in Clay County has been awarded $497,488 for apron and taxiway construction.
  • The Bibb County Airport in Bibb County has been awarded $382,518 for apron and runway rehabilitation.
  • The Shelby County Airport will receive $348,814 for final reimbursement of construction of a 14,830-square-foot hangar building.
  • The H.L. (Sonny) Callahan Airport in Fairhope will receive $325,000 for access road expansion.
  • The Geneva Municipal Airport, Town has been awarded $310,500 for runway rehabilitation.
  • The Clayton Municipal Airport will receive $281,341 for runway rehabilitation.
  • The Wetumpka Municipal Airport has been awarded $244,727 for taxiway construction and taxiway lighting installation.
  • The Abbeville Municipal Airport will get $197,053 for runway rehabilitation.
  • The Centre-Piedmont-Cherokee County Regional Airport will receive $150,265 for taxiway construction.
  • The Anniston Regional Airport will receive $150,000 to conduct a miscellaneous study.
  • The Talladega Municipal Airport, City of Talladega has been awarded $150,000 for taxiway rehabilitation.
  • The Camden Municipal Airport, will get $100,200 for installation of a new runway vertical/visual guidance system and removal of hazardous obstructions.

Senator Shelby is the chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations, which authors and advances the FAA funding legislation. The funding distribution is based on both entitlement and discretionary awards.



Alabama exploring empty hotels to bolster hospital bed capacity

Chip Brownlee



Gov. Kay Ivey said on a conference with lawmakers and state officials Monday that the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering using hotels, especially in Alabama’s large metro areas, to expand hospital bed capacity.

The discussions come as public health experts warn that hospitals could face a surge in patients as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in Alabama and hospitals begin reporting more hospitalizations.

“The governor continues to explore all options to combat COVID-19,” the governor’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, said when APR asked about the plans. “A decision has not been finalized, but her priority remains focused on the health, safety and well-being of all Alabamians.”

On the conference call Monday, Ivey told lawmakers that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is visiting the city’s major metro areas to study facilities that could be used to provide extra hospital bed capacity if a surge in patients materializes, according to several lawmakers and elected officials who were on the call.

Ivey said on the call that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at ways it can contract with empty hotels to expand hospital bed capacity quickly to avoid an overwhelming of the state’s medical facilities with COVID-19 patients.

The Corps of Engineers is surveying potential sites in Tuscaloosa County, Lee County, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville. The discussions seem to mirror a nationwide plan being discussed by leaders of the Army Corps of Engineers.

It’s not clear when any of these popup hospitals could be functional in Alabama. More information or some kind of report on the possibility of using the hotels is expected by the end of the week, lawmakers who listened to the call said. But that would only be the first step of the process.

States across the country are looking at hotels — largely empty during the economic shutdown — as potential venues to bolster bed capacity. Washington purchased motels to add bed capacity early on its outbreak. The Army Corps of Engineers, according to McClatchy, explored using hotels in New York City.


The Corps then played a large role in New York, setting up a number of temporary hospitals at convention centers, colleges and other sites in the city, which is now the epicenter of a national outbreak.

The commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, told Fox News that residents of other parts of the country can expect to see pop-up field hospitals like those appearing in New York City.

The hotels, officials said, would be the easiest to convert into extra hospital bed capacity because there are already individual bathrooms for each room and often air conditioning and heat for each individual room.

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Madison, Baldwin counties lead state in population growth

Jessa Reid Bolling



Madison County and Baldwin County have seen the most growth of the 67 counties in the state, according to new data.

The state saw an increase in the population of 15,504 citizens in the most recent available year. Of the increase, 11,284 were in Madison and Baldwin counties, accounting for 73 percent of that increase.

The data, based on new U.S. Census data that reflects estimated population changes between July of 2018, and July of 2019, was organized and mapped out by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA).

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) organized and mapped out data from the recently released U.S. Census Bureau estimates to show the percentage of population increases in each county. 

The Huntsville metropolitan statistical area (MSA), which includes Madison and Limestone, posted the strongest gain among MSAs, with an estimated 8,643 new residents. Nearby counties like Morgan, Marshall, Cullman, Colbert, and Lauderdale also gained.

Between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019, population growth was more widespread in Alabama than it had been the year before. 29 counties saw growth compared to 22 in 2018. That more dispersed growth included more positive growth in some rural counties, particularly in North Alabama and Southeast Alabama.

The 2020 Census is currently underway and that will give even more recent and accurate numbers. 

Click here to begin filling out the 2020 Census questionnaire.

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Census could cost Alabama a congressional seat

Jessa Reid Bolling



With the 2020 Census underway, Alabama could be at risk of losing a congressional seat due to a slowly growing population.

Census data also determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. Congressional and state legislative districts are also drawn using census data. 

The census results will also show what communities need certain services like roads, schools, clinics and more.

