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Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU: Two more screens at Marianna Cinema

To the delight of movie fans all over the Chipola region, Marianna soon will have a true multi-plex cinema theater featuring a total of six movie houses.  The owners of Marianna Cinema released plans last week for two new screens, or movie houses, one to be added at each end of the existing four-screen complex on Lafayette Street. The new total of six will enable Marianna Cinema to feature even more first-run Hollywood movies.

The need to book more first-run movies was the reason that Bill and Sarah Homer of Jacksonville decided to add two screens in the 2012 construction project.  Before that, the theater had been Marianna Twin Cinema since it was first constructed in 1978.  But a limited number of screens prevent a movie theater from accessing first-run films out of Hollywood and New York, Marianna Cinema manager Harold McAlpin explained in 2012.  They expanded to four screens back then to handle the movies, not necessarily to handle an increase in moviegoers, he said.

Marianna Building Official Jimmy Grant explained Marianna Cinema’s plans for the TIMES last Friday.  “They have applied for a general development order from the City of Marianna,” he said.  “The drawn-out plans were handed to the city’s community development offices on Monday, June 6, by BTK Engineering Services of Chipley.  This Phase 1 project involves an expansion of the lobby and both restrooms.  There is a Phase 2 which will involve the building of two new movie houses, one on each side, east and west, of the existing buildings.” 

The engineering plans indicate that the lobby will be expanded with new construction to the front of the existing building.  The front-end or northern expansion will include new hallways on the east and west ends leading to the new screens, number five and number six. The building permit for the 2012 expansion, including new screens three and four for a total of 3,800 square feet, was issued in March 2012 with an estimated construction value of $160,000.  The Homers reported that they spent about $500,000 on that project which also included an upgrade to digital movie projection capability, a modernization of the lobby and restrooms and the addition of a party room.  The two original screens have seating for 200 each but screens three and four have more roomy seating for just 100 persons each.   

The engineering plans for the new lobby and theaters five and six will be submitted to the Marianna Planning Commission and then to the city commission for final approval.  At that time, the contractor will apply to the city for a building permit, Grant said.  The Panhandle Group of Chipley was the contractor for the 2012 expansion.  It took the contractors six months to build theaters three and four.

The Marianna Cinema building, located behind Pizza Hut at 4341 Lafayette Street, is located on a 3.4-acre lot that is perfect for expansion.  The addition of the screen on the east end will be as far as it can go in that direction, but there could be more room to build in the future on the west end. The parking lot in front always has been more than enough. 

Sarah Homer said she and her husband first bought Marianna Cinema in 1995 from Bluegrass Theaters and sold it in 2004.  “But in 2009,” she said, “we were driving through town and noticed the theater had become rundown, so we bought it back.”  The 2009 buying price for the Homer’s Lafayette Street Holdings LLC of Lutz, Florida, was $238,400, according to public records. They spent another $150,000 for improvements in 2009.  The expenses in 2012 included $150,000 for renovations and about $300,000 to go all-digital, Sarah said.  “We’re highly invested in Marianna,” she added. 

Business News

Burrito Factory and Southwest Grill opens today

Marianna’s newest restaurant is the Burrito Factory and Southwest Grill, owned by San Marcos owner Alberto Munoz, pictured above at right. The fast food café, for take out or eat inside, is located in the former Old Mexico location across Lafayette Street from WJAQ offices) It opened on Thursday, June 16 at 10 a.m. The manager is Raul Ramirez, above left).  Janet Ramirez is the assistant manager. The hours are 10-5, M-F; 10-7 on Friday, and 10-5 on Saturday.  The telephone number is 850-372-4121. 

 

Dellwood to get new Dollar General store

The community of Dellwood is the surprising new site of the latest Dollar General store to be constructed in Jackson County.  The new store has been anticipated for several weeks but the actual plans were just submitted to the county’s community development office on Thursday, June 2.  Before a general development order is issued, the project must be submitted to the Jackson County Planning Commission with a recommendation by staff at community development, and then taken before the Jackson County Commission for final approval.

