Huntsville-based tech company provides Wi-Fi to Hurricane Sandy victims

Nicole Emmett |


Nicole Emmett |

The Huntsville Times

on November 30, 2012 at 2:14 PM, updated November 30, 2012 at 3:53 PM

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Thousands of Long Island residents affected by Hurricane Sandy have benefited from internet access provided by GATR Technologies.

LONG ISLAND, New York — A Huntsville-based technology company is providing Hurricane Sandy victims with wireless internet access, laptops and telephones.

GATR Technologies, in coordination with Global DIRT (Disaster Immediate Response Team), deployed two portable 2.4m antennas in the Rockaways section of Long Island, NY. CISCO Systems, Inc. also assisted in the effort by loaning two emergency communication kits.

“Residents are still without power and everything is running off generators,”
GATR account executive Brian Douglass said. “Some days are better than
others, but there are warming tents for those that don’t have generators
in the house.”

The primary purpose of the antennas was to provide Wi-Fi access to the immediate area as well as supply an internet connection for laptops. The laptops, donated to Global DIRT, were to be used for filling out online FEMA forms/requests as well as insurance claims for affected residents. GATR donated use of the two antennas services and deployed them to separate locations in the Rockaways about two miles apart.

The first antenna was deployed on Nov. 14 at St. Francis De Sales Church, located at 129th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The second antenna was deployed November 27 in a beach parking lot located at 94th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Both antennas still maintain a live connection and are supplying services around the clock, Douglass said.

“Plenty of food has also been dropped off for volunteers and residents,”

Douglass said. “There are also tents with little stations for kids to
provide some kind of normalcy for those who have been affected.”

Disaster Response site #1 – St. Francis De Sales Church located at 129th Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd.

(Lat 40.5765, Lon -73.8477)

The antenna setup location was a church playground. Two large tents were set up for clothes donations and a warming and food line tent. The laptop center, consisting of 10 donated laptops, was established in the warming tent. Site #1 has been up and running for 16 days and has seen on average 200-250 people per day using the wireless internet connection and VoiP telephones. The phones are part of the CISCO ECK.

Disaster Response site #2 – Beach parking lot located at 94th Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd.

(Lat 40.58518, Lon -73.81654)

The antenna setup location was a beach parking lot which is now home to two main tents servicing hundreds of displaced residents. The services they provide are both shelter and warming tent with food, as well as providing supplies for residents to clean and maintain their properties. The laptop center consists of 6 donated laptops.

Site #2 has been up and running for two days and has seen so far an average of about 100 people per day using the wireless internet connection. It is set up to run wireless only at this time. The site lead notified Global DIRT that the power would be changing as well as locations for wire runs etc. Once these changes are made the Cisco ECK kit will be moved to a more permanent location where more functionality can be used. Once the permanent location is established the VoiP telephones will be integrated and put to use.

“Most of their homes are liveable. They’re still there,” Douglass said, adding that the damage has been flooding.

Douglass said he visited the southwestern tip of th island and saw the damage for himself.

“Everybody’s front yard look like it was covered in snow but it was sand,” he said.

GATR Technologies provided support to several rescue operations after tornadoes hit the Huntsville area in 2011. They deployed 11 antennas throughout North Alabama.

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With vices all around, would strip club really harm University Drive shopping plaza?

Steve Doyle |


Steve Doyle |

The Huntsville Times

on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM

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Darrick Taylor, Volcano 256.jpg
Darrick Taylor inside the newly-renovated Volcano 256 club in west Huntsville. City officials recently rejected the club’s application for a liquor license, leaving its future in doubt. (Steve Doyle |

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Most every vice known to man is represented at the University Plaza shopping center west of downtown.

There’s an ABC liquor store, an X-rated video place, a pawn shop that sells guns, and a bar called the Cat and Mouse that opened in 1969 – the same year giddy locals paraded Dr. Wernher von Braun around the Courthouse Square to celebrate the moon landing.

Considering the neighboring businesses, Darrick Taylor is having a hard time understanding why the City of Huntsville refuses to grant the proposed Volcano 256 adult club a liquor license.

“This is a vice area,” Taylor, a member of the club’s management team, said Friday. “Singling out one business – what’s that about?”

Taylor’s boss, Birmingham businessman Daryl Williams, leased the former Silver Dollar strip club in late 2010 with designs to spruce up the space and open his own adult establishment. The mirrored stages and glow-in-the-dark carpet are now in place, but the city’s Liquor License Review Committee recently rejected Williams’ application.

