Headlines – 3/18/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2005

Panolian Headlines: March 18, 2005

  From the 3/18/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Candidates dig in for upcoming election
By Billy Davis and
Jason C. Mattox

The yard signs have been printed.
The battle lines have been drawn.
The mud is ready for the slinging.

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It’s once again election season in Mississippi. In Batesville, 17 candidates are hoping to be installed into six city offices on Independence Day.

Batesville voters will first go to the polls Tuesday, May 3 to vote in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

A run-off election, if necessary, will be Tuesday, May 17.

The city’s general election is Tuesday, June 7. Unlike the primary, in the general election the candidate with the most votes wins the office, said David Blount with the Secretary of State’s office.

Four years ago, 1,488 Batesville voters cast ballots in the municipal election, about one-fourth of the city’s 5,558 eligible voters.

Batesville’s population in 2001 was 7,113, according to the U.S. census.

This year, voter turnout could be larger than 2001. Long-serving mayor Bobby Baker is not seeking re-election this time, leaving his office without an incumbent for the first time since 1976.

The city’s alderman-at-large seat is also without an incumbent. Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still is seeking the mayor’s office. Still, who served as vice mayor, has held his seat since 1985.

The GOP is coming… and waiting until June

A total of four Republican candidates are running for office in Batesville for the first time since the 1980s.

Those GOP candidates are Dr. Richard Corson, who is running for mayor; Danny Jones, who is running for Ward 1 alderman; Michael Harbour, who is running for Ward 4 alderman; and Ed Allen, who is running for alderman-at-large.

None of these GOP candidates face opposition in the primary, meaning the winner of the three alderman’s races and the mayor’s race will ultimately be decided on June 7, the day of the general election.

According to Harbour, he won’t be lulled into inaction by the June 7 date.

"People tell me I’ve got a long time until June, but I don’t plan to sit back and wait that long," Harbour said. "If I do that, people will say I’ll kick back and relax when I get into office."

In the general election, first-time candidate Harbour will face one of two Democrats, veteran Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders or fellow newcomer Wayne Thompson.

Only one municipal race, the contest for Ward 1 alderman, will see zero action at the ballot box until the June general election. In that race, Democratic Alderman Bill Dugger is facing off against Republican Jones.

May 3 primary will narrowdown the Dems

While the Republicans prepare for the June general election, Democrats will battle through the party primary and, if needed, through the runoff.

In the Batesville mayor’s race, Still will face Baker’s 2001 opponent, Jerry Autrey, in the Democratic primary. The winner between Autrey and Still will then face Corson and independent candidate Gary Kornegay.

In the 2001 race, the veteran Baker eked past his rookie opponent by 13 votes, 739 to 726.

In this current race, Autrey said, he’s making a concerted effort to talk to more people about the issues, including starting a youth center, paving more streets and selecting a new police chief.

"I’m doing more than I did four years ago," Autrey said. "I’m going house to house, and talking to the civic clubs and churches."

According to Still, the widening of Keating Road to four lanes tops his agenda for the city. He’s also promising to maintain a "high level" of support for police and fire protection.

Still, who’s never faced an opponent, called his primary match-up against Autrey a "whole new ballgame" for both mayoral candidates.

"Every race is a different race. I’ve been in (politics) long enough to know that," Still said.

At least one race, the contest for Ward 2 alderman, will be decided on the day of the party primary. Alderman Rufus Manley and opponent Ted Stewart, both Democrats, will know May 3 who wins that seat.

Alderman-at-large candidates Teddy Morrow and J. Boyd Ingram are also facing off in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Allen.

In the Ward 3 alderman’s race, Alderman James Yelton and his two opponents, Jerry Cooley and Leonard McGhee, could walk away with that seat if one of them garners at least 50 percent of the votes. If not, the top two winners will face off in the runoff.

State releases election dates
On May 3, voters in municipalities across Mississippi will choose a mayor and aldermen, or a party nominee, in party primaries.

A runoff and general election will follow.

As the election date nears, important dates to remember are:

March 29
  City halls will begin opening from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. for voter registration.
April 2
  Voter registration ends at noon.
May 3
  The party primary is held.
May 7
  Voter registration for general election ends.
May 17
  The run-off election is held for the party primaries.
June 7
  The general election is held.
Dates from Secretary of State’s office courtesy of Batesville
Air Evac withdraws request
By Billy Davis

Representatives from Air Evac LifeTeam were a no-show at Monday night’s land commission meeting after the company withdrew its application to locate a base east of Batesville.