However, the owners of the Dollar General know the drill maybe better than any other developer around; the Dellwood store would be the ninth franchise store in Jackson County (That’s an estimate; the TIMES stopped counting a few years ago.) The building site is located at the intersection of Blue Springs Road and State Road 69—10 miles north of Grand Ridge. The developer is taking advantage of a great building site in the triangle between 69 and Sweet Pond Road; access to the store will be possible from 69 and the unpaved Sweet Pond Road. 

Accordingly, is shouldn’t be long before the contractor, Teramore Developers of Thomasville, applies for a building permit, so the opening date could be as soon as Thanksgiving or Christmas.  According to the site development plans turned in to community development last week by Alday-Howell Engineering of Marianna, the Dellwood store will be small compared to recent Dollar General construction projects.  The plans call for a store building footprint of 9,187 square feet.  However, the total affected area is 35,283 including parking and water retention facilities which could drive the total costs up over the estimated $400,000 it would take to build a 10,000 square foot store.

Teramore Development builds all area Dollar General stores and leases them to DG headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tenn.  The 12,480 square foot store on Guyton Street in Marianna was constructed in 2014 at an estimated cost of $650,000.  The 8,333 square foot Family Dollar store in Graceville was constructed in 2014 at an estimated cost of $350,000.

 

Building permit issued for Oak Station Medical Center

Guy Tatum of Marianna is the contractor for the building of the long-awaited Oaks Medical Center.  That is according to the Jackson County building permit that was issued on Friday, May 27.  The owner is Marianna’s Dr. Murali Krishna Maddipati or Dr. Krishna as he is known to his many patients at the current offices on North Jefferson Street near the Kelson Avenue intersection. Dr. Krishna said last August that the new offices will replace his Jefferson Street medical complex.

Dr. Krishna bought the 3,500 square foot Jefferson Street complex in 2011. He bought the vacant Oak Station parcel from Wells Fargo in 2013. It is located between the west end unit of the Oak Station (formerly a drive through bank) and US Hwy 90.  It’s currently part of the parking lot for Oak Station customers.  The new doctor’s offices for Dr. Krishna will consist of 3,690 square feet and the estimated cost of construction is $350,000. Access to the new facility will be from the Oak Station parking lot, not Hwy 90.

Dr. Krishna’s plans began in 2013 but were delayed because the shopping center was sold in the process. Agreements had to be worked out concerning a stormwater easement and whether the doctor’s office would be considered part of the shopping center or separately.  The decision was made that Oaks Medical Center would be considered a separate entity and Regency Properties agreed to issue it a stormwater easement. The Jackson County community development office and the Jackson County Commission agreed to the development order last August.  The building permit was delayed by other issues but finally given to Tatum three weeks ago.

 

“Chipola River Camping & Water Adventures” approved

The Jackson County community development office issued a general development order last week to “Chipola River Camping & Water Adventures,” a new tube/kayak/canoe rental business located on Chipola River frontage owned by David and Kim Harris. Their property is adjacent to the Magnolia Road Bridge area.

The owners have postponed the project to install RV sites on adjacent land but are going ahead with the water craft rentals.  The development order was issued without the approval of the county commission.  Approval by the planning and county commission is only required for projects costing more than $10,000, county planners explained.

The Harris family bought the home and surrounding property located on the south side of Magnolia Road just before the bridge about five years ago.  Part of their Chipola River frontage is located across the river from the public boat ramp but the estimated 600 feet of frontage also includes a spot away from the public facility.  This is where they will establish a landing for the rentals.  On the north side of the Magnolia Road Bridge is the landing for Bear Paw Adventures.  David Harris explained recently that on busy weekends, cars are parked up and down Magnolia Road from their property.  They intend to offer the crowds an alternative site for launching and receiving rentals, a site that unlike the others includes ample parking.  The access to their site will be River Chase Road.  

