Headlines – 3/15/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Panolian Headlines: March 15, 2005

  From the 3/15/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Fruit grant enlightens elementary classes
     In Vicki Wolfe’s kindergarten class, Kelvin Cartwright (right) picks out the toppings for his "fruit pizza" as classmate Jacob Marker waits his turn at Batesville Elementary Friday morning. The school received a $40,000 grant last year that provides healthy snacks for the students.
By Billy Davis

Who knew watermelons could make good maracas?

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Kindergartners and first graders are finding lots of uses for fruits and vegetables at Batesville Elementary School, where the school is using a $40,000 pilot grant to teach the kids about healthy eating.

When the students aren’t singing about fruits in music class – "red apples are good for me/we love to eat red aaaa-ples" – or learning numbers by counting seeds, they’re snacking on fruits and veggies four times a week.

The snacks, which are provided by the grant monies, include veggies and dip, typical fruits such as apples, grapes and oranges, exotic fruits such as kiwi and star fruit, and dried fruits such as banana and pineapple chips.

Teachers hand out the healthy snacks to students during recess or other break-times during the day, said Lynne Dye, child nutrition administrator for the SP school district.

BES assistant principal Kay Parker applied for the grant last year. The school learned last fall that it had won the grant, one of 25 public schools in Mississippi to do so.

BES got its grant from the Miss. Department of Education, which originally won the grant monies for the state from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

"The grant is part of a pilot program, and the CDC is evaluating some of the schools as part of the program," said Dye.

South Panola is not part of a planned evaluation, Dye said, though the school is required to send a progress report each month.

Long-serving U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi helped secure the grant for the state, notes a state Department of Education letter that was sent to the school district last fall (hint).

The letter asks that BES send a "thank you note" from a student to the helpful senator. A self-addressed envelope to Cochran’s office was helpfully enclosed with the letter (hint, hint).

Mississippi was one of only eight states that received the grant, the letter also notes (hint, hint, hint).

According to Dye, the school hopes to stretch the grant monies into next fall’s school year, perhaps even into the winter months.

Whether the school can win another grant is unknown, said Parker, since other South Panola schools also applied but didn’t win a grant.

"I truly don’t know why we won (the grant)," Parker said. "It could have been the size of the school, the age of the students or maybe the economic need."

Talk of grant monies and U.S. senators is probably lost on Robbie Cook’s kindergarten music class. On a Friday before spring break, the students shook their musical fruits as they sang "The Fruit Song."

The students belted out the tune, singing, "Red apples are good for me" before switching to "red tomatoes."

The process hit a wall when Cook got to "orange oranges."

"Let’s just say, ‘Oran-ges are good for me,’" Cook instructed the class.

The kindergartners happily obliged.

Massive stroke claims life of 9-year-old boy
By Billy Davis

Funeral services were held Monday in Batesville for a 9-year-old Greenhill Elementary student who died suddenly last week of a massive stroke.

Cortez DeShun Keys suffered the stroke Tuesday, March 8 at his home in Sardis. He was pronounced dead later that night at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

An autopsy performed late last week in Jackson ruled the death a stroke, said Panola County coroner Gracie Grant Gulledge.

Cortez’s mother, Denise Keys, said she called her son "lil’ man" because he was the only male in the family among a mother and three sisters.

"I’ve called him that since he was born," Keys said.

The youngster was a fourth grader at the school, his mother said. He was a good student and enjoyed reading.

Cortez Keys also enjoyed sports, including football, basketball, and softball.

Survivors in addition to his mother include his father, Bobby Heffner, and sisters Denesha Keys, Jaleisha Keys and Baleisha Heffner.

Services were held at New Bethlehem Baptist Church. Burial was in New Bethlehem Cemetery.

Eddie Robinson and Son had charge of arrangements.

Mettetal comments on Medicaid
By Billy Davis

Panola County’s three legislative members cast "yea" votes Sunday night in a special weekend legislative session, agreeing to put additional funds into the state’s deficit-plagued Medicaid program.

In the state Senate, Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis and his colleagues voted unanimously on a House bill that will borrow $240 million from the tobacco trust fund.

Rep. Warner McBride of Courtland and Rep. Leonard Morris of Batesville voted with the majority in the House, according to the House clerk’s office.

In the House, the bill passed 92-12.

McBride and Morris could not be reached for comment by press time.

Gov. Haley Barbour called the special session Friday after the House voted to adjourn for the weekend.

The state’s Medicaid program was scheduled to go broke on Friday.

About 780,000 Mississippians depend on the Medicaid program, which is $268 million in debt.

Some House members were apparently upset at Barbour’s tactic, according to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper, which picked up quotes from Morris, House Speaker Billy McCoy and Attorney General Jim Hood.

"We could have tended to this Monday," Morris told the Jackson newspaper over the weekend.

According to Mettetal, however, the state’s Medicaid program was "flat broke" on Friday and the special session was vital to saving the program.

"Like the governor I had some concerns, too, and I’m not upset at all (about the special session)," Mettetal told The Panolian.

The House bill calls for the tobacco monies to be paid back from the state’s rainy day fund over a seven-year period. A Senate bill would have repaid the funds over 20 years.

