Headlines – 1/7/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 7, 2005

Panolian Headlines: January 7, 2005

  Excerpts from the 1/7/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Blood drive scheduled in Jan.
A community blood drive will be sponsored by Mississippi Blood Services in Batesville Tuesday through Thursday, January 25 through January 27 to help meet the needs of local hospitals. The blood drive will be held at the South Panola High School Library all three days. On Tuesday, the blood drive will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and it will be held from 1 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. All donors will receive a T-shirt. Local businesses are also donating prizes to be given away throughout the three-day event.

All donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and have a valid ID.

"We are proud the Batesville Community Blood Drive has always been one of the largest blood drives held by Mississippi Blood Services," said Dot Watson, MBS Chairperson and President of the Tri-Lakes Hospital Auxiliary. "The goal for this year is 400 units and we need all of Panola County to help us achieve our goal."

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Mississippi Blood Services, a non-profit blood center, provides blood and blood components for over half of the hospitals in the state.

MBS offers a "mini physical" before each donation to ensure the donation process is safe for the donor and the recipient. A full round of blood tests is performed after each donation.

For more information, contact (800) 817-7449.

Assault charge brings fine
By Rita Howell

A woman pleaded guilty to simple assault in charges stemming from a December 21 altercation at the Panola County Health Department in Batesville. Municipal Court Judge Bill McKenzie on Wednesday accepted the plea of Latasha Cole of 104-C Bradford, Batesville. Melissa Cauthen, the affiant, told the judge she did not have to seek medical treatment after the incident. The judge ordered a $255 fine against Cole.

Kemp Blackmon of 226 Noble St., Batesville, was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident on Martin Luther King Drive on December 29, and no driver’s license. He was fined $675.

The judge found Ernest Grant of 258 Doc Woody Rd., Coldwater, guilty of petit larceny after employees from Rascal’s Convenience Store testified that Grant drove off without paying for $16.36 worth of gas on November 30. Sheriff’s deputies happened to be in the store and stopped the defendant down the road. Grant said he didn’t have money to pay for the gas and was going to the bank to get some, according to Deputy Barry Thompson, who was on the scene.

Judge McKenzie imposed a $295 fine.

Cases Continued
The case of Ira Lee Anderson II of 228 Henry Harris Rd., Batesville, has been continued until January 19. Anderson is charged with petit larceny.

Bobbie Dover of 104 Jones St., Batesville, pleaded not guilty to DUI, second offense, no driver’s license, and driving on the wrong side of the road. Her case was set for trial on February 16.

The case of Reginald Joiner of 203 Fisher St., Batesville, has been sent to the Panola County grand jury. Joiner is charged with sexual battery.

Also sent to the grand jury was the case of Paul Lang of Tubbs Road, Batesville. Lang is charged with grand larceny. Lang faced unrelated contempt of court charges in city court, resulting in the judge’s order that he pay $300 he owes in old fines by January 19. The old fine was for a traffic violation, and Lang was previously offered the opportunity to go to a driving school in lieu of paying the fine and having the violation on his record. Lang told the judge he never got around to it.

"You could have paid $35 and gone to driving school, but you didn’t, and now you owe $300," the judge told Lang. "Have this paid by January 19 or you will go to jail for 60 days."

Also continued was a trial for forgery. The case of Candace Collins of 304 Jones St., Jonestown, will be tried on February 23.

Judge McKenzie continued the case of Antonio Ellis of 109 Everette St., Batesville. Ellis faces felony charges of fleeing an officer in pursuit, reckless driving, driving while his license is suspended, running a stop sign, and no proof of insurance. No trial date was set.

Traffic Tickets
Shameica McClay of 304 Hubbard Rd., Pope, was fined $1,320 for no driver’s license. The fine is due February 5.

Unpaid Fine
Kawanda Battle of 204 Arizona, Batesville, asked for and received an extension on the deadline for payment of her unpaid fine of $640, which is now due February 22.