His Volcano Enterprises is appealing to the Huntsville City Council, but four of the five council members – Will Culver, Bill Kling, John Olshefski and Mark Russell – have indicated they will uphold the liquor review committee’s decision. A vote is expected at the council’s Dec. 6 meeting.

Huntsville police are urging the council to say no to Volcano 256, citing a drop in crime reports and arrests at the University Plaza shopping center since the Silver Dollar closed. Parents at nearby University Place Elementary have also gotten involved, arguing that children shouldn’t have to walk past a strip club on their way home from school.

By car, it’s 2/10 of a mile from Volcano 256 to the school’s front property line. Door to door is right at half a mile.

What’s been missing from the discussion, said Taylor, is that Volcano’s management has no connection to the Silver Dollar. It’s unfair to blame Volcano Enterprises for the sins of a previous owner, he said.

“You can’t discredit our business ethics because of what someone else did,” said Taylor. “We’re men of integrity. With the detail we’ve put into this club, we have no intention of being a bad tooth in the community.”

Culver, whose district includes University Plaza, is basing his opposition to the club on the results of a Tuesday night town hall meeting. After hearing from Huntsville police Sgt. Mark Roberts and Williams’ attorney, those in attendance voted 55-22 against giving the club a liquor license.

Silver Dollar club.jpg
Volcano 256 wants to take over the former Silver Dollar adult club near the corner of University and Boxwood drives. The Silver Dollar closed in October 2010. (Steve Doyle |

But Taylor some people were there for a separate meeting and may not have even been residents of Culver’s district. He said most folks he’s talked to in the apartments behind University Plaza have no problem with Volcano 256.

The club would create about 50 jobs for dancers, bouncers, bartenders, janitors and private security guards.

“This was always a place that sold liquor and was a strip club,” said Taylor. “The people around here were used to it. We’re grandfathered into this situation already.”

Roberts, the police sergeant, told the council in late October that Williams began renovating the club without the necessary city permits and was given a warning on March 25, 2011. When city building inspectors again spotted contractors inside six days later, they issued a written stop-work order. Roberts said police arrested Williams on April 26, 2011, after unlicensed contractors were seen inside the building a third time.

Williams was charged with doing business without a permit, a misdemeanor, and found guilty in municipal court that summer. He was ordered to pay $308 in fines and court costs, records show.

Taylor said the workers weren’t renovating the building as police claim; they were clearing out the vomit-stained carpet and other mess left behind by the Silver Dollar.

“We’ve just got a bullseye on us for some reason,” he said, “and it don’t make sense.”

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Customers of shut-down Tornado Masters will see about $80,000 in payments from $1.2 million in claims

Brian Lawson |


Brian Lawson |

The Huntsville Times

on November 30, 2012 at 4:49 PM, updated November 30, 2012 at 4:53 PM

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Tornado Masters
Tornado Masters owner Les Holt talks about the features of an above ground steel shelter in the showroom Monday April 18, 2011. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Customers who filed claims against the now-shut down Tornado Masters and Safe Steel tornado shelter companies are set to receive about 7 percent of the value of their claims, a court-appointed receiver said today.

Most of the more than 200 people who filed claims will receive less than $1,000 if the recommendation by court-appointed receiver Bill Gibbons is accepted by Circuit Judge Dennis O’Dell.

Gibbons said in a hearing today that Tornado Masters had claims against it totaling $1.5 million and he recovered assets of the company valued at just over $120,000. Among the claims, Gibbons said, were about $118,000 by customers who paid money for a shelter, but received nothing in return.

The State of Alabama sued Tornado Masters and its affiliated companies in March, alleging they were selling and installing unsafe and unsound shelters and were making false claims about the shelters’ ability to withstand even the strongest tornadoes.

After a hearing in March, O’Dell issued a permanent injunction shutting down the company in April and barring it from doing business in Alabama.

The companies were owned by Leslie Holt and his father Grady Holt.

O’Dell appointed Gibbons, a Huntsville attorney specializing in bankruptcy law, to seize the companies assets and determine if money could be found to pay wronged consumers.

The courtroom included about 14 people who’d filed claims against the company. Gibbons said he seized company bank accounts, totaling just over $94,000. Sales of company steel and vehicles raised the asset total to about $121,000.

Gibbons said he urged former customers of the companies to contact him and relay any costs they incurred for things like inspections and engineering reviews of existing shelters, estimated or actual costs for replacement or repair of shelters, outstanding company bills for vendor services or wages and shelters that were not received.

Those claims totaled more than $1.5 million. Gibbons said he objected to a number of claims for various reasons, including those from other owners of the company. The reduced claims totaled about $1.2 million.

