Top Headlines: Lighter tax refunds, Layoffs planned for Gadsden Goodyear plant

Many taxpayers around the state seeing lighter refunds
According to the IRS, the average refund handed out so far this tax season is $1,865. That’s down more than 8 percent from last year. “It has to do with withholding, and all the ways you calculate your tax is going to be different this year,” said Stewart Welch of the Welch Group. According to the financial experts, some Americans saw their take home pay go up after the new tax code went into effect. – WBRC

Goodyear planning Q2 layoffs at Gadsden plant
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is planning layoffs at its Gadsden plant in the second quarter of this year, according to a company announcement issued Tuesday. Barbara Hatala, a communications manager for the company, said the layoffs will come as the plant plans to reduce tire production at the Gadsden factory in the second quarter. There was no word on the number of layoffs expected. –

State lawmakers may ditch requirement for concealed carry
Alabama Legislators will soon debate a proposal that would end the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Alabama. Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, filed a bill that would repeal the requirement for a permit,. The bill would not eliminate permits entirely but they would no longer be mandatory. – WHNT

Drummond to pay $775,000 for illegal levels of benzene
Drummond Company has agreed to pay $775,000 in penalties relating to benzene air pollution violations just north of Birmingham. Drummond reached the settlement agreement with the EPA and the Jefferson County Board of Health regarding benzene pollution from the ABC Coke facility in Tarrant nearly eight years after EPA and county inspectors found the plant was releasing more than 10 times the amount of benzene it was reporting into the air. –

Governor writes op-ed on fixing state’s prison problem
In order to correct a problem, you must first admit there is a problem. In Alabama, we have a problem. Our problem is our state’s corrections system. Like many other states, issues of violence, poor living conditions and mental illness persist within our system. These issues, and others, are exacerbated by a crowded inmate population, correctional and health care staffing challenges, and aging prison infrastructure – each piece compounding the others. – RocketCityNow

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Sea Glass mixes influences from West Indies, New Orleans and Charleston
Cunningham Head LLC recently won site plan approval for Sea Glass, one of just a handful of condominium projects launched on the beach in Gulf Shores in the past decade. With over half the units sold, ground should be broken in March.  The project is exclusively marketed by Bob Shallow with RE/MAX Paradise in Orange Beach. – News release

Torch Technologies wins $156.3M Army Aviation contract
Torch Technologies has won a $156.3M contract by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center’s Engineering Directorate for full spectrum technical research, development, and engineering support of DoD systems.  The contract has a 3½ year period of performance including exercised options and will be executed primarily in Huntsville. – News release

Hartzell Engine Tech breaks ground on Montgomery expansion
Keith Bagley, president of Hartzell Engine Technologies (HET), announced today that the company has held the official ground breaking of the 10,000 square foot addition to its headquarters in Montgomery. When completed, the expansion will increase the total size of the HET campus to 86,000 square feet. – Aviation Pros

Record number of people not paying their car note
Millions of Americans are struggling with their car payments, and even economists are surprised. According to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than 7 million Americans have reached serious delinquency status on their auto loans, meaning they’re at least 90 days behind on payments. Fed economists said this is “surprising” considering a strengthening labor market and economy. – Business Insider

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