Headlines – 4/22/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 22, 2005

  From the 4/22/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Candidates woo voters during forum
    Batesville mayoral candidates were in the spotlight Tuesday night as they took their turns answering questions posed by Panolian publisher John Howell during the newspaper’s town-hall forum. Shown are (l. to r.) Hudson Still, Jerry Autrey, Gary Kornegay and Dr. Richard Corson.
By Billy Davis

While 15 candidates for alderman and mayor gave their one-minute answers Tuesday night, Batesville resident Tony Meyer was taking notes.

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Meyer, 40, said he attended the city’s town hall forum to hear the Ward 1 candidates and to learn more about the mayoral candidates as well.

Asked by The Panolian if he had a "dog in the hunt" in the coming city elections, Meyer responded that he was still learning about the candidates and the issues facing the city.

"I moved here in July and am just learning my way around," Meyer said.

At the conclusion of the two-hour forum, Meyer had filled a notebook with notes about pressing issues, namely jobs and unemployment, and the city’s tight budget.

Meyer had also made his pick for mayor and for Ward 1 alderman.

The Ward 1 candidates are incumbent Bill Dugger and challenger Danny Jones.

The mayoral candidates are Democrats Jerry Autrey and Hudson Still, Republican Dr. Richard Corson, and independent Gary Kornegay.

The town-hall event was held at the TVEPA auditorium, where about 70 people watched the candidates field questions from The Panolian.

The Panolian publisher John Howell Sr. drew questions for the alderman candidates from a cigar box, addressing each question to each candidate. Each candidate had one minute to answer.

For the city’s mayoral candidates, Howell read questions aloud that were geared to each mayoral candidate, and the other candidates followed with their own comments on that subject.

Mayoral candidate Jerry Autrey, for example, was asked how he planned to pay for his proposed youth center.

"You’re putting me on the spot by asking how to pay for it," joked Autrey, who stood to answer questions during the forum.

Autrey suggested remodeling the former Wal-Mart store on Keating Road as a youth center and turn its auto center into a police substation.

The other mayoral candidates, meanwhile, said the youth center is a good idea but would likely be a low priority during a tight budget year.

"I haven’t even thought about it because, to be perfectly honest, that’s not something I deem feasible at this time," said Kornegay.

Corson said the youth center could be put on a wish list along with other projects, but it’s not a priority.

Hudson Still, the city’s current alderman-at-large, said he agreed with Corson and Kornegay that the youth center is a good idea but that other issues take priority.

The question addressed first to Kornegay, and then to the other candidates, questioned how their backgrounds would help them perform their duties as mayor.

Kornegay, 54, owns a CPA firm in Downtown Batesville.

Kornegay said he would hold the line on taxes while expanding city revenues through budget trimming and growth in jobs and housing.

"We don’t need to tax people just to fulfill our programs," Kornegay, said. "We have got to scrutinize our expenses and see where wastes are. We need to control spending as opposed to just creating revenue."

Still, who has served 20 years as alderman-at-large, said he has gained first-hand experience after working through the city’s budgets.

Still, 62, is a real estate broker and owns his own firm.

According to Corson, a retired OB/GYN, his medical experience would help him with "people problems" and financial problems if elected mayor.
"I have spent a lifetime solving problems with objectivity and logical thinking," said Corson, 73.

According to Autrey, 56, a long-time car dealer, he said the city should operate like a business.

"We’ve got to get a handle on our expenses by analyzing all departments," Autrey said. "If we do that, I believe we can generate some extra money to get some streets paved and maybe later on build a youth center."

Autrey also owns a floor mat manufacturing company.

The question posed to Still involved his announced plans to make the widening of Keating Road a priority.

The road is heavily traveled, Still explained, and is a favored route of drivers to and from South Panola High School, the Keating Grove subdivision, the city’s industrial park and Hwy. 35.

"And there are more homes being built and more apartments about to be built," said Hudson Still.

Kornegay disagreed with the priority, saying Tubbs Road is in "pitiful shape" and should be a priority.

Autrey said he would back any plans for street repair, whether along Tubbs, Keating Road or elsewhere.

"You’ve got to at least start somewhere," he said.

Corson finished up the question, saying the city must learn to balance its growth out east with demands in older parts of the city.

