Headlines – 4/29/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 29, 2005

  From the 4/29/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Ida Bryan named sheriff
     Ida Margaret Bryan is sworn in as Panola County sheriff by Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker Wednesday morning, April 25. The widow of the late Sheriff David Bryan, she will serve until a special election is held this November.
By Billy Davis

Ida Margaret Bryan was sworn into office as interim Panola County sheriff Wednesday morning in a ceremony at the county courthouse in Batesville.

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Ida Bryan is the widow of Sheriff David Bryan, who passed away from colon cancer Saturday, April 23 at their home in Batesville.

Sheriff David Bryan was 65. He had served eight terms as county sheriff.

Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker performed the two-minute swearing-in ceremony in the courtroom, where family, friends and public officials had gathered to witness the event.

The 9 a.m. ceremony began with a prayer by Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock, brother-in-law to the late sheriff.

Pitcock is married to the late sheriff’s sister, Linda Clay Bryan Pitcock.

After the ceremony, Pitcock said family members are relying on their faith as they cope with Bryan’s death.

"Through the strength and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the prayers and support of all the people who loved David Bryan," Pitcock said, "the family is able to continue living our lives each day to the fullest."

After she was sworn into office, Ida Bryan informed the crowd that her late husband had asked James Rudd to help her perform her sheriff’s duties if she was sworn into office.

Rudd is her late husband’s longtime chief deputy and close friend.

Rudd stepped down as chief deputy about two years ago but has been working part-time for the sheriff’s department since.

Standing among the crowd in the courtroom, Rudd hesitated when asked by Ida Bryan to come forward for the announcement of his help.

"I’m the sheriff, Rudd, so come over here," she told him in a mock command, drawing laughter from the crowd and a grin from the loyal friend.

Rudd, of course, came forward. Bryan then wrapped her arm around him, telling the crowd the story of the late sheriff’s bedside request.

On Tuesday, Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins announced to The Panolian that the board had given him the authority to name Ida Bryan as an interim sheriff.

At the ceremony, Perkins noted the tradition of swearing-in the widow of a public official but added that Bryan is uniquely well qualified for the job.

"You know what’s going on, and we know you’ll do a great job," Perkins told the new sheriff.

The interim public service of a widow is a long-held tradition. When a public official dies in office, the widow often fills the empty seat until a special election is held to fill the seat.

The special election for county sheriff will be held in November, and a runoff will follow two weeks later if necessary, Circuit Clerk Joe Reid said.

"There is no party primary. It’s a general election," Reid told The Panolian. "Everybody runs on the ballot in alphabetical order."

The new sheriff will take office immediately after the election is certified, Reid said, and will serve out Sheriff David Bryan’s remaining 26 months through 2007.

Answered Prayers Benefit Saturday at BCC
By Jason C. Mattox

Promoters of the Answered Prayers Benefit promise something for everyone at the fifth annual event tomorrow, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Batesville Civic Center.

Money raised during the event will be divided between sisters Amanda Gordon and Katy Gordon, and Chris Gray.

(For more information on the children, see related story on C1 of the 4/29/05 edition of The Panolian.)

This year’s goal is $20,000.

"This event will have live music all day long," Benefit representative John Ard said. "There will also be a lot of other activities for people to come out and enjoy."

The entertainment schedule is as follows:

Color Me Happy Daycare 10:00 AM
South Panola Risque Business 10:20 AM
Steve McGregory family- 11:05 AM
Jason Adams and Southern Country