Headlines – 1/4/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Panolian Headlines: January 4, 2005

  Excerpts from the 1/4/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Men of steel
Men of steel Derrick Stevens, Jeremy Williams and Jeff Brewer fashion a brace for the ongoing superstructure construction of Batesville’s Calvary Baptist Church at Trianon and Keating Road. The naked beams and girders provide an impressive sillouette against the sky. Church members expect to worship in the facility later this year.
County’s agenda includes litter
By Billy Davis

Catching illegal dumpers, paving more roads and juggling road department funds are on the agenda for Panola County’s supervisors in 2005.

Board President Jerry Perkins talked to The Panolian about the county’s plans this year. Those plans include:

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– Reacting to state budget cuts. The county will feel the pinch from state budget cuts this year, Perkins said, but federal monies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should help offset the slowdown of state aid funds.

State aid monies are allocated through the Miss. Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) for roads that connect two major state highways.

In Panola County, that would be roads such as Eureka Rd., Terza Rd. and Ballentine Rd.

Flood waters in 2002 damaged 40 county roads, Perkins said, and the county is using about $700,000 from a FEMA reimbursement to mat and seal many of those roads.

The county supervisors are prioritizing road repairs right now – "the worst first," Perkins said.

This is the second year each supervisor has submitted an individual plan, which prioritizes road repairs in his district, Perkins said.

Across the state, about $250 million was cut from the bridge replacement program, the board president said.

"We had to do some priorities. We had a couple of bridges that weren’t as bad as some others, and we had to drop them from the program," Perkins said.

– Paving more roads.
The county is in the second year of a four-year road paving plan that saw 70 miles of gravel roads paved in ’04.

A list of roads to be paved in ’05 will soon be prepared by the supervisors and county road manager Lygunnah Bean, Perkins said.

The list of to-be-paved roads will be ready for publication in early spring, Perkins said.

Reached later by The Panolian, Bean said about 300 miles of county roads are awaiting paving.

"We had an exceptional year in’04. It was warm and dry," Bean said. "If this keeps up, we could see most of the main residential roads paved in the next few years."

County road paving usually begins in June when the weather is dry and hot, and continues into the fall.

In 2003, the county paved about 50 miles, Perkins said.

– Catching illegal dumpers.
Perkins said the supervisors will look at hiring a full-time person this year to catch illegal dumpers – garbage in hand.

The job description is different from the "garbage cop" the county has employed in recent years, he said.

"This is a new approach. We want to actually catch them in the act," Perkins said.

– Cutting more grass.
The county has purchased two John Deere tractors that will be used for grass cutting throughout the year, Perkins said.

A county crew will be dedicated to cutting grass at county right-of-ways.

"This isn’t, ‘If I’ve got a man free, he can cut grass.’ This crew will be put together just to do that," Perkins said.

Grand jury to consider case of Sardis Gas Mart armed robbers
By Billy Davis

A Sardis convenience store clerk shot during a Dec. 10 armed robbery was obediently lying on the floor when the robber opened fire on him, a police officer has testified.

A store security camera captured the assault on Gas Mart clerk John Simpson, said police officer Jason West.

West was testifying in a Dec. 29 preliminary trial in Sardis Municipal Court for defendants Tyrus Butler, Albert Lewis and Eric Patton Walls, all of Sardis.

The three defendants were bound over to a grand jury after Judge Jimmy McClure ruled there was sufficient evidence to do so.

Butler faces a charge of aggravated assault and armed robbery, both felonies, McClure told the court.

Lewis and Walls each face a felony charge of conspiracy to commit a crime.

In court testimony, West told prosecutor Rhea Tannehill that he watched the robber –  a hood over his head –  make the clerk lie on the floor, shoot him, then take the money and flee.

"They shot him in the right shoulder," West told the court.

"After they’d gotten the money?" Tannehill asked.

"After they robbed him, yes sir," West said.

Sardis police allege Lewis and Walls waited in a pickup at Sonic while Butler robbed Gas Mart, where he shot Simpson, who is 23.

The Gas Mart station and Sonic are located next to each other on E. Lee Street.

According to West, he found Lewis and Walls intoxicated in a brown pickup at the drive-in, where they were waiting for Butler to return.