Gibbons said he is recommending payment of taxes owed by the company totaling $13,000, half wages for employees whose checks bounced after the company was padlocked totaling about $14,000. Gibbons will receive about $20,000 in his role as receiver, less than he was entitled to claim by about $7,000.

The remainder, about $80,000 will be disbursed, pending O’Dell’s order, to customers who will receive 7 percent of the value of their claim, Gibbons said.

O’Dell said he regretted that people would not see anywhere near all of their money returned, but praised Gibbons efforts to ensure some money was preserved.

“If we didn’t put someone with the skill of Mr. Gibbons on this when we did, you wouldn’t even be getting 7 percent,” O’Dell said addressing those who attended the hearing. “I hope you understand that.”

Alabama Assistant Attorney General Kyle Beckman, who helped bring the case against Tornado Masters, said after the hearing that he also wished customers could have received a full refund.

“The best outcome in this case came in April when Judge O’Dell shut them down permanently,” Beckman said. “I’m sure for people in North Alabama awareness about working with this kind of business will be much more acute.”

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Navy awards BAE Systems $80 million Advanced Gun Systems contract

zumwalt.JPGA rendering of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt, the U.S. Navy’s next-generation destroyer. (Photo courtesy of Bath Iron Works)

BAE Systems said earlier this week that it has received an $80.3 million modification contract award from the U.S. Navy to deliver two Advanced Gun Systems for the latest in the Zumwalt-class destroyer fleet, the DDG 1002.

Work under this contract will be performed at BAE Systems Land Armaments Inc.’s facilities in Louisville, Ky., and Cordova, and is expected to be completed by January 2018.

“This contract demonstrates the progress made on the DDG 1000 program with the integration of AGS technology onto now a third DDG 1000 destroyer,” Dave Johnson, director of the DDG 1000 program for BAE Systems, said in a statement. “The AGS is critical in supporting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ expeditionary and joint operations against a wide range of littoral and deep inland targets.”

AGS is a 155mm, vertically loaded gun mount that is capable of storing, programming and firing the Long Range Land Attack Projectile. It is a fully automated weapon system that can fire 10 rounds per minute with ranges greater than 60 nautical miles, according to BAE Systems.

BAE Systems has designed, built and integrated four AGS for the first two DDG 1000 destroyers in the Zumwalt-class fleet.

The Navy touts the Zumwalt-class destroyer as the lead ship of a class of next-generation multi-mission surface combatants tailored for land attack and littoral dominance.

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula builds components for the DDG 1000 destroyers and Bath Iron Works in Maine assembles the vessels.

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BAE Systems to help convert mine resistant vehicles for Army in $37.6 million deal

vehicle.JPGMine Resistant Ambush Protected ground vehicles, shown above. BAE Systems has received a $37.6 million contract to convert 250 of the vehicles into Medium Mine Protected Vehicles. 

BAE Systems today said it has received a $37.6 million contract from the Letterkenny Army Depot to provide the spare parts and kits needed to convert 250 RG33 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles into Medium Mine Protected vehicles.

BAE Systems will provide a rear ramp, used for the deployment of remotely operated unmanned ground vehicles in route and area clearance missions, and a new heating and air conditioning system for the vehicle. The spare parts and kits will be assembled by at the BAE Systems facility in Anniston.

“BAE Systems has a long history in vehicle conversions and modernizations,” Robert Houston, vice president and deputy general manager of weapon systems and support at BAE Systems, said in a statement. “Our work on the MMPV program will not only increase the capabilities of the vehicle, but will also further strengthen our partnership with the Letterkenny Army Depot.”

The MMPV is an ideal platform for any mission in an explosive hazard environment, according to company officials.

BAE Systems has a 946-worker shipyard in Mobile that builds and repairs commercial and Navy ships, and a land and armaments facility in Cordova that is currently involved in an $80.3 million modification contract from the Navy to deliver Advanced Gun Systems for the Zumwalt-class destroyer fleet.

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Austal enters trading halt pending company announcement

Austal’s Mobile River facility, Oct. 1, 2008 in Mobile, Ala. (Press-Register file photo)

Austal Limited, owner of Austal USA in Mobile, has entered a trading halt “pending the release of an announcement,” next week.

The Australian Securities Exchange released a statement Thursday that said the Perth-based shipbuilder had requested the halt until an announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The release also said Austal was using the halt to “consider potential capital management measures.”

Austal, which is battling a tough market for manufacturers, said in August that it had experienced a nearly 50 percent drop in annual profits from the previous year.

