Headlines – 2/8/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Panolian Headlines: February 8, 2005

  From the 2/8/05 issue of The Panolian :             


Pretty Woman?
     Chris Drummond was one of 27 contestants vying for the title of most beautiful in the Hearts and Roses Womanless Beauty Review, sponsored by the Risque Business Parent Booster Club. Hamming it up Friday night for the judges, Drummond was also voted Miss Congeniality and was a top 10 finalist.
600 targeted for delinquent garbage fees
By Billy Davis

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A newly hired collection agency will target 600-plus Panola Countians who collectively owe about $120,000 in garbage fees.

County supervisors unanimously approved the hiring of Quick Collect Recoveries, based in Eupora, on the recommendation of County Administrator David Chandler.

The county Board of Supervisors met for their "first Monday" meeting at the Panola County Courthouse in Sardis.

Instead of blanketing thousands of customers with letters and phone calls, Quick Collect will target a specific list of customers requested by the county’s solid waste department, Chandler told supervisors.
For county customers, the monthly garbage fee is $11. A customer’s account is considered delinquent when the bill reaches $66 – six months of past-due funds.

The 600 customers in question owe an average of $200 in garbage fees, Chandler told supervisors.

These 641 people paid at least one bill in 2004 and owe up to $500, Chandler said.

A 25 percent fee will be tacked onto each delinquent account, which will go to Quick Collect for its services.

"So if you owe $100, you’ll be paying $125," noted District Five Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

The county’s solid waste department has about 7,000 garbage collection accounts, and about a quarter of those are delinquent, Chandler said.

Customers who are continually delinquent could soon face an appearance in Justice Court, the county administrator said.

If the county is happy with Quick Collect’s work, the agency will receive a second list of delinquent customers, Chandler said.

Also, at Chandler’s request supervisors agreed to open a post office box with Quick Collect, where the delinquent bills will be mailed.

"We’ll get the bills from the box, and that way that money will come straight to the county," Chandler said.

Reached after the meeting, Chandler said the "flagging" of car tags at the county courthouse has helped rein in delinquent garbage customers.

"In the last two weeks the (solid waste) department has averaged $1,500 to $2,000 a day," Chandler said. "We had about three days last week when we collected $2,000 to $3,000."

In other county news:

Supervisors took no action – but said they were interested – after hearing from a telephone audit company seeking business with the county.
     Carl Overton, a senior auditor with Alabama-based Telecom Audit Group, pitched his company’s ability to save the county taxpayers’ dollars.
     Telecom is "batting 100 percent" in saving money for other Mississippi counties by auditing their phone bills, he said.
     "There’s what you think you’re paying for and what you’re paying for," Overton told the board.
Supervisors heard bids from road manager Lygunnah Bean regarding replacement of a water line on Landfill Road but took no action on the matter.
     A county road crew apparently damaged a property owner’s water line near a bridge, and now 1,300 feet of two-inch line must be replaced.
     Bean said the lowest of four bids, $4,189, came from Preston Mills of Como.
     At the suggestion of Board attorney William McKenzie, the supervisors tabled the matter until the county is certain about its right-of-way in the area.
Supervisors agreed that the county is prohibited by law from performing roadwork on a private road, Shonnah Road, located near Hwy. 51 and Barnacre Road.
     Residents of Shonnah had written a letter to the supervisors, asking the county road department to clean out a drainage ditch to alleviate flooding.
     The private road had been worked under the former beat system but hasn’t been touched since, said Chandler.
     McKenzie reminded the supervisors of the law. "If it’s public it’s no problem, but if it’s private you better stay off of it," he said.
Supervisors agreed to haul and dump extra dirt from a current work site to help the Bynum Volunteer Fire Department prepare a site for a new fire station.
     Fire Department supporter Pat Whitehorn brought the request to the supervisors, saying she was aware that the county had dirt available after working on Woodard Road.
     "I can’t believe I’m here asking for dirt, but we need it," Whitehorn said.
     The fire station will be located at Eureka Road, she said.
The improvement of a parking area in downtown Como would cost about $25,000, McBride Engineering representative Warner McBride told supervisors.
     McBride was updating the board about a request from the city – made last month – to help the town’s Main Street area.
     The board took no action on the matter. 
Supervisors approved the five-year reappointment of the county’s fire district commissioners.
     The request came from Civil Defense Coordinator Son Hudson.
     Those reappointed are: Bobby Cook, Curtis-Locke Station Volunteer Fire District; Ray Coaten, Mt. Olivet Volunteer Fire Department; Troy Darby, Sardis Lower Lake Volunteer Fire Department; Sandy Sullivan, Coles Point Volunteer Fire Department District;
     Louise Williams, Union Volunteer Fire Department District; Danny Dew, Red Hill Fire District; Guy Wilson, Bynum Volunteer Fire Department District; J.C. Sexton, Pleasant Grove Volunteer Fire Department District; Luebertia Ware, Pope Volunteer Fire Department District. 
Supervisors took under advisement a request from Circuit Clerk Joe Reid to pay for a part-time employee currently working in his office.
     "I’ve been paying her, and I’m out of money," Reid told the board. The part-time worker currently makes $7 an hour.
Local police still searching for Morris
By Jason C. Mattox