Keating Road is a State Aid road that was eventually annexed into the city limits, according to Warner McBride, whose engineering firm works for the city.

The city is allowed to work on Keating and is awaiting federal grant money to widen it, McBride said.

An Urban Renewal Program grant will pay for 80 percent of the work and the city will pay 20 percent, he said.

"Keating is part of a federal program that’s similar to the work performed on Tiger Drive and Pamela Street," McBride told The Panolian.

The question addressed to Corson involved his running for mayor as a Republican, making note that Kornegay is running as an independent while Autrey and Still are running as Democrats.

"What role should the party label play in this mayor’s race?" the question read.

Corson said the party labels "don’t mean very much" during local elections.

"It boils down to what you think of the individual, whether the individual in question can do what they say they can do," he said.

According to Autrey, the other candidates should have run as Democrats to save time and taxpayers’ money.

"I think all it does is prolong the election," Autrey said.

The mix of parties represented a "new era" for the city, said Still, who said he agreed with Autrey that the city should have a single election.

At least one audience member said the party labels matter.

After the forum, Panola County Republican Party chairman Ron Hood said he was disappointed about the candidates’ answers about their party labels. Elected officials on the local level are the building blocks for the state and national party, he said.

"Most people in Panola County don’t believe in anything (former Presidential candidate) John Kerry stood for, but they call themselves a Democrat," Hood said. "They’re helping him and don’t even know it."



Milton charged with local murder
By Billy Davis

Marece D. Milton has been charged with the April 13 murder of Roland Means, the Panola County Sheriff’s Department announced this week.

Investigators allege Milton, 34, shot and killed Means outside a home on Curtis Road about 10:20 p.m.

Milton had testified against Means in a Texas criminal trial the day before, Chief Deputy Craig Sheley confirmed, but he would not say if Means had come to Panola County to track down Milton, citing the pending trial.

Sheley also confirmed that Milton turned himself in to a state trooper, Huey McDaniels, after he shot Means.

McDaniels, who lives on Lamar Thomas Road, brought Milton to the Panola County Detention Center.

Sheriff’s investigators also charged Derrick Rudd, 32, with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Means.

Sheley would not say how Rudd was involved in Means’ murder.

Milton made a first appearance Tuesday in Panola County Justice Court, where bond was set at $150,000 said court clerk Carrie Ann Davis.

Milton is still being held at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex.

Sheley said Rudd has posted bond since his arrest.
Means, of Milwaukee, Wis., was acquitted of money laundering April 12 in a jury trial held in Sulfur Springs, Texas.

Sulfur Springs is located about 75 miles northeast of Dallas.

Means, along with Milton, of Batesville, and Marcus Dewayne Pollard, of Batesville, were stopped by a Sulfur Springs police officer in 2003 and found with $270,291 in the truck on their rental car.

Milton testified against Means for the prosecution, saying the money was for the purchase of 20 kilograms of cocaine, a Sulfur Springs newspaper reported during the trial.

An aunt of Marcus Pollard, Dorothy Pollard of Wisconsin, was arrested and charged with money laundering during the trial after testifying that she had put the money in a backpack.

Sheley said neither Marcus Pollard nor Dorothy Pollard was charged in the death of Means.

Legge named interim chief
By Jason C. Mattox

For the first time in 16 years, the Batesville Police Department is under new leadership.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, Col. Gerald Legge was named interim Chief of Police until a permanent replacement is selected.

That process is expected to begin shortly after the new mayor and board take office in July.

Legge has been in law enforcement for 24 years serving the past 15 years as deputy chief. His entire career has been spent with the Batesville Police Department.

"This is where I got into law enforcement, and I am proud to have spent my entire career here," he said. "My family and friends are here and it is nice to serve the community your grew up in."

Legge spent nine years as a patrolman on the BPD

before being elevated to deputy chief.
"I did my time on the streets," he said. "I have been out there and I know what our people go through every day."

On the education side, Legge graduated from South Panola High School in 1976 and then attended Northwest Junior College where he majored in criminal justice.

He also has credits from Hinds Community College.

In addition to formal course work, Legge graduated from the Police Academy in Pearl in 1982. He has received executive training through the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, special weapons and tactics training and additional management training.