West had responded to a "suspicious vehicle" report at Sonic – the truck with Lewis and Walls – at about the same time Butler was robbing the convenience store.

At the drive-in, West arrested Lewis for DUI and let Walls go free, he said. While the officer was transporting Lewis to the police station, a police dispatcher reported Gas Mart had been robbed.

After West watched the store’s video, he questioned Lewis –  who was still in his patrol car –  about the robbery. Lewis fingered Butler as the robber, and Butler was arrested by Sardis police about two hours later, the officer said.

At Tannehill’s request, John Simpson’s mother, Gina Webb, testified in her son’s absence at the preliminary trial.

Webb said her son is in "a whole lot of pain" while he recovers at home from the gunshot.

"He almost had his arm blown off. He’s taking a lot of pain medication," Webb told the court.

Webb told The Panolian she travelled from Covington, Tenn. to face the men who shot her son.
John Simpson is scheduled for surgery on his arm but may never fully recover from the injury, his mother said.

Simpson’s grandfather, Ernest Simpson of Senatobia, was also present for the preliminary trial.

Hospital sale expected
By Jason C. Mattox

The city and county could find themselves out of the hospital business by the end of the month.

According to Batesville Mayor Bobby Baker, J.C. Burns, the owners’ consultant for the sale process, has met with all interested parties and a report could be given soon.

"I would venture to say that the consultant has met with all of the bidders, and is getting a report ready for the city and the county," he said.

Baker said from what he has been told by Burns, a report could be made by the city board’s January 18 meeting.

"I would expect that a sale will be made very soon after the meeting with the consultant," he said.

Supervisor Jerry Perkins said he too believes the sale of Tri-Lakes Hospital could be completed by the end of the month.

"I think everyone involved will be working hard towards a sale that will not only benefit the owners financially, but that would also provide quality healthcare to the people of Panola County," he said.

If a sale is reached it would mean the end of a process that has been ongoing for almost three years.

The five bidders in the running for the purchase are Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Attentus Healtcare, Regent Care, Physicians and Surgeons Medical Group and Life Point.

"I think the consultant has done his homework and will present us with the best possible bidder for the hospital," Baker said.

Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker (left) presided Monday at the swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson, shown here with his wife Jane and daugher Meredith.

Judge Carlson was elected in November to an eight-year term. The brief ceremony took place in the Panola County courtroom in Batesville, where Carlson presided as circuit judge for 19 years before being appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to the state supreme court in November, 2001. The couple’s son Russel, who was on Carlson’s campaign staff, was not able to be present Monday.

‘Fan’ of Batesville seeks to become its mayor
By Jason C. Mattox

A man who calls himself a "fan" of Batesville said the decision to run for mayor wasn’t an easy one, but it was the right one.

Dr. Richard Corson said he has loved the City of Batesville since his first visit in 1958.

"Over the years, I would come here to visit friends and family, and this was a very friendly community," he said. "It was an easy decision to move here nine years ago."

During those nine years of residency, Corson said he has seen a lot of change in the town.

"The changes in this town, and the town itself, have been good to me," he said. "That is one of the reasons I made the decision to run for mayor."

Corson said he felt like his running for mayor would offer him the chance to give back to Batesville for all of the good things it has given him.

The candidate said he made the decision to seek the mayor’s office in October, and will run as a Republican.

"I don’t think it is right for a person to change parties just to get themselves elected," he said.

As for changes to the way the city presently operates, Corson said he doesn’t have any planned if he is elected.

"I don’t think I can offer changes to the city," he said. "I think I can offer a different perspective.

"Batesville is changing because the world around us is changing," the candidate continued. "I believe I bring more of a philosophy of managing the changes than changes themselves."

A portion of that philosophy concerns economic development inside the city limits.

"I think we need to work with our existing businesses to nurture them and offer a chance for them to expand," Corson said. "I also think we will have to work to attract new businesses."

Corson said his education and life experience qualify him to run for the office.

"I have the education and experience in life," he said. "But I also have a belief in the City of Batesville.

"We need to make Batesville a destination rather than a stopping point along the interstate," Corson added.

The education and life experience Corson speaks of includes a medical degree from Temple Medical School in Philadelphia, Pa. and employment at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

"I think when you live in the larger towns throughout the United States and come back to a city like Batesville, it allows a person to see things with a different perspective," he said.

