Headlines Cont. – 4/22/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – April 12, 2005


Aldermen negotiate Civic Center payment
By Jason C. Mattox

If PSC, the contractors for the Batesville Civic Center, accept the city’s proposal, they would not be held responsible for an admitted 140-plus days of lost time.

Architect Girault Jones told city leaders that the contractors were waiting for final payment on the job – the $100,000 the board of aldermen voted to hold in lieu of liquidated damages.

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"You said during a previous meeting that you expected them to cash the $700,000 check," Jones said. "They have sent a letter claiming they will cash the check, but they also expect the remainder of the money."

Jones said the contractor does admit being at fault for 143 days of delay on the civic center.

"It seems to me that would amount to the damages we have spoken about in the past," Ward Three alderman James Yelton said.

Mayor Bobby Baker said he believed the city should propose a compromise to PSC, one he hoped they would accept.

"I believe if we can get them to reimburse the city for the work done by Gary Crawford on the sidewalks at the civic center, we could close out our dealings with PSC," he said.

Ward Four alderwoman Bobby Jean Pounders asked just what caused the problems with the sidewalks.

"The dirt underneath the sidewalks has settled since the original work was done," Jones said. "I do believe that the work Mr. Crawford is doing will remedy this problem."

Baker said the city stands to pay $30,000 for the sidewalk repairs.

"If we can get PSC to agree to reimburse the city, would you all be agreeable to forgetting about the liquidated damages?" Baker asked.

Yelton said he would be in favor of the move.

"To get rid of them completely, yes I would be for it," he said. "Let’s just get rid of them and forget about the penalties if they will agree to this proposal."

Pounders said she felt like the city should not use PSC in the future.

"If they will agree to it, that’s fine," she said. "But I don’t want to see us enter another contract with them."

Aldermen vote to add kitchen gear, more to new civic center
By Jason C. Mattox

City of Batesville officials accepted bids for several pieces of equipment for the new Batesville Civic Center this week, an expenditure that totaled $96,872.

The Mayor and Board of Alderman approved the purchases unanimously with little comment Tuesday at the April 19 meeting of the city board.

BCC director Roy Hyde made the requests.

The first purchase was kitchen equipment, which totaled $35,895, which will be used by concessions operator Boston Culinary.

The city awarded the bid to The Warehouse Store Fixture Company of Connecticut.

"Boston Culinary is already providing a lot of their own equipment," Hyde told the board. "And some of that equipment changes with each show if they change what they want to offer."

Hyde said all cooking will be done on the north end of the civic center, then food will be placed in storage cabinets and moved to the other concession area on the south end of the BCC.

"Boston Culinary also brought in two large ice storage units," he said. "That way the one ice machine can service both concession areas."

The next bid accepted by the board of alderman was for a skidsteer loader, a multi-tasking piece of equipment that can be used to move dirt and other materials.

The loader cost $28,5000 and came from Thompson Machinery of Tupelo.

Thompson’s bid was $300 more than another bidder, Contractor’s Equipment.

Hyde suggested going with the higher bidder, Thompson, because the company can reduce down time by offering "loaner" equipment while they do repair work.

"Thompson has a large rental fleet that includes loaders," Hyde said. "If we have a problem with the loader, all we have to do is contact Thompson and they will drop off one for us to use while ours is being repaired.

"We can compensate the difference in price with the services Thompson can provide."

The final purchase made for the BCC was a New Holland diesel tractor at a cost of $32,477. It will be used for dirt work.

The tractor came from New Holland of Memphis. This was the only bid received.

Need being met one pop at a time
     A pickup truckload of aluminum can pop tops has been amassed by students at South Panola High School. The load will be taken to a recycling center and the proceeds will benefit SPHS student Chris Gray, who needs a double lung transplant.
By Rita Howell

Students at South Panola High School are recycling with a vengeance. They have saved thousands of aluminum can pop tops to be recycled into cash, but not for a trip or a prom. Their purpose is to help classmate Chris Gray, who needs a double lung transplant.

Chris is active on the SPHS campus, playing in the band and singing in the choir. The director of the choir is Pam Stafford, who has spearheaded the pop top drive.

"I’ve been saving them for years and giving them to the Ronald McDonald House, but this year they are going to help Chris," Stafford said.

Stafford’s late son Joseph was a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and the family often stayed at the adjacent Ronald McDonald House, where they participated in ongoing recycling to benefit the facility. Stafford got in the habit of saving the tabs from cans, and has never stopped. She has enlisted the help of students and fellow teachers alike and saves the tops in large plastic containers.

"There’s an 18 gallon can at each school for them to put their pop tops," Stafford said.

Trying to accumulate, store and deliver whole aluminum cans is not practical, Stafford said. But most of the weight is in the pull tab, which is easily popped off and dropped in a pocket to be deposited in one of her conveniently located collection cans later.

"I have people who collect them in gallon zip-lock bags and bring them to me," Stafford said. "I have 60 gallons of pop tops at home now."

Currently she has about 360 gallons of pop tops, including the pickup truckload shown above.

Anyone who wants to add to the collection can contact Stafford at 563-7770.

School funding at standstill until legislature sets budget

By Jason C. Mattox

All but a couple of South Panola School District’s teachers will be rehired, but they won’t get a contract or know how much they will be paid until the Mississippi Legislature and the Governor agree on a budget.

"We’re not sending out any pink slips or getting rid of anybody because of dollars," Personnel Director Dr. Keith Shaffer explained.

Meeting last Tuesday school board members heard administrative staff tell of approximately 20 vacancies caused by attrition. Some of those positions may not be filled in order for the school to cover any shortfalls that may come due to state funding shortfalls.

Shaffer told school trustees that letters asking the intention of current professional staff members have been returned and indicate that approximately 20 vacancies will take place due to retirement or location changes.

Shaffer explained that teachers can not be given a contract until the Mississippi Legislature reconvenes and approves a budget.

Contracts are usually issued in May according to Shaffer.

School Finance Director/Business Manager Suzanne Covington said the district’s hands are tied until the State approves funding.

She has to work on a budget for trustees to approve by June 30. She said that 85 percent of that budget concerns payroll, insurance and retirement of school employees.

As Covington currently understands the ever-changing state budget proposals, the worst case funding scenario would put South Panola District approximately $240,000 above last year’s funding.

Although that doesn’t sound bad on the surface, consider that the district used $1.5 million in surplus funds to pay for previously mandated teacher and teacher assistant pay raises and master teacher bonuses last year.

The Department of Audit requires a five percent surplus according to Covington who indicated South Panola may go below that threshold if adequate funding isn’t forthcoming.

The state also has mandated a teacher and teacher assistant raise this year which would cost an estimated $1.5 to $1.75 million not currently covered in the state budget proposals.

South Panola’s current year budget is $17,139,845. Fully funded, the coming year’s budget would total $19,206,642 according to Covington who said the latter figure would include fully funding teacher and teacher assistant pay raises, National Teacher Certification bonuses and smaller numbers in classrooms.



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