The search for Emanuel Morris continues this week, according to Detective Paul Shivers and Detective Michael Downs of the Batesville Police Department.
The 18-year-old black male has been missing since mid-January.

Shivers said according to Morris’s girlfriend, the young man was last seen wearing white Dickies work pants and white Phat Farm shoes.

Originally it was believed that Morris was last seen in the Batesville area wearing jeans, a blue and white striped shirt and orange cowboy boots. According to Shivers, those reports were inaccurate.

"We have the orange boots in question," he said. "They were given to us by his girlfriend."

Anyone with any information about Morris’ whereabouts is encouraged to contact Downs at 563-5653.

Charity Ball promises lovely evening, benefits
By Rita Howell

The Batesville Junior Auxiliary’s annual charity ball fundraiser will be Saturday, February 19, at the the new Batesville National Guard Readiness Center, 705 Keating Road. The event raises money to fund the organization’s service projects which benefit children and the elderly and needy in the community.

The dress-up affair will include a Cajun dinner in keeping with the Mardi Gras theme. The Dealers, a band from Memphis, will provide music for dancing.
There will be live and silent auctions, and the charity ball royal court will be presented. The identities of the 2005 charity ball king and queen will be revealed. They’ll be crowned by last year’s king and queen, David Lavergne and Belinda Morris.
Among the Junior Auxiliary’s projects are: providing more than 6,000 books to local children through the Reading is Fundamental program; "adopting" elderly people who need companionship, food, or other help; organizing a health fair that offers free health screenings; "Heart to Heart," an educational and mentoring program that targets girls ages 12-14; helping meet needs at the Sav-A-Life center; fire safety programs; working with special needs classes at Batesville Elementary School.

Anyone who would like tickets to the charity ball may phone 563-8126 or 934-1278 for information.

Sardis library lights tree
     Leslie Brown (left) and Jean Nix are among the many people who have placed photos and names on the Love-A-Lot tree in the Sardis Library. The tree honors local men and women who have served or are serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mrs. Brown is mother of Casey Brown; Mrs. Nix is the grandmother of Curt Ayers. Anyone who would like to add their loved one’s picture or name to the tree may contact the Sardis Public Library.

The lighting of the Love-A- Lot Tree was held at the Sardis Library last week to pay tribute to men and women who have served or are serving.

Pictures of the following military men and women were hung on the tree: Thomas "Tommy" Mangrum, Casey Brown of Charley Company, Daniel Umberger, Michael Wick, Ishmael Johnson, James Robertson, Darrell Lewis, Curt Ayers, Clyde Haynes, Willie Harrison, Arthur R. Edward, Rickey Hanson, Walter Lee Sander, and Walter Lee Sander Jr.

Also Corinda Sander Green, Rosaline Kaye Sander Wallace, Angelina M. Sander Paschal, Charles Reed, Clifton Reed, and Anthony Reed.

Names submitted to hang on the tree were as follow: David Dunnigan, Eddie Little, Kelly Wall, John Curtis Jones, Reese Lowe, Reese Lowe Jr., Alvin Williamson, Earl Tucker, Larry Shaw. Larry Young, Joe Alvin Willingham, Thomas Reed, Rodney Fondern, Earl Burdette, and Jacqueline Reed.

The Love-A-Lot Tree will continue to be lit until all troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. Any one who would like to add their loved one’s picture, or name to the tree, please contact the Sardis Library.

Mystery mail raises new questions about Ales
By Jason C. Mattox

After 14 years, the disappearance of a Batesville woman still haunts the Police Department.

An anonymous letter sent to Police Chief Roger Vanlandingham last week was an ominous reminder that the case remains unsolved since the day in January, 1991 when Claire Ales disappeared from her home on quiet Kyle Street.

