Headlines Cont. – 4/15/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – April 12, 2005


Sardis aldermen consider changes to insurance
By Jason C. Mattox

In order to keep healthcare costs down for city employees, Sardis aldermen are considering paying a prescription deductible.

Leslie Smith of L.S. and Associates told city leaders there was a need for a $250 prescription drug deductible if they wanted to keep costs down.

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"We represent every major carrier and we find the best program for you," he said. "If the city wants to stay around the same money as last year, the drug deductible is a good option."

Smith said based on price increases in the insurance industry, to maintain the same plan as 2004, there would be a renewal cost increase of approximately $37,000 more in 2005.

The new plan would also mean a $15 deductible as opposed to the $30 employees had been paying.

"With the gap insurance coverage, the max out of pocket for anyone on this plan would be $1,500," Smith said.

"It is a rich plan for the city employees, and the $250 drug card deductible gives you the savings you are looking for," he added.

City Clerk Odessa Johnson said 20 employees are enrolled on the city’s insurance.

Ward Four alderman Alvis L. "Rusty" Dye asked what the employees thought of the plan when the plan was presented to them.

"They have no problem with the plan," he said. "But they don’t want to pay the deductible on their prescriptions."

Johnson said the employees would have no problem with the changes to the plan if the city would reimburse them for their out of pocket expenses on drugs.

"It certainly looks like a better plan than what we had," Dye said. "The only snag we have is whether or not we want to pay the employees’ deductible."

The cost to the city if it pays the deductible would be $4,500.

"Even by paying the deductible for them, it would still be a better plan," Smith said.

No action was taken on the matter. It is expected to be discussed in the near future..  

Sardis mayoral candidates split on several key issues
By Jason C. Mattox

Of four Sardis mayoral candidates, only one believes annexing all of Green Hill is the right move for the city.

Lula Palmer will face off with current Ward 4 Alderman Alvis L. "Rusty" Dye and Johnny Green in the Democratic primary.

The winner moves to the June 7 general election against former mayor and Independent candidate E. L. "Lit" Scruggs.

Palmer has said she believes annexing Green Hill is not only in the best interest of the city, but the people of the proposed annexation area as well.

"I’m very much for it," she said. "It will allow better police protection for the people in the area and finally the school.

"Add to that the tax revenue it will generate for the city, and I think it will work out well for all involved," Palmer added.

Dye agrees with Palmer on the annexation of Green Hill Elementary School, but said the city did not need to annex the rest of the area.

"The only thing I am in favor of annexing is the Green Hill School," he said. "I think that should have been done 20 years ago.

"As for the rest of it, I don’t see how it would benefit the city," he said.

Green said he felt like the city had enough to do without annexing more area.

"We need to take care of what we have first," he said. "There are streets that need paving, pipes that need replacing, and a lot of other work that needs to be done before we go out getting into something else.

"There needs to be a better reason to annex the area other than generating tax money," he said.

Scruggs said he thinks industries would leave town if the area was annexed.

"There is a strong possibility that industries would leave," he said. "The annexation would create an 85 percent black population to 15 percent white.

"I think that is too lopsided of a figure for either black or whites," Scruggs added. "Factor in that Green Hill has no real tax base, along with the possibilities of losing jobs, and the city could find itself in a bad situation."

In addition to a split on annexation, each candidate has different feelings about hiring a new police chief.

"I really like the way we are moving forward into the interview process," Dye said. "I feel like the new chief will need to spend time with retiring Chief Sonny Stepp so he can get familiar with the area."

Green said if the city hired the right person they would not need to spend time with the outgoing chief.

"Plain and simple they should have waited," he said. "We had other people that would have applied for the job if they weren’t worried about the new board coming in and wanting their own people."

Palmer said she felt like the new mayor and board should have some say in who the new chief will be.

"I think they should wait until the new board is in place," she said. "Or at least put off the decision until after the June 7 (general) election.

"That way the new board could at least be present to offer insight on who the new chief is," Palmer added. "You don’t want someone in there that the new board may not like."

Scruggs disagrees with those assessments.

"I don’t care who gets elected to the board," he said. "If the new chief is in there doing his job, there would be no reason for him to be removed."

As for industrial development, Scruggs said he feels like Sardis has a lot to offer a company that might be looking to relocate an existing facility of adding a new one.

"We have some sites in Sardis that should be very appealing to industries," he said. "If the right contacts are made, Sardis could experience some growth in the near future."

In an effort to make sure the right contacts are made, Green said he is willing to give up half of the mayor’s $20,000 salary to get a city planner on retainer.

"Having someone like Leland Speed on a retainer would be a tremendous asset to the city," he said. "The man already has the contacts and knows how to go out there and find the businesses that might be looking for a place like Sardis."

Dye said the city has a lot of buildings that could be good homes for businesses.

"We have the old Air Kontrol building and others that should be appealing to someone out there," he said. "It’s not like we haven’t been looking for people in the past, it has just been hard finding them.

"I think they are out there, and if the city is persistent, someone will come here to help the city and themselves by expanding into the area," Dye added.

"We need jobs in this area whether they come from a mom and pop store or somebody like Toyota," he said.

Palmer indicated she would go out and do the leg work herself to recruit businesses to Sardis.

"There are several companies looking to expand," she said. "I plan to get out there and find those companies and work with them to bring them to Sardis.

"People also need to understand that we need to go looking for small business too," Palmer continued. "Jobs are jobs no matter how many there are."

According to Dye, one area that could create a lot of buzz for the city is the Sardis Lake Marina if it is handled properly.

"This is a project that took years to get off the ground," he said. "The marina is there now, and it is just the beginning."

Dye said all of the necessary hurdles have been cleared for the proposed hotel/conference center, and added that investors are taking a serious look at the property.

"We have people interested in the hotel portion of this project," he said. "They are taking a hard look at it, and hopefully that will be coming to Sardis."

Dye said investors have also expressed interest in constructing an 18-hole golf course.

"We have some serious investors looking to spend a lot of money to move this project into the future, and there needs to be someone there to help them that has been with it since almost the beginning."

Palmer said, while she does not know much about the marina, she feels like it is a big asset to the city.

"I know they hire youth out there and that is a good thing," she said. "I am not sure if they are hiring locals or not though."

Green said the Marina area needs to be utilized by locating shopping and dining nearby.

"Since we already have it, the only way we can make it work is by businesses going in there and really taking advantage of what it has to offer," he said.

"I was able to find the money to get the dredging done when I was in office before," Scruggs said of the project. "Now we need to move forward with the expansion of the project into a hotel/conference center and a golf course.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Panola County will benefit from the growth of the Marina," he added.




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