"That kind of thing allows an individual to see things with different eyes," the candidate continued. "It could also make a person able to see things through the eyes of those who came before him."

Corson said he believes he is a solid candidate for all of these reasons, but added he thinks he offers the best opportunity for developing Batesville without giving up what the city stands for.

"It is important for a person to bring new perspectives," he said. "I do that without the help or hindrance of personal or political ties," he said.

Newspaper under new management
The Panolian, Inc., will again be publishing The Panolian newspaper beginning with this issue after a 10-year absence.

Former publisher and co-owner John Howell will serve as publisher, while co-owner Rupert Howell will serve as editor and his wife, Rita, will serve as news editor.

The Howell family has been involved with The Panolian since 1955 when the late I. Huntington Howell purchased an interest with two partners. He later acquired full ownership with his sons who acquired his interest when he retired in the 1980s.

The Howell brothers ran the weekly newspaper business until 1995 when they leased the business to an Alabama newspaper management company, PTS, which has managed the paper since that time.

Under PTS management the paper increased frequency to twice a week, added a free distribution shopper, The Panolian ADvantage, purchased a web press and added a website.

The new publisher’s son, David, publishers The Southern Reporter in Sardis and is also publisher/editor of Water Valley’s North Mississippi Herald, which he co-owns with his father and uncle.

The Panolian presently prints four area weekly newspapers and two free shopper papers as well as their Batesville based publications.

Former Panolian writer Billy Davis will join writers Jason Mattox, Emily Darby and Sports Editor Myra Bean on the editorial staff along with the Howells.

Davis has most recently been employed at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis while the Howells have been working in Water Valley at the Herald during the past year.

Former Panolian witnesses tsunami damage
By Rita Howell

A former Panola Countian saw last week’s tsunami up close on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand. Liz Wolfe, 27, and friends were enjoying the Christmas holidays when on the morning of December 26 they felt the earthquake that shook the Indian Ocean and 12 countries in that region.

Liz, who teaches school on the island, is the daughter of Rick and Kay Wolfe of Sardis, formerly of Batesville. Her mother said Sunday that the first few hours after the earthquake were harrowing for the family as they attempted to get in touch with their daughter.

"They’re 13 hours ahead of us," Mrs. Wolfe explained. "I came home on Christmas night and turned on the news, and there it was."

After a frantic hour-and-a-half of failed attempts on the cell phone, Mrs. Wolfe sent a text message to Liz, and she responded. She was all right.

The following account was e-mailed yesterday by Liz to her friends and family.

"I was on a beach in the south of Phuket called Rawai Beach. We had no idea what was going on. We were just sitting down for breakfast and were looking out on the ocean and saw some strange things happening. The water was being pushed so far back that the pressure was building sand dunes and we were saying, ?What is that? That wasn’t there a minute ago.’ Then all of a sudden the pressure just released and it all came so fast directly over the street more than once. We had no idea it would come that fast. Then we all remembered feeling the earthquake earlier that morning and started to put everything together. We started running to my friend’s house across the street from the beach and just jumped on a motorbike and drove up to higher ground. . .We then saw beaches disappear and reappear and then disappear again. And the debris from beach chairs, tables, umbrellas, and everything else was absolutely shocking. Ocean swells were just eating the beaches–seemed like every five-ten minutes."

Phuket is a small, mountainous island, and Liz’s house is located on higher ground, in the city, near the boys school where she teaches. Her house was untouched by the waves, but the island now has only limited electricity, two hours a day, and no water. Because the house Liz and her roommates share was not damaged, it became a sort of headquarters for other friends who had lost their homes.

The island is "like a little paradise," Mrs. Wolfe said. Liz first went there last year for teacher training at the Teaching English as a Foreign Language International School. She liked it so much she stayed to teach at the boys school.

The family is preparing a care package of antibiotics, chlorine tablets and other supplies Liz might need.

Aid organizations are helping those who have lost their homes, and Phuket’s beautiful beaches are slowing being cleaned up.

"The mood in Phuket is slightly getting better," Liz wrote Monday. "There’s a strange mood going on that no one can put their finger on–just really sad and depressing and traumatic all at the same time."



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