Legge also works closely with the department’s DARE officers in area schools.

"I am very happy with the work that this department has been doing in the area of crime prevention," he said.

So, just what has changed for Legge now that he is the top officer at the department?

"Chief’s retirement was a surprise," he said. "He has done a great job here, and it has been an honor to serve with him.

"As far as things that will be different, there won’t really be that much," Legge added. "My job over the years has been to fill in when the chief wasn’t around and to help him in making administrative decisions.

"The only real change for me is that I don’t have to go to Chief Vanlandingham for final approval," he said.

Over the years, Legge said he has assisted Vanlandingham in writing policies, handling personnel decisions and discipline.

"My experience here has prepared me for what I will be asked to do during the next few months until the city decides what direction it wants to go," he said. "At the same time, I think the board’s decision to appoint me as interim chief just officially recognized that I was the ranking officer at the department.

"Everything will move right along just like it always has," he said.

While Legge says there will not be any changes to the department’s operations, he does hope to fill the eight vacancies the department has at this time.

"I think we have a good department with some really professional officers," Legge said. "But I also think it is important for us to have all of our vacancies filled."

Of those vacancies, Legge said the department is presently short two detectives and a training and inventory officer.

"I think if we were at full capacity, the department would run even smoother than it already does," he said.

As for seeking the position full-time, Legge’s only comment was that he would not rule out applying for the position.

"It’s hard for anyone to say at this point," he said. "You need to know just what the city is looking for before you make that kind of decision."

New park dedication is Saturday morning
By Rita Howell

The long-awaited dedication of Batesville’s new Memorial Park on the Downtown Square will be Saturday at 10 a.m., when the multi-purpose amphitheater complex will host its first official function.

Construction began last May on the project, built by Century Construction of Tupelo at a cost to the city of $290,000, most of which was funded through a grant.

The park incorporates a preexisting Veteran’s Memorial monument with a fountain and a gazebo structure with amphitheater-style seating. The area is paved with bricks purchased at $100 each by about 300 donors.

Saturday’s dedication will include speeches by city officials and leaders from the Main Street downtown revitalization program. The dedication ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with the presentation of the flag by representatives of the Army National Guard. Dr. Johnny Spencer will give the invocation.

Scheduled to speak are former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Rep. Leonard Morris, Supreme Court Judge George C. Carlson, Mary Troxler of the Main Street program, and Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders.

At 11 a.m. the Exchange Club will host a candidates’ forum for those seeking offices in the upcoming municipal elections. Exchangites will also provide a concession stand.

A concert will be presented after the forum by Calvin Flint, Casey Lipe and friends. Downtown merchants will hold sidewalk sales during the day.

Cable Co. contract extended
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville cable subscribers will have at least 90 more days under Cable One.

During a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, city leader voted to extend the contract of Cable One for 90 days past the original expiration of May 2, while they look at the ordinance drawn up by assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell.

Aldermen have posed questions at past meetings about expansion of services to the area east of Highway 55.

Cable One general manager Pete Peden was on hand at the meeting to answer that and other questions about the future of the cable service.

There are not enough potential subscribers to warrant expanding in that direction," he said.

"We planned to use the hospital as the hub of our expansion out that direction," he said. "We had people tell us they were not interested in cable.

"The hospital put in its own type of television service, and we will not get into that hospital while that service is offered to them," Peden added. "We aren’t going to get Wal-Mart, Lowes or any of the other developments.

"It just isn’t a good investment for Cable One," he said.

Ward Four alderwoman Bobby Jean Pounders said she felt like the area past Highway 55 should be included.

"If you say you will provide cable services to all of Batesville, then you should provide it to all of Batesville, not just certain areas," she said.

Mitchell said the city’s ordinance did not state that Cable One had to provide service to the entire city.

Peden said Cable One has lost a lot of customers in the city limits to satellite service providers.

"At one time prior to 1995, we had 74 percent of the city subscribing to cable," he said. "Since that point, we have lost almost 30 percent of our customers to either DirecTV or Dish Network."

The city receives approximately $32,000 per year from cable fees.

"The flak we have received over Cable One in the past has not been worth $32,000 per year," Mayor Bobby Baker said.

The board voted 5-0 to approve a 90-day extension to Cable One while the documents are studied.


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