Their RV sites may be established in the future on their inland property along the River Chase Road access route.  

 

 

First Methodist Church Phase II begins

The City of Marianna building department issued a building permit last week to M&W Construction of Marianna for the Phase II continuation of the First Methodist Church renovations. The Phase II work is valued at $352,740, building official Jimmy Grant said Friday.  

The three-stop elevator, made locally by Mowrey Elevator, has been installed, the TIMES confirmed Friday during an on-site tour of the progress.  Workers with M&W reported that the basement part of the elevator shaft was very difficult to dig due to the hard clay base.  And when the hole was completed, there was a big problem with ground water seepage.  The elevator has stops at the basement, the first or ground floor and the second floor and is located behind but not part of the new façade being constructed on Caledonia Street.  The elevator was part of the $600,000 Phase 1 project which received its building permit last December.  Pastor Bill Elwell and office manager Patty Andreu said in December that the total project is valued at $1.2 million. 

In other City of Marianna business news, the Jackson Plaza formerly known as the Carol Plaza, vacant with the exception of the City Barber Shop in back and the Laundromat out front, may be getting a new tenant.  William Van Doren applied for a business permit from the city on May 27.  “B&G Enterprises” reportedly will feature items for resale or liquidation such as hotel mattresses.  The city issues certificates of occupation at the end of an inspection process by the fire and police departments. 

Also, the manager of the new gym in town, Fit Script Fitness on Kelson Avenue behind Rahal-Miller Chevrolet, told the city commission last week that the business will soon be open 24 hours.  The other gym nearby owned by Jackson Hospital and located next to Grocery Outlet also offers 24-hour access.  Members are given a key to the facility to gain access afterhours.

City of Marianna may cancel interlocal fire agreement with Jackson County

Marianna city commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to potentially end the city’s long-standing interlocal fire agreement with the Jackson County Commission.  For decades, the interlocal agreement routinely has been renewed every year and the current contract expires in October.  For the past several years, the county has contributed $52,000 to the city and $12,500 each to Volunteer Fire Departments in the municipalities and elsewhere. But the city received a letter from the county last month stating that the previous amount of $52,000 will be reduced this year by half, for a total of $25,000. 

This is coming on top of the county’s recent decision to, for the first time in ten years, stop helping the city pay for the upkeep of the city’s “#2” Fire Station. That station on the city’s southern border was built in 2005 as an incentive to get the Family Dollar Distribution Center.  The county had been contributing about $130,000 per year toward that station’s annual costs of about $300,000. The city was initiating a lawsuit against the county until it was discovered earlier this year that the county did in fact have the right to withdraw funding after 10 years.

On Tuesday night, city commissioners, led by Commissioner John Roberts, voted 4-0 (Commissioner Travis Ephraim was absent) to send the county a letter stating that without the full funding of $52,000, the city would “terminate” the interlocal agreement with the county.  “I think the county doesn’t realize that the city is part of Jackson County,” Roberts said.  “We serve residents inside and outside the city with a five-mile radius.  In so doing, we serve 45 percent of the residents of the county.  The county recently gave money to the cities for the Fourth of July based on population.  I feel like the $52,000 is a bargain and I don’t think we should offer it for less.  If they don’t renew, we should terminate our local agreement with them. Frankly, I don’t understand how the Volunteer Fire Departments can operate on $12,500.  The county did a (fire assessment) study and decided to take no action and I thought that was shortsighted of them.  I make a motion we send the county a letter saying we are terminating our local agreement.”  Roberts’ motion was seconded by Commissioner Kenneth Hamilton and supported by Commissioner Rico Williams and Mayor Allen Ward.  Ward was voted in as mayor Tuesday night, replacing former Mayor Ephraim in the annual reorganization of the board.   