Severe cuts to the U.S. defense budget, expected to take place in January, have also been worrisome for the company, but Austal expects its contracts for littoral combat ships and joint high-speed vessels will be safe.

Austal is currently under contract with the Navy to build nine 103-meter Joint High Speed Vessels under a 10-ship, $1.6 billion contract and five 127-meter Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships, four of which are part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract.

Austal is also looking to hire an additional 1,500 employees in the next 12 to 18 months, growing its Mobile shipyard from about 3,000 to 4,500 employees.

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Retailers across state to sell championship T-shirts, other gear if Alabama prevails in SEC title game

Alabama  gear.JPG
Folks were lined up outside Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Valley Bend at Jones Farm location when the store reopened Jan.10, the morning following Alabama’s win in last year’s BCS Championship Game. Steve Watson checks out a T-shirt. (The Huntsville Times file/Dave Dieter) 

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Retailers across Alabama are preparing to cash in on a Crimson Tide victory in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.

Sporting goods stores have stocked a limited supply of commemorative T-shirts and other gear noting the University of Alabama’s latest SEC title. It will be put on their sales floors after the game, if the team wins.

For national retailers, there’s a similar plan for Georgia merchandise at their locations in that state, if the Bulldogs prevail.

At all of the Alabama locations of Dick’s Sporting Goods, “We will have a limited supply of championship T-shirts after the game, and we anticipate increasing the amount of championship merchandise throughout the week,” said Matthew Edgeworth, a spokesman for the retailer.

Employees at several stores operated by Birmingham-based Hibbett Sports said they, too, have unopened boxes of SEC Championship T-shirts to put out Saturday night in the event of an Alabama victory.

At Academy Sports and Outdoors’ Alabama locations, there will be T-shirts and hats, but not on Saturday night.

The merchandise, which won’t be printed until after the game is over, will arrive in stores no later than Tuesday, said company spokesman Eric Herrera.

If Alabama goes on to win the BCS Championship, Academy stores plan to re-open to sell national championship gear immediately after that Jan. 7 game, as they have in past years, Herrera said.

AAA Alabama selling travel packages for BCS Championship Game to confident Crimson Tide fans

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U.S. 280 ruling is a clear victory for Trinity, but Brookwood and St. Vincent’s still have avenues of appeal

Trinity Medical Center CEO Keith Granger tells hospital employees about the court’s ruling. (The Birmingham News/Stan Diel)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – A Circuit Court judge improperly substituted his own judgment for that of state regulators and misapplied the law when he blocked Trinity Medical Center’s plan to move in to the unfinished HealthSouth hospital on U.S. 280, the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals ruled in a sweeping judgment today.

The judges on the court – the second highest in the state – ruled 5-0 in favor of Trinity, giving the hospital a clear victory and leaving its opponents just two avenues of appeal.

Brookwood Medical Center and St. Vincent’s Health System now can ask the appeals court to reconsider, they can appeal directly to the Alabama Supreme Court, or they can do nothing and allow the project to proceed, attorneys on both sides of the fight said.

Jim Williams, an attorney representing Brookwood Medical Center, said he was reviewing the ruling and had not yet determined which course to follow.

“We should make a decision early next week,” he said.

David Hunt, representing St. Vincent’s, said that hospital’s administrators were disappointed in the ruling and believe the appeals court erred.

“St. Vincent’s Health System continues to believe Trinity’s proposed relocation does not comply with Alabama (Certificate of Need) law,” he said in a prepared statement. Brookwood and St. Vincent’s have 14 days to request a re-hearing or file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Trinity 280 hospital.JPG
Work on the U.S. 280 hospital ended when the HealthSouth accounting scandal became public.

In a ruling written by Judge Tommy Bryan, the court found that Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Pool wrongly ruled in favor of Trinity regarding the so-called “60 percent rule,” regarding evidence introduced to support the case, and regarding a 1990 precedent.


Pool ruled that Trinity was barred from building the new hospital because the level of occupancy at its existing facility fell below 60 percent. State regulations require a hospital to demonstrate occupancy of at least 60 percent before building a new facility. Pool found that regulators improperly lowered the number of beds in Trinity’s plan for the U.S. 280 hospital to “cure” a defective application and bring it into compliance, and that Trinity never agreed to the change.

The appeals court found that such an adjustment was specifically allowed by law, and that Trinity implicitly agreed to the change made to its plan by not objecting to it.

“Indeed, this case would not have proceeded to this point but for Trinity’s agreeing to the reduction,” Bryan wrote.