Firemen pay goes to board for decision
By Jason C. Mattox

The way the City of Sardis pays its volunteer firemen needs to change in order for the city to stay within its budget, City Clerk Odessa Johnson said during the recent meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

"Presently we are paying $5 per firemen that responds to a call," she said.

Johnson said one of the biggest reasons she sees a need for change comes from a recent invoice the department presented to the city for $600.

"The present budget for the department’s pay is $4,000," she said. "If we continue getting invoiced for larger amounts, there is no way we will stay within that budget."

Johnson said she felt like the city needed to consider a monthly allotment rather than a per-call pay basis.

"If we go to a monthly allotment, we would be able to know we would stay within the budget," she said.

Mayor Richard Darby said, he understands, firemen are not paid on a monthly basis.

"If I am thinking correctly, the fire department doesn’t pay the firefighters until the end of the year," he said. "We give them the money at the end of the month and they disburse it as they see fit."

Darby said he believed that paying them a set sum each month would definitely help the city with its annual budget.

"There is no question it will be a great relief to the city for us to know how much we will be paying each month," he said.

No vote on the issue was taken. Aldermen may vote at a later date.

Tri-Lakes pays $400,000 note
By Jason C. Mattox

With a payment earlier this week of $490,012, the present administration of Tri-Lakes Medical Center has retired approximately $2 million of the hospital’s bond debt.

According to Tri-Lakes C.O.O. Ray Shoemaker, the hospital has met all of the bond obligations in 2004.

"The next payment on the bonds will be due in July," Shoemaker said. "With current projections, we are on track to make that payment on time as well."

Shoemaker said the $2 million – plus in debt retirement has all happened over the past 18 months.

"We have also made a payment toward another loan the hospital had," he said. "The other loan was taken out so they could make a previous bond payment."

With financial projections on track, Shoemaker said he, Tri-Lakes C.E.O. Dr. Robert Corkern and other staff members were able to start making plans for the hospital.

"I think everyone involved expects the city and county to make a decision about the new hospital ownership soon, but that has not stopped us from trying to plan for the future of healthcare in Panola County," Shoemaker said.

One of the big issues being worked on is expansion of services, he said.

"We have immediate plans to open an acute care hospital," Shoemaker explained. "The program will begin on the main campus until construction could be completed on a permanent home."

Shoemaker said the hospital also has intentions of beginning sleep studies, developing healthcare for north Panola County and a host of other programs.

"We have not been able to handle kidney stone removal at this hospital," he said. "We recently applied for a certificate of need that would allow us to begin offering that service.

"Another big thing we want to see happen in the very near future, should we be awarded the bid for the hospital, is a fast track ER," Shoemaker added. "We have spoken with several new physicians and nurses, and they are excited about our goals here at Tri-Lakes."

Shoemaker said the programs on the West Campus will continue if Physicians and Surgeons Medical Group is awarded the bid.

"We see the programs out there as very important to the community," he said.

"We are also seeing a continued growth of support from local doctors in the area, and we will do whatever we can to nurture that relationship," Shoemaker added. "As an administration, that is our job. We need to go ask them what we can do to help."

As for other major issues facing hospital ownership following the sale include tort liability and dealing with Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

"If we are able to get the sale, we plan to assume all of the hospital’s liabilities," he said. "Should the bid go to someone else, it will be something the city and county will have to negotiate with the buyer."

As for Medicare and Medicaid, Shoemaker said Tri-Lakes has been successful in getting payment for services.

"It is always a challenge, an industry-wide challenge," he said. "But we have been successful from our point of view.

Election Commission
The Panola County Election Commission was sworn in Tuesday morning. The commissioners include (from left) Ronald McMinn, Bonnie Land, Julius Harris, Vivian Burkley and Mildred Moore. They will serve four years.

The event made history in that Mrs. Land is the first election commissioner who has been elected as a Republican.

Chief retiring from BPD
By Jason C. Mattox

Beginning April 16, the Batesville Police Department will be under new leadership.

The new era is coming about following Chief Roger Vanlandingham’s decision to retire from the force he has led for over 15 years.