Faced with the county cutbacks in support, the city held a workshop just before Tuesday night’s regular meeting.  Consultant and current Destin City Commissioner Tuffy Dixon presented them with ideas including “what steps can be made to keep operating after loss of funding” at Fire Station #2,” suggestions about “distribution of manpower” and the establishment of “fire districts.” No action was taken at the workshop.

But at the end of the agenda at the regular meeting that followed, City Manager Jim Dean presented commissioners with the May 26 letter from interim county administrator Pam Pichard. The letter was addressed to Dean, Fire Chief Nikki Lovett and the City of Marianna. The letter is reprinted here in its entirety:

“In accordance with the terms of our Inter-local Fire Agreement, this notice is being provided to you to comply with the requirement for notice at least 110 days prior to the next calendar period which will begin on October 1, 2016.

“During the 2015/2016 budgeting process, the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners voted to amend the Fire Service Inter-local Agreements for all cooperating in-county agencies to the annual sum of $12,500 per responding station.  This change would result in the City of Marianna annual sum being $25,000 for the two stations beginning October 1, 2016.”

Marianna City Attorney Matt Fuqua said after the letter was read that the county “doesn’t have the option to reduce the amount (from the $52,000), only to cancel the agreement altogether.”  The interlocal agreement provides that the city will respond to areas outside the city limits.  If the interlocal agreement is cancelled, the response by the city to fires in the unincorporated areas could be affected. 

Shock and Awe - Army Maj. (ret.) Zane Walden was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003

Sneads High School Athletic Director and teacher Zane Grey Walden was a Captain in the US Army Reserves on 9-11, 2001. He figured it was only a matter of time before his officer’s “indefinite” Reserve status would be changed back to “active duty” in some way. That day came about a year and seven months later as he was deployed to the invasion of Iraq in April 2003. 

That’s when the military doctrine of “Shock and Awe” became widely known in the US--and especially in Bagdad, Iraq.  The US began bombing Bagdad in March 2003 and Capt. Walden’s 851st Quartermaster Company, about 119 soldiers based on Fort Rucker, AL deployed from Benning, Ga., backed up the frontline troops of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. 

Back at the beginning of his military career, Zane, proved to be good at figuring the mathematical equations needed (with a slide rule back in those days) to tell the artillery how to aim their howitzers.  So after joining the Army for four years beginning in 1982, the 1979 Sneads High School graduate was stationed with the 13 Echo Canon Fire Direction Specialists at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the traditional home of US Army artillery. “It’s a science,” Walden explained last Thursday at his 150-head cattle ranch on Gulf Power Road.  “Those formative years were the key to my success.  I had the privilege of working with great NCOs, including many Vietnam War combat veterans.”  

Zane was born in 1961 to Raymond and Faye Walden of Sneads.  Raymond farmed and worked at the nearby Gulf Power plant.  There weren’t a lot of jobs in the area after high school, Zane explained.  ACI at that time included only the east unit, not the newer west unit, and nepotism rules prevented him getting on at Gulf Power.  He knew that scholarships and Pell Grants were hard to get or non-existent at that time. “The military offered travel and education,” he said.  “I always had been a history buff as well.” (His parents loved the western novels of author Zane Grey so much; they named their son after him.) “However, I was a little disappointed soon after basic and AIT training at Fort Sill to be stationed at nearby Fort Stewart, Ga., as part of the 18th Airborne Corps and the 24th Infantry.”

But in Zane’s last year of active duty in his “4 by 2” contract (four years active duty-two years Army Reserve), Zane would get the chance to “see the world” that he wanted.  He was sent to Çakmakli, Turkey, where his 528 Artillery Group soldiers were custodians of the US missiles with nuclear capability--Turkey then as now being a NATO ally.  He left active duty as a specialist “promotable,” Walden explained.

