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Tennessee Valley News Week in Review 1-12-2024

Catch up on the biggest news about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley
Catch up on the biggest news about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley

Catch up on the week's biggest stories about people, places, events and activities happening in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley.

A federal judge has declined to stop Alabama’s execution by nitrogen hypoxia. Kenneth Eugene Smith is set to die by suffocation of nitrogen gas sometime between 2 a.m. on Thursday, January 25, and 6 a.m. on Friday, January 26. AL.com reports he would be the first inmate anywhere to be executed using the gas. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Austin Huffaker Jr. ordered that some of Smith’s claims in his lawsuit can move forward, but denied Smith’s request for a preliminary injunction in the case to halt the execution. The judge found that “there is simply not enough evidence to find with any degree of certainty or likelihood that execution by nitrogen hypoxia under the Protocol is substantially likely to cause Smith superadded pain.” Smith’s lawyers suggested several changes to the protocol, or possibly carrying out his execution by firing squad.

Alabama is one of 15 states that will not be participating in a federal program that helps low-income parents pay for food for their children this summer. The USDA-run program called Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer gives qualifying parents $120 per child for the summer. The governor’s office says the state got the information needed to participate too late. Alabama Arise Senior Policy Analyst Carol Gundlach tells WIAT TV in Birmingham that the program was created so quickly and during the Alabama legislative session of last year that the state did not have time to appropriate the money. Gundlach says the state could, however, allocate money this session for the summer of 2025. She estimates it would cost about $10-12 million in the first year to set up the system, but likely less every year after.

Warming centers are getting ready to open in Huntsville as temperatures are expected to drop below freezing next week. WHNT TV reports The Livin’ Room, located at 2820 Governors Drive, will open its community warming center on Monday at 4 p.m. and remain open until Wednesday. The Salvation Army at 305 Seminole Drive will open its day shelter Monday through Wednesday from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. The overnight shelter will be open Monday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The Downtown Rescue Mission is preparing extra areas for people to get out of the cold and stay overnight. If you need transportation to one of these warming centers, you can call the Huntsville Police Department’s non-emergency number at (256)-722-7100.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has recorded a decrease in fatalities on Alabama’s roadways in 2023. According to a press release from the agency, in the last year 26 fewer lives were lost compared to 2022. ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor tells WAFF TV he credits the public for sharing the safety messages in making the roads safer for all people. 2023 was the second year the agency utilized the holiday season to promote traffic safety during ALEA’s “12 Days of Safety” initiative that ran from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. The safety training offered information on seat belt safety, and risky driving behaviors such as impaired and drowsy driving.

The parent company of grocery chain Food City has purchased two acres of land near several high-profile Huntsville residential and commercial developments. The property is located in the Stovehouse District, between mixed-family development The Foundry, office building The Range and Stovehouse, the multi-use event complex. According to the seller, The Beach Co., the proposed grocery store will be connected to the adjoining developments by a 10-foot-wide pedestrian sidewalk along Governors Drive, as well as an internal cross access connection. AL.com reports the development is estimated to break ground in the second quarter of this year, with a projected early 2025 opening.

The Huntsville city council voted unanimously to pay for a $15 million upgrade to the Von Braun Center during its meeting Thursday night. Huntsville City administrator John Hamilton tells AL.com that it’s a pretty significant project. It will take about a year and will include upgrades to the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, Playhouse, and the Saturn Ballroom, building an extension to the back of the concert hall and enlarging the VBC kitchen. The project will also include expanding the green room to make room for more actors, musicians and performers.