Vanlandingham said he told the Mayor and Board of Aldermen his decision during an executive session Tuesday afternoon.

The decision was made following discussion with his family and friends, the chief said.

"There are a lot of different reasons for my decision, but mostly it just seems like the right time," he said.

Vanlandingham called his 15 years as Chief of Police, "the best of his 36 year career.

"It has been a pleasure to work with a forward-looking board that has been very supportive over the years," he said.

"I would like to wish the city, its administration and its citizens the very best," he said. "This police department is blessed with a number of very well-trained and talented officers who will continue to perform their duties to protect the people of Batesville."

Following his retirement, Vanlandingham said he plans to remain deputized in Panola and Yalobusha Counties and assist them in any way he can.

"As far as any other future plans are concerned, there are some in the works, and they will be revealed over time," he said.

Sardis man asks for apologies
West informs aldermen of mayor taking court action
The Sardis Board of Aldermen say they were shocked to learn this week of legal proceedings against a local businessman – proceedings carried out by the mayor which were allegedly unknown by the board.

Nolan West, owner of W & W Contractors, told the aldermen he had been sued in Justice Court by the city for payment of invoices.

The suit stemmed from two separate incidents. In the first, the city claimed West owed for use of the landfill after cleaning property behind the old Liberty Supermarket building on East Lee Street.

The second charge was pertaining to damaging a manhole while doing some work in the industrial park.

"I just wanted to know if the Board of Aldermen knew I had been taken to Justice Court over this and the judge ruled in my favor," he said.

Alderman Mike Wilson said he was under the impression the city had voted down the invoices.

"Did we not all vote that he did not have to pay these?," he asked.

Mayor Richard Darby explained the board voted four to nothing to throw out the claims. (One alderman abstained from voting.)

Following the board’s vote, Darby issued a veto. The board voted 3-2 to overturn the veto, but four votes are required, so the veto stood.

"So this was your act and not ours," Wilson said.

Wilson asked City Attorney Tommy Shuler if legal action could be taken without the board voting first.

"For a city to take legal action, it takes an action by the board," he said.

West said he just wanted the board to know what had been done and what the outcome was.

"I think this board has been with you each step of the way," Wilson said.

"We should have known about this before it happened," Alderman Rusty Dye said.

West said in exchange for a public apology from the mayor, city clerk and public works director, he would withdraw claims he presented to the city that totalled over $17,000.

"I can tell you right now you won’t get it from me," Darby said.  

South Panola beauty review contestants announced
South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (front, l to r) Danielle Bean, Vanessa Mosley, Leann Parrish, Jennifer Stroud, Elizabeth Rybolt, Jesica Crutcher; (back, l to r) Alicia Wilson, Sabrina Townsend, Camillia Krohn, Turkessa Coleman, Cassie Corley and Ashlie Mason.
South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (front, l to r) Kelley Wall, Tiffany Swindoll, Samantha Rapp, Angela Brewer; (back, l to r) Molly Cox, Shernina Carter, Lauren Lange and Amanda Brewer. Not pictured are Lacy Hannaford, Kayla Helms and Stefanie Watkins.

South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (front, l to r) Brittney Sensabaugh, Kelley Reinemann, Charity Jones, Paige Swindle, Barbara Kirk; (back, l to r) Erica Harris, Brandis Shaw, Christan Bailey, Brooke Sibley, Krystal Goforth and Amber Garner. Not pictured is Tiffanie Moore.

South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (front, l to r) Alicia French, Amber Glasgow, McKenzie West, Emily Brewer, Khalena Fields, Katie Prather; (back, l to r) Keri Matthews, Nikki Dillon, Kayla Locke, Cynthia Hartman (not participating) and Rebecca Patton. Not pictured are Jessica Inman, Haley Carlini and Megan Cook.