The Missouri-based air ambulance service is "back at square one" but is still seeking a location in Panola County, representative Harold Newton told The Panolian.

"We want to be good neighbors. We want to find a spot that’s good for everybody," Newton said, referring to residents who opposed Air Evac’s attempt to locate near their homes.

Air Evac had selected two sites on hilly farmland, one a quarter-mile from Lawrence Bros. Road and the second a half-mile farther east.

Air Evac wanted the western-most site, saying it preferred the flat bean field over the hilltop farther east.

In discussion, commission members agreed that an air ambulance service would be too noisy for Wildwood, a high-end subdivision located across from the bean field.

In that same hearing, Newton announced that any flight plan would exclude flying over Wildwood.

Still, the commission voted to allow Air Evac to relocate to the eastern-most site, also asking that the company set up shop as far from the highway as possible.

Reached on the road, Newton said the site chosen by the commission would have been "cost prohibitive" due to excavation work. And even at that site, he said, the neighbors would have been unhappy.

"It was just obvious to us that some folks don’t want us there," Newton said.

Air Evac operates 45 bases in 10 states and is interlocking the bases’ coverage area as the company grows.

Wildwood resident John Kyle, who spoke out against Air Evac’s plans, said he felt "kind of tickled" that the ambulance service had dropped its plans to locate near his home.

"I think it behooves everyone to keep commercial (property) commercial and residential (property) residential," Kyle said.

Newton said the company chose Panola County as a site two years ago and is still determined to bring its air ambulance service to the county.

"We’re very determined to find a suitable location in Panola County," Newton said.

Hot Wheels
     A Chrysler van driven by the Burkes family from Sardis sputtered to a stop then burst into flames Wednesday afternoon, just north of the Tallahatchie River Bridge on Hwy. 51. The family was not injured. Despite the rolling fire, it took Batesville firefighters about five minutes to extinguish the flames.

City Clerk announces retirement
Batesville City Clerk Judy Flint Savage turned in her letter of resignation at the Tuesday, March 15 meeting of the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Savage has served as city clerk for the past eight years, succeeding long-time clerk Barbara Broome in the office. She had worked for the City of Batesville 19 years prior to becoming City Clerk in the city utilities department.

"I have always been told I would know when it was time to leave, and although I have thoroughly enjoyed being here, I know it is time," Savage wrote in her letter.

Her resignation becomes effective June 30.

Bid for Square overlay project comes in higher than expected
By Jason C. Mattox

The Downtown Square paving project won’t be finished in time for SpringFest after all, according to city engineer Ron Merville. In fact, the project won’t even be started.

Merville said he believes it would be better for the city if the project is put on hold until after the two day music festival.

City leaders are unsure if the project will go forward then – or at any time in the future.

Mayor Bobby Baker and Merville had hoped bids on the milling and overlaying of the square would come back in the range of $100,000 – $150,000. The lone bid, from Lehman-Roberts was $237,699.95.

Joe Welch of Lehman-Roberts said he was not sure how the low estimate was calculated.

"We tried to give you the most competitive bid we could," he said. "But that estimate is too low given the scope of this project."

Welch said the major components of the bid were $70,000 of asphalt, $50,000 for milling the square, and $25,000 for road striping.

"I don’t know where that money figure ($150,000) came from," he said. "But this project will cost much more than that."

Ward Four Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she didn’t understand how the road striping could cost $25,000.

"That figure seems entirely too high," she said. "I can’t believe striping alone would cost that much money."

Alderman James Yelton asked if the bid included the parking areas at City Hall as the city originally discussed.

"As we said at the last board meeting, City Hall was removed from the bid specs," Merville said. "This includes only the square."

Welch said the bid does not include any drainage.

"The main goal behind this project is to improve the drainage on the square and too make it look good," Merville said.

Merville said he believes the city would be better off to remove the parking areas of the square from the specs.

"I don’t think there is anyway you can get the entire area done at the amount you want to spend," Welch said.

"I would like you to all understand that it was not our intent to come in here with a bid that was too high for the project," he said. "We needed to cover our overhead and make some profit, but we feel the bid is fair based on the specs we received from the engineer."