Pool had ruled that evidence supporting the case for the U.S. 280 hospital was based on a plan that included 398 beds, not the 372 beds in the plan after it was adjusted to bring the hospital in compliance with the 60 percent rule.

The appeals court ruled that regulators had deemed the evidence sufficient to make their judgement, and that the law requires the courts to defer to regulators on such matters.


The Circuit Court had ruled that Trinity’s plan was in “direct conflict” with a 1990 case in which the court blocked the construction of a Lloyd Noland Foundation hospital in southern Jefferson County. The appeals court, however, ruled that there were “substantial differences” between the cases, and that it was regulators’ responsibility, not the court’s, to weigh evidence in Certificate of Need cases.

The case has been before regulators or in the courts since 2008, when Trinity filed an application for approval to buy and complete the hospital, whose construction was halted after HealthSouth’s billion-dollar accounting scandal came to light. HealthSouth had dubbed the building the ”digital hospital,” saying it would be among the most technologically advanced in the nation.

Following a lengthy hearing an administrative law judge recommended the state approve Trinity’s plan in August of 2010, and a month later the state’s Certificate of Need Review Board did so. In December 2010, Brookwood Health Services and St. Vincent’s Health System filed suit to block the new hospital, arguing that it would cost them tens of millions of dollars in lost business and that Trinity had misled regulators in seeking its approval. That suit made its way through the courts for more than a year before today’s ruling.

Trinity CEO Keith Granger

Despite the remaining avenues of appeal, Trinity declared victory. Addressing dozens of hospital employees gathered on Trinity’s Montclair Road campus, CEO Keith Granger said work on architectural drawings for the new hospital will begin immediately, and construction of the unfinished portion of the U.S. 280 building could begin by the middle of next year. It will take about two years to complete the facility, he said, and work on a parking garage and physicians’ office building likely would be timed to open those facilities at the same time as the hospital.

Work on a hotel, office buildings, retail development and apartments would follow, said Charlie Tickle, CEO of Daniel Corp., which owns the surrounding property and has an agreement to sell the hospital building to Trinity.

Colin Luke and Carey McRae, attorneys representing Trinity, said the unanimous decision by the Court of Civil Appeals makes a request for a re-hearing less likely, and would make an appeal to the Supreme Court an uphill battle for Brookwood and St. Vincent’s.

“One option is for them to do nothing,” McRae said. “That’s what I think they should do.”

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Alabama Bankers Association, Community Bankers Association of Alabama now merged

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The Alabama Bankers Association (ABA) and Community Bankers Association of Alabama (CBAA) have merged. The new organization will be known as Alabama Bankers Association, Inc.

Scott E. Latham.

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MEADS successfully completes first intercept flight test (With video)

Leada Gore |


Leada Gore |

The Huntsville Times

on November 29, 2012 at 4:18 PM, updated November 29, 2012 at 4:32 PM

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MEADS test

MEADS test
The Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS, successfully intercepted an air-breathing target in its first-ever intercept flight test. MEADS International officials said the test “achieved all criteria for success.”
Watch video

The Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS,
successfully intercepted an air-breathing target in its first-ever intercept
flight test. MEADS International officials said the test “achieved all criteria
for success.”

Today’s test at White Sands Missile Range utilized MEADS
full-perimeter, 360-degree defense capabilities with the PAC-3 MSE performing
an over-the-shoulder maneuver to detect, track, intercept and destroy the

“This is a proud day,” said Gregory Kee, general manager for
the Huntsville-based NATO MEADS Management Agency. “Since 2008, we have
executed every task on schedule and within the budgets that three governments
have tasked us to do in the MEADS project. This is a demonstration of the
capabilities that the nations can harvest as they move forward.”

MEADS, a joint project of Germany, Italy and the U.S. with
major subcontractor Lockheed Martin, is designed to be a ground-mobile air and
missile defense system that incorporates 360-degree radars, netted and distributed
battle management, transportable
launchers and the hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement. It is intended
to provide increased protection against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise
missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft. MEADS officials said it
defends up to 8 times the coverage area of other systems.

MEADS successfully completed its first flight test on Nov.
17, 2011 against a simulated target attacking from behind. A PAC-3 MSE
Certified Missile Round was employed during the test along with the MEADS
lightweight launcher and battle manager.

“MEADS provides advanced capabilities that detect, track and
intercept evolving threats from farther away and without blind spots,” MEADS
International President Dave Berganini said. “Today’s successful intercept
proves MEADS’ advertised capabilities are real. Its digital designs and modern
hardware and software ensure high reliability rates and dramatically reduced
operational and support costs.”

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