South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (front, l to r) Elizabeth Tolbert, Alana Baker, Anna Newcomb, Allie Ware, Kayla Britt, Alexx Neal (not participating); (back, l to r) Taki Lee, Courtney Perkins, Casi Brooks, Lindsey Thaggard, Amber Reasons and Annah Bailey. Not pictured are Haylei Plummer and Britney French.

South Panola Beauty Review contestants include (l to r) Brittany Helmes, Jessica Cannon, Bethany Harris and Vikita "Molly" Chapman.

South Panola High School will hold its annual Beauty Review, Friday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Batesville Jr. High School Auditorium.

Tickets will go on sale Jan. 10. Reserve tickets for parents and special guests are $5 and general admission is $3.

The theme this year is Rooftop Serenade.

Sixty-five young ladies make up the field of competition for the coveted crown.

The girls will be judged on poise, appearance and personality.

Last year’s Most Beautiful, Kara Tapp, will crown the winner.

SPD use of part-time help sparks debate
Wording in the minutes of last month’s meeting of the Sardis Board of Aldermen caused confusion about the Police Department’s use of part-time employees.

"I think the words in the minutes are a little misleading," Alderman Rusty Dye said in reference to a set number of hours for part-time officers. "I don’t think that is the way we voted for this."

City Clerk Odessa Johnson said the motion was worded that way in an effort to control the deparment’s budget.

"We only have approximately $10,000 in the budget for part-time officers," she said. "This is the only way we can make sure they do not go over budget."

Police Chief Sonny Stepp said he left the meeting under the impression that his only restraint was to stay within the $10,000.

"If I am limited to 20 hours then both of the men I have hired are over the hours," he said.

The chief explained that he has to use part-time officers to cover sick leave and vacation.

"At this point the department has six full-time officers," he said. "We only use two part-time employees."

Stepp said when the city uses part-time officers they need to be certified officers.

"If we get part-time officers that aren’t certified, they aren’t much good to us," he said. "A non-certified officer has to ride with a certified officer."

The aldermen asked that the minutes be altered to reflect the original motion.

"We need to remove the time restraint," Alderman Mike Wilson said.

Johnson asked Mayor Richard Darby and the board how the city would know how much the department is spending.

"We are going to watch the budget every month," Darby said. "If we don’t have the money for them, they won’t work.

"It’s as simple as that," he said.

Out with the old at courthouse
A drawer filled with 50-year-old court files gets a closer look from Chancery Court Clerk Jim Pitcock. Pitcock’s office is required by state law to keep many of the records, which are stored in a vault, but the chancery clerk is planning to toss out many others to make more space.
By Billy Davis

In the Chancery Court vault in Batesville, a lot of history is crammed into a small amount of space.

Two swamp-green file cabinets run most of the length of the vault. In each drawer, the goings-on in Panola County Chancery Court since the 1950s are organized neatly in court files: divorces, family squabbles, paternity cases, land disputes, and more divorces.

Every courtroom drama from 1880 to 1955 has been moved to microfilm, Chancery Court Clerk Jim Pitcock said, leaving one of the filing cabinets empty and bare.

Pitcock plans to get rid of that cabinet ? and a lot more ? to give more space to the cramped vault.

"The office has been so busy all the time that (office staff) couldn’t take care of things like this, but we’ve come to a point where we’re out of space," Pitcock said. "Now it’s time to do something."

Pitcock, 58, won election to the chancery court office last year.

Faced with apparent space problems in Batesville and Sardis, Pitcock got permission from county supervisors this week to dispose of 12 various types of county records.

Out of the courthouse will go bank statements from 1976 to 1999, check copies from 1980 to 2000, and garbage receipts from 1994 to 1999.

The chancery clerk is now seeking the best way to dispose of the records, whether by shredder, fire, trash heap or some other method.

Many other records, such as land deeds and deeds of trust, are being scanned and put on computer, said deputy clerk Judy Tutor.

Along the back wall of the vault, payroll books from the 1960s share shelf space with gravel hauling receipts from 2001.

In 1965, the county supervisors made $350 a month. Their social security tax was $12.69.