Show of Support
     A sign supporting our local troops was installed Friday on the corner of Hwy. 6 and Hwy. 51 with the help of Lt. Paul Corley (far left), Johnny Ard (far right), recruitment non-commissioned officer for the Miss. National Guard, and students from the South Panola alternative school. Making the final adjustments to the sign is Glenn Biggers (yellow shirt) with the alternative school. Behind the sign are students Cody Elmore and James Hollowell. The sign was donated by Custom Signs.
Changes approved for garbage pick-up service
By Billy Davis

County supervisors approved several changes to the garbage service Monday morning, including a four-day pickup schedule and a $30 deposit for new service.

After some tweaking, supervisors voted 5-0 to changes proposed last week by Solid Waste Department manager Dean Joiner and County Administrator David Chandler.

At issue was the current policy for delinquent garbage fees and the free-of-charge replacement of Solid Waste’s blue garbage cans.

The delinquent bills and the can replacement are taking a toll on the department’s bottom line, Joiner and Chandler told the supervisors.

"We’re trying to get the sanitation department on a better cash flow," Chandler told the board.

The Solid Waste changes include:

The Solid Waste Department will begin a four-day garbage service on Monday, April 4, using Friday as a maintenance day for its trucks.
     Only customers who currently receive Friday service will be affected by the change, Joiner said. Those customers will have their service changed to either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
     "We’ll start putting stickers on the garbage cans (to announce the change) and will do that for three weeks," Joiner told the supervisors.
     The county’s roadside pick-up service will remain unchanged for Monday- through-Thursday county customers, Joiner told the supervisors.
To receive a car tag, either delinquent garbage bills must be paid down to a zero balance or payment arrangements must be made.
     To catch non-payers, Solid Waste has been flagging car tags through the tax collector’s office since December. Before this change, customers could purchase a tag so long as the bill was less than $44.
When a garbage bill reaches $44, Solid Waste will notify the customer with a letter warning the bill will be turned over to a collection agency.
     Customers will have 10 days to pay the bill.
If the county finds that a customer abused or neglected a can, a replacement can will cost the customer $30.
     The $30 charge does not cover the entire cost of the can, Joiner said, which is $41.37.
New Solid Waste customers must make a $30 deposit for new service at the county courthouse in Batesville, where the Solid Waste Department is located.
     With receipt in hand, the customer can take the receipt to the Courtland shop to pick up the can. Solid Waste will deliver the can if a customer is unable to pick it up.
     If a customer wants the $30 deposit, the can must be returned to the Solid Waste Department, where it will be inspected before the money is returned.
Non-Solid Waste customers and commercial contractors who use the county’s dumpsters will be charged $20 for a pick-up load and $40 for a trailer load.
     "Those kind of people need to get a roll-off dumpster," said District One Supervisor James Birge.
     The dumpsters are located at the county’s road department shops in Sardis and Courtland.

During discussion about the proposals, supervisors Robert Avant and Jerry Perkins voiced concern for customers who owe $44 and will now be considered delinquent (the previous balance was $66).

By being classified as delinquent, the supervisors said, those customers are being handed over to a collection agency.

On top of the $44 bill is the 25 percent collection fee, Avant said, which seems excessive for such a small bill.

Avant later suggested sending a warning letter, a suggestion which Perkins and the other board agreed to.

"I would like to notify that person before we go farther," Perkins said.

Also during discussion of the proposed changes, Solid Waste employee Jennifer Jackson informed supervisors that the department has a much better cash flow over previous years.

Thanks largely to car tag flagging and the hiring of a collection agency, Jackson said, the department has an increased cash flow of $58,623 over its 2004 figures.

The February figures reported the biggest increase, she said, which jumped $33,105 over 2004 totals.

In other county business:

Supervisors voted on a lease purchase agreement for 10 dump trucks and three tractor trailers, and purchased four road graders to replenish the county’s inventory.
     The new purchases come as the county is readying several pieces of equipment, including 14 trucks and seven graders, for an auction in Philadelphia in late May.
     The Caterpillar road graders will cost the county $177,135 each.
     The trucks and trailers cost $86,966 and $83,189 respectively.
     The county is leasing the trucks and trailers for a year and will sell them back for 100 percent of the purchase price, Perkins told The Panolian.
Supervisors took under advisement a request from ICS Head Start that the county help the organization purchase a school bus.
     Head Start representative Alvern Moore made the request.
     The county is working with the South Panola School District regarding the request, Perkins said.
Supervisors voted 5-0 to allow the Sheriff’s Department to use department funds for purchasing computers and equipment for patrol cars.
     Sheriff David Bryan made the request via a letter.
     The funds will come from the department’s seized fund account.

County road manager Lygunnah Bean asked the supervisors to address the county’s obligation for a road department employee who suffered a stroke in November.

The supervisors took the request under advisement.

The employee has run out of sick days and personal days, and is still on the county’s insurance but is no longer drawing a salary.

"I just wanted to make y’all aware of this issue," said Bean. "I searched the handbook and there’s no policy for this situation."

The supervisors will meet again Friday, March 25 at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.

BPD investigating shooting
By Jason C. Mattox

A shooting over the weekend left the victim with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Major Tony Jones of the Batesville Police Department said Orlando Webb, 25, was shot once in the leg but was unable to disclose the caliber of the weapon.

The shooting took place at approximately 6 p.m. on Saturday at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Armstrong Street.

"The victim was transported to Tri-Lakes Medical Center where he remains in stable condition," Jones said.

No arrests have been made. The matter remains under investigation.



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