Vanlandingham told members of the city board of aldermen about the letter at their meeting last week.

"When I opened the envelope, it contained the (newspaper) article on my retirement," he said. "Written across my picture was the name Claire Ales."

Vanlandingham said he does not feel like the mail was a threat in any way.

"I honestly don’t feel like it was a threat," he said. "If anything, I believe it was a reminder that the case still wasn’t solved."

The case of Claire Ales still receives a lot of attention from investigators, according to Vanlandingham.

"As some people may recall, her disappearance was reported to us by a postal worker," he said. "We have been looking for any clues to Mrs. Ales’ whereabouts ever since.

"I would like people to know that I am retiring, but that will not keep me from assisting with the Ales investigation in any way possible," Vanlandingham added.

The chief said the department still has no leads or suspects in the matter.

"We would like to encourage anyone who might have information they have been holding back from us to call," Deputy Chief Gerald Legge said.

"Rookie" supervisors report on first year in office
     Panola County District One Supervisor James Birge (left) listens to a concern from Pat Whitehorn, a Bynum Fire Department supporter, during a break in a Board of Supervisors meeting. Birge and Supervisor Bubba Waldrup have served 13 months in public office.
By Billy Davis

Thirteen months after being sworn into office, Panola County’s two newest supervisors – both of them first-time public officials – are still feeling their way around the public office.

And both of them, meanwhile, are eyeing a certain critical vote regarding a certain public-owned hospital.

Panola County voters put William "Bubba" Waldrup and James Birge into office in August 2003, choosing the first-time candidates over incumbents.
Birge, who represents District One, won the Democratic primary in August 2003 to win over Supervisor Jesse Lyons.

Waldrup, who represents District Five, survived the primary to beat incumbent Dennis Lott in a late-August run-off.

A big vote coming soon

For Waldrup, the most important issue to date has been the pending sale of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center – "no ifs, ands or buts about it," he said.

When Waldrup came into office 13 months ago, he said, the supervisors had "no control" over the hospital and were disagreeing with the hospital board about the sale of the facility.

Next came a public referendum about the future of the hospital. When Panola Countians went to the polls, 82 percent voted to sell the public-owned hospital.

"What it boiled down to is, of course, the hospital board didn’t want to sell it and we wanted to sell it," Waldrup recalled. "We needed to know what the people wanted, and that was the reason for the referendum."

Five bidders have submitted bids for Tri-Lakes, and voting on the hospital’s next owner will likely be the most important vote this year, Waldrup said.

Birge agreed the pending sale of Tri-Lakes is the "number one" issue he and the other supervisors are facing.

Selling the hospital makes good common sense, Birge said.

"I don’t think the county should be in the hospital business," the District One supervisor said. "I feel a hospital should be owned and operated by people in that line of work."

‘My job is to protect the taxpayers’

Birge, 57, has owned Birge Plumbing Co. since 1971. With that background, he said, he brings years of customer service into public office.

"In business you get a good understanding about pleasing customers, and operating the county should be the same way," Birge said.

As a small business owner, Birge said he’s sympathetic about the tax burden on people and feels that the county should bear the burden of "squeezing" tax dollars.

"I feel like my job is to protect the taxpayers’ money," Birge said. "I feel like we should try to squeeze as much out of every dollar that we can."

‘I didn’t promise a soul a thing’

"Politics is the art of the possible," German chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said, and something akin to that was Waldrup’s motto as he stumped for the supervisor’s seat.

"I told the people that I wanted to represent them and would handle any problem that they had, but one thing I didn’t do is promise anything to anybody," Waldrup said. "I didn’t promise a soul a thing."

Waldrup, 55, works as a supervisor for Cube, Inc., a subcontractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He and his family farmed for a decade and, before that, owned and operated Panola Feed and Seed.

Panola County’s District Five is unusual territory among the county’s five districts. Much of Five lies within Batesville’s city limits, meaning most of those roads are already paved.

According to Waldrup, about seven miles of gravel roads remain to be paved in District Five.

None of those gravel roads are scheduled for paving this summer, he said, which will be the second summer of road paving since he took office.
While some District Five roads will be resurfaced and overlaid this summer, Waldrup says most of the county’s time and equipment should be used on the dozens of miles of unpaved roads in the other four districts.

"I think District Two and District Four have the most gravel roads, and I definitely have the least," Waldrup said.



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