It was in Turkey that Zane met his future wife who was also in the all-volunteer Army, the draft being eliminated in the mid-1970s. Elizabeth Gurnsey of Colorado was at Çakmakli and was discharged from active duty in 1985.  They were married on Feb. 14, 1986. She wanted to go to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, when they got out of active duty so they did and both were promoted to Sergeant in 1988.  Zane and Elizabeth were with the 244th Personnel Service Company where his leadership skills were noticed by Major Bert Veita. The Major got him into OCS as a result and later made him his executive officer, second-in-command.  With his commission as a 2nd Lt., Zane’s status with the Reserves switched to “indefinite” but it was still weekends only.

That changed, however, in February 1991.  President George H.W. Bush had made the decision to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion and America’s First Gulf War was underway.  Lt. Walden was deployed to Fort Lewis in Seattle, Wash., for six months, assigned in getting about 13,000 soldiers ready to go to Saudi Arabia.  

After Desert Storm came Zane’s return to Sneads.  “We had sent our daughter Iris Faye to the folks back home,” he explained.  “When we came home to get Iris Faye, Elizabeth fell in love with this area so we moved back here in 1992.”  

Zane, still in the Reserves only, made Captain in 1998 and it was just seven months after being given a command at Fort Rucker, Ala., that 9-11 happened.  “My assumption was that my company would go to Afghanistan but that didn’t happen.  In February 2003, for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 851st qualified to be deployed and we went first to Kuwait and them across the berm into Iraq.”  The “berm” to which Walden referred was a “giant pile of sand on the border of Kuwait and Iraq.”

“I was angry that we had let our guard down before 9-11, and after our success with Desert Storm,” Walden explained as his state of mind at the time.  “We had dropped our defenses and let it happen.  But like Pearl Harbor, 9-11 made it personal.  Being in the military at the time, you want to do something—to get into the fight, so I was very much supportive of the decision to go into Iraq. And we didn’t have any problems getting the personnel we needed.”

Capt. Walden flew to Iraq during the Easter season of 2003, and returned a Major during the Easter season of 2004.  He was not on the front lines like the 101st, but his supply convoys came under small arms fire from insurgents many times, and there always was the threat of the deadly IEDs.  “Especially when we drove through cities,” Walden explained, “the rifle fire from insurgents or men who had left Saddam Hussein’s Army was frequent. They had abandoned the military but they were still loyal to Saddam.”  

Zane was close to the fighting in Tal Afar and Sinjar. “The Army would let the numbers of insurgents coming over from Syria get up to about 300,” he explained, “then go in after about five weeks and wipe them out.”  (It was after the Army much later stopped doing that in 2012, that “opened the door for ISIS to come in and grow,” Walden said.) Zane’s company supplied the Airborne Division with fuel, clothing and water which had to be purified for drinking purposes by the tens of thousands of gallons. 

“Water was precious over there,” Zane explained.  “And we did other things too,” he said.  “To try to keep the civilians busy, since Gen. David Petraeus wanted to win their hearts and minds, we built schools.  I was involved in the building of more than 20 schools in Northern Iraq that year. We drilled wells for the schools and in my company were guys with all kinds of contracting and carpentry skills.  I was blessed with great officers over there, having the chance to meet Gen. Petraeus on a couple of occasions.” Walden also was promoted to Major in Iraq.

Raymond Walden was very ill with cancer when Zane came home after Easter in 2004 but the son was able to spend some quality time with his dad before he passed away in Labor Day Weekend 2004.  Zane had received that academic education he wanted, having started teaching in 1996, so he returned to his business and agriculture classes at Sneads High, recently becoming the AD as well.  Zane was asked to speak at the Memorial Day 2016 event in Sneads. It was bittersweet--his uncle Nathan Arnold, his mom’s brother and a Vietnam War veteran, had just died on Saturday, May 28.  But he gave a short, inspiring talk: “The real heroes are the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Zane told the Memorial Day crowd. “They show us that freedom is not free and never will be.”  Zane closed with, “May God continue to bless and comfort the families of those who have given all they have in service of our Nation.  Mostly, I thank God, today, that He continues to Bless this Nation. May We remain One Nation Under God.”

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