Merville said he and Welch would meet in the near future to discuss ways of getting the cost for the project into the range the city originally expected.

The bid was taken under advisement pending the engineer’s meeting with the bidder.

Martin Bros. allowed to move operation
     to Como
     Robert Carter (left) and Sledge Taylor, members of the county Land Development Commission, examine site plans submitted by Martin Brothers Scrap Metal of Sardis. Following a vote Monday night, the commission is allowing the business to move to a 30-acre site south of Como.
By Billy Davis

Martin Brothers Scrap Yard received permission from the county Monday night to move its Sardis business to a 30-acre site near Como.

The Panola County Land Development Commission wrestled with the issue for more than an hour, eventually voting 5-3 to allow the scrap metal business to relocate if it follows the commission’s guidelines.

Those guidelines include:

To help insulate noise and hide the view, build a nine-foot-high berm along Holston Road, topping the berm with Leland Cypress trees;
To improve traffic, install a right-hand turning lane off of Holston Road;
Keep business hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday;
Follow through with plans for tree planting and landscaping;
Follow through with all agreed-to plans within two years, returning to the commission in a year for a review.

Martin Brothers co-owner Henry Martin told the commission work on the new site would begin soon.
"We’ve already got the pine trees planted," Martin said.

When the commission members met Monday at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville, they continued with Martin Brothers’ request for the third time in three months.

In January, Henry Martin disclosed his family’s plans for an industrial site on 120 acres he owns along Holston Road. His scrap metal business would be the first tenant, he said.

Martin Brothers’ plans quickly found opposition from nearby neighbors, especially from a Senatobia physician, Mike Cockrell. His family is building a $1 million home on land that adjoins the Martin’s property at the railroad tracks.

Last month, against the wishes of Cockrell, the commission sided with Martin’s plan by reclassifying the 120 acres from agricultural to industrial.

After voting for the reclassification, the commission was now faced with allowing Martin Brothers to move to land now deemed suitable for industrial development.

The list of stipulations will alleviate noise and unsightly views for Cockrell, the commission agreed, but they’re also meant to make the area appealing for industrial prospects.

"We don’t want to chase off other prospects," commission member Danny Jones told his colleagues.

Seeming to anticipate the commission’s worries, Martin brought framed aerial photos of his Byhalia and Clarksdale operations to the Monday meeting. Both locations are surrounded by industries, he pointed out.

Martin also brought with him a site plan, which was requested last month, an eyesight diagram, and a letter of commendation from the Board of Supervisors in Marshall County, where Byhalia is located.

The family-owned scrap metal business opened in Sardis in 1977. Henry Martin and his brother, Benny, are third-generation scrap yard owners.

In other commission business:

The commission voted to reclassify two acres at 583 Hentz Road from agricultural to industrial.
     The acreage is located at the I-55 Pope/Courtland exit, where applicant DeSoto Concrete Products has been storing its products at a building there.
     DeSoto Concrete representative Dave Harris said the Olive Branch-based company plans to add onto the building and manufacture and store some of its products there.
The commission voted to allow plumber Myron Hall to operate a commercial business on one and a half acres at 9779 Hwy. 51, Courtland.
     Hall said he plans to operate an office there and store equipment.
     "I need an office where people can find me," Hall said. "I get 70 percent of my work from my cell phone, and it won’t pick up outside Batesville."
Commission members told landlord Elizabeth Berry that she must maintain a "one-for-one" policy over two years as she replaces rental trailers with apartment units.
     Berry owns the property at Henry Heafner Road, located at Sardis Lake.
Citing land commission standards, commission members turned down a request from Glenda and James West to build a "beer store" and snack bar on land where their trailer home is located.
     The Wests wanted 1.1 acres reclassified from agricultural to commercial at 4931 Hwy. 310 in Crenshaw.
     That request must be denied because only one septic system is allowed per acre of land, commission chairman Danny Walker told the couple.
     "The way you’ve got this planned, you’ve got three systems on one acre," Walker told the couple.
In a request continued from February, Opal Henderson withdrew her request to operate a second-hand store near her home at 28175 Hwy. 6.
     Although commission members spelled out the stipulations last month, Henderson said she was unaware that a paved surface would be required for customer parking.
     "Can’t I put a little bit of gravel down?" Henderson asked.
     "You must have paved parking," Walker told her.


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