Headlines – 2/6/2004

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2004

Panolian Headlines: February 6, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 2/6/04  issue of The Panolian

Partnership CEO Resigns
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

The Panola Partnership will soon look for a new leader following the resignation of Paul Alexander on Wednesday.

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Alexander confirmed his resignation to The Panolian Thursday morning, but had no comment when asked about it.

Partnership board president Casey Lipe said he appreciates the work Alexander has done for industrial development in Panola County including recruiting Quality Foods to Batesville.

Lipe also commended Alexander for his work on the county’s bid for a Toyota plant last year. The plant ultimately went to San Antonio.

"Panola County was one of four sites in the nation in the final running," Lipe said. "It was Paul’s project-oriented work ethic that kept us in the hunt for the project."

Board member David Chandler said the Partnership has not begun looking for Alexander’s replacement, but said it will do so in the near future.

"The board is scheduled to meet next week at which time I suspect we will narrow down what we are searching for in a replacement," Chandler said.

"Once we know what we are looking for and can find a capable person, we will hire them if we think they are the right fit for the Partnership," he said.

"We want someone who can focus on the growth of the county’s population, industrial recruitment and generating tax revenue," Lipe said.

Lipe said the Partnership will not seek an interim director as it did when Scott Luth resigned in 1999.

"Leonard Morris served as our interim at that time, but we will have the executive board take on responsibilities rather than naming an interim in this instance," he said.

City Soldier Hurt in Iraq explosion
By Kate B. Dickson

A Batesville soldier is recovering in Germany today from wounds he received in Iraq when a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) went off beside the humvee in which he was riding.

SPC Fred H. "Chip" Shirley Jr., 28, received wounds this week to his shoulder that required surgery after the incident near Tikrit, said SFC Dan Stewart, career counselor for the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 223rd Battalion in Charleston.

His mother, Gwendolyn B. Shirley, said she first talked with her son about 5 a.m. Wednesday and was "relieved" after hearing from him directly.

"They were getting him ready to go to Germany," she said. "He’d had surgery on his shoulder and he said he had some hearing loss in one ear."

Mrs. Shirley, a nurse at Tri-Lakes Medical Center, said, "you worry about brain damage but he responded appropriately to everything I asked him … he did everything I’d hoped he would do when we talked."

Mrs. Shirley talked with her son again Thursday and he told her his wounds were to be cleaned again in surgery and said that his hearing had returned to normal. He expects to be sent to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., or to a military hospital in San Antonio but hopes to be at Fort Campbell when his unit returns.

Shirley was the gunner atop the humvee when the blast went off, his mother said. He was the only one injured by the shrapnel.

She said her son credits the reinforcement that had been done to the humvee.

"He said if they’d been in a regular vehicle all five of them would probably have been killed," she said. "He said if the shrapnel had been higher it could have decapitated him."

Board Gives Thumbs Down
to Rezoning Change Request
Alderman Hudson Still (r) listens to rezoning discussion. Planning Commission Chairman Nell Foshee (at right behind Still) said the commission does not support the requested zoning change.
Panola County has been chosen to receive $28,071 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county.

The money will go to local agencies that are required to submit applications for the funds by the Feb. 6 deadline, said Lynda Bradford of Mid-State Opportunity, Inc.

The funds are not expected to be available until late March.

Panola County has distributed Emergency Food and Shelter funds in the past several years through Mid-State Opportunity, Inc. who was responsible for providing utility assistance, rental/mortgage assistance and food to residents. Funds are not expected to be available until late March.


Disaster Recollections
10 Years Ago …Ice Storm!
Panola Countians suffered through a tough time during the ice storm that is still a topic of conversation today.
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

Broken tree limbs, downed power lines, icy roads and wrecked fences dotted the landscape of Panola County 10 years ago.

On Feb. 9, 1994, Panola County and the surrounding area was hit by what was called the most catastrophic event Mississippi has seen in over 40 years – the ice storm.

According to Frank Burcham of Entergy, there was not a light bulb burning anywhere in the Mississippi Delta from Highway 82 to Memphis.

Most in the area were without electricity and/or water for the better part of a month as power crews worked diligently to repair the damage caused by the ice storm.

For Panola County Civil Defense Director William "Son" Hudson, the ice storm marked his first major test in the position.

"I had just started the job when we got hit with the ice storm in ?94," he said.

Hudson said he remembers the storm hitting shortly after church on that Wednesday night.

"When that storm hit, it hit us hard," he said.

Hudson, who spent eight nights sleeping in his office, said he remembers the snapping of tree limbs and power lines around him in the darkness.

"Most of the time at night you can look out the office window and see the McDonald’s sign," he said. "There for a few days, it was nothing but black.

"Every once in a while you would hear a tractor from the City of Batesville come down the road or see headlights of someone trying to get somewhere, but everything was mostly at a stand-still," Hudson said.

"The power was out for 30 days in some areas," he said. "It would have been longer if not for the Entergy and TVEPA employees who worked around the clock to restore electricity.

"When those power crews got into town, the people in the community really pitched in to make their jobs a little easier," he said.

Hudson said several churches prepared three meals a day to feed the workers.

"It was nice to see the show of support from the community during this disaster," he said.

Hudson said during the power outage, the county had 60 generators in use along with water tanks.

"People could go to the National Guard Armory and fill up a couple of gallon jugs for drinking water," he said.

"I think most of the City of Batesville was without power for about four days," he said. "I remember the old hospital got power back first because it was a priority."

Hudson said Panola County was declared a federal and state disaster area as result of the damage sustained during the ice storm.

"I don’t think there was any doubt that this area was hit very hard," he said. "We had damage on almost every road in Panola County."

Batesville resident Margaret Haltom called the ice storm, "an interesting situation.

"My father worked for Tallahatchie Valley for years," she said. "So I was always aware of what could happen in we got hit by freezing rain."

Haltom said she and some friends were working on a historical book about cemeteries when the ice storm started.

"When we got finished for the night and went outside, there was ice accumulating on the cars," she said.

"Bob [Margaret’s husband] and I had two cars parked under a tree, but we went out a moved them," she said. "We had a feeling this was going to be a bad situation."

Haltom said by the early afternoon, it sounded like "World War II."

"I think that is what shocked most of the people at that time was the sounds," she said. "All of the popping and snapping going on was something nobody was prepared for."

During the days after the storm hit, Haltom said her family was able to make it through the experience better than most.

"Because Bob and I were campers, we were more prepared than most," she said. "We had the Coleman stove and lantern, and we had a little heat because of gas burners. So we did OK."

Haltom said she considers her family one of the lucky ones. They were only without power for about one week.

"I will never forget it," she said. "We were cooking a pancake breakfast on the Coleman stove when the electricity came back on."