The results will also determine the amount of federal funds that will be allocated to programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Head Start and others. 

Projections from The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) indicate the loss of a Congressional seat and that Alabama is vulnerable to be the state that loses that seat due to a low growing population. 

PARCA found that Alabama’s population grew 2.3 percent since 2010 and that every other southeastern state, except Mississippi, has outpaced Alabama’s population growth rate. Nationally, 34 states grew their population faster than Alabama did between 2010 and 2018. 

As of March 25, Alabama’s self-participation rate is slightly ahead of the nation at 27.7 percent compared to 26.2 percent. For comparison, the state’s final self-response rate in 2010 was 62.5%. Within Alabama, Autauga County leads all counties at 33.4 percent. 

“An accurate Census count is now more important than ever as state and local governments will be coping with a very different post-pandemic reality,” a statement from PARCA read. 


To ensure all Alabamians are counted in the 2020 Census, an advisory group called Alabama Counts! was formed to promote the census at the state and local level. 

“Even if the efforts of Alabama Counts! Are exceedingly successful, Alabama may well lose a congressional seat,” PARCA’s projection read. “Census workers simply cannot count people who are not here. And Alabama is simply not growing as fast as other states.”

Click here to begin filling out the 2020 Census questionnaire. 

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Civil Rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery has died

Brandon Moseley



Saturday, Civil Rights Movement legend, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery died. He was 98.

Lowery was a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Council along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was a valued member of King’s inner circle during the Civil Rights Movement. After King was assassinated Ralph David Abernathy took over the role leading the SCLC. In 1977 Lowery succeeded Abernathy and would go on to head the influential civil rights group as President for twenty years.

“RIP Rev. Joseph Lowery. A civil rights icon and a drum major for justice whose legacy will live on in all of us he touched,” Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) said on social media.

Lowery was born in Huntsville in 1921. After graduating from high school, he studied at Knoxville College and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College before earning a bachelor’s degree in 1943 from Paine College, a Methodist institution in Augusta, Georgia. Lowery then entered the seminary at Paine Theological Seminary to become a Methodist minister. After his graduation, Lowery became the Pastor of the Warren Street United Methodist Church in Mobile. He also became president of the local Alabama Civic Affairs Association. Lowery married his wife Evelyn in 1950. They had five children.

Lowery worked with King throughout the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Both men believed in nonviolence to achieve the goal of ending segregation. Following the Montgomery bus boycott, Lowery, King, Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth formed the SCLC to strengthen their work throughout the South.

In 1960, Lowery, Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, and Solomon Seay were sued for libel by the Montgomery police commissioner over an advertisement in the New York Times to raise funds for King’s legal defense. King was facing felony charges for allegedly false statements in his 1956 and 1958 Alabama tax returns. The all-white jury found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the defendants to pay $500,000 in restitution ($4,570.000 in today’s dollars). Lowery had his car seized and sold at public auction to pay the judgement. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the libel verdict in 1964, in New York Times v. Sullivan.

Lowery moved to Nashville in 1961 where he continued to lead marches and sit-ins against segregation in public facilities while continuing his leadership role in the SCLC.

In 1964, Lowery became the pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Birmingham until 1968.


Lowery was a loyal friend and supporter of Dr. King. He stood with King through personal crisis and aided King by tying up loose ends while King was jailed in Selma in February 1965. Lowery spoke at King’s memorial service in Atlanta following his assassination.

In 1968, Lowery became the pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Lowery aided Abernathy at the SCLC and took over as the president of SCLC. In 1977. Lowery continued to speak out for civil rights but also expanded the group’s focus to opposing apartheid in South Africa and human rights issues in the Middle East. In 1982, Lowery and Jesse Jackson led a march from Tuskegee to Washington, D.C., to promote the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lowery retired from the church in 1992, and left the SCLC in 1997, but remained active in a number of causes even in retirement. Lowery received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP. In 2001 Clark Atlanta University established the Joseph E. Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights. In 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack H. Obama (D). His wife, Evelyn, died in 2013.

“Dr. Joseph E. Lowery was a mentor and friend of mine,” said Martin Luther King III. “He worked closely with my father, as the Chair of SCLC board of directors and my mother throughout her lifetime and especially during her tenure at the King Center. As the President of SCLC who succeed him, I always valued, respected and appreciated his advice and counsel.”

“His service as SCLC’s president was also important because it came about at a critical time in the history of our nation when there were efforts to turn back the “clock of progress.,” King continued. “Dr. Lowery’s work and leadership personified SCLC’s theme “To Save The Soul of America.” He believed there was a place in the movement for everyone. Dr. Lowery was an “old school” Civil Rights leader and an excellent preacher and teacher who always used his God-given talents to promote social justice and the uplift of the poor and marginalized. He will be sorely missed. My wife, daughter and I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.”

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