Sheriff Earl G. Hubbard’s monthly pay record was also discovered in the 1965 book. It was blank. A second quarter payment appeared to read "15,000."

Pitcock is following the state’s guidelines for keeping and disposing of county records, he said, seeking to reassure the public that important documents won’t end up in the trash heap.

Per the state’s retention laws, many chancery items are permanent fixtures to the county offices: jail dockets, homestead exemption rolls, marriage license records, and a register of professional licenses.

Personnel records can be ditched in time, Pitcock said, 55 years after the county employee retires, quits, gets fired, or gets booted from office.

Pitcock’s predecessor, Sally Fisher, said the crammed chancery vault mirrored the county’s growth over the years.

"It wasn’t too terribly crowded, then the population just boomeranged," said Fisher, who came into office in 1988.

What’s considered Panola County history and what constitutes everyday county business is, of course, debatable.

A little bit of both will soon be out the door.

Board considers clean-up effort
By Billy Davis

Plans are moving forward for a county-wide clean-up that could be underway within a month.

Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean announced the clean-up plans at the January 4 "first Monday" meeting of supervisors in Sardis.

Bean said he envisions a well-organized plan that relies on "captains," similar to the Neighborhood Watch program, and volunteers.

The captains would oversee clean-up efforts in their assigned areas, such as a stretch of county road or a cluster of homes.

Supervisors verbally backed Bean’s call for cleaning up the county’s roads.

Board President Jerry Perkins suggested the hiring of a "garbage cop" whose responsibility would be catching the culprits in the act.

Perkins had voiced a similar idea to The Panolian earlier this week, saying that this hiring would differ from the so-called garbage cop hired in recent years. That cop would comb through garbage to track down the illegal dumpers.

By nabbing illegal dumpers, Perkins said, any effort to beautify the roads would stand a better chance to succeed.

"Once we clean it up, we want to keep it up," Perkins said.

District Two Supervisor Robert Avant noted the county would assist with larger discarded items, such as old tires and furniture.

Reached after the meeting, Bean acknowledged the recruitment of captains and other volunteers would require a "tremendous" number of Panola Countians from churches, volunteer fire departments, community centers and neighborhoods.

Bean said many Panola Countians are already fed up with roadside trash in their communities. Cleanups have already begun along Benson Rd., Pope-Crowder Rd., Chapeltown Rd. and Lucius Taylor Rd., he noted.

Now, Bean said, the plan is to take the apparent mix of frustration and community pride and turn it into an army of willing volunteers.

"The county could hire 50 folks and not get the job done," Bean told The Panolian. "Not only does it look good when the people do it, but it seems to last a lot longer, too.

"Now we want to do it on a large, organized scale."

New details are coming next week at the January 10 supervisors meeting, Bean said.

At the January 4 supervisors meeting, additional county business included:

– Perkins announced his plans to meet with a representative of Miss. Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, a private state organization, to discuss the county’s ongoing work to make the county’s voting precincts more handicap-friendly.

The county has evaluated its 27 voting precincts and has begun work on those that require updated improvements, Perkins said.

The county could expect some "leniency" from the Coalition due to the rural nature of the county, he added.

Supervisors voted unanimously to aid the Batesville Boys and Girls Club by asking McBride and state Rep. Leonard Morris to introduce a "local and private" bill in the legislature.
     The legislation is a procedure often used to allow cities and counties to cooperate at
     The Boys and Girls Club has approached the supervisors in the past about funding donations and later about using the old national guard armory, McKenzie said.
     When the Boys and Girls Club requested help from the county, a specific amount of donation monies was not mentioned, Perkins said after the meeting.
Supervisors took under advisement a request from Chancery Court Clerk Jim Pitcock to hire a part-time employee to work in his office.
     The help is needed to "back scan" land records, he said, meaning keying older information onto computer disks.
     Pitcock requested a salary of at least $7 an hour for a college student he has picked for the job.
Supervisors unanimously re-appointed Avant and District Three Supervisor Mack Benson to the North Delta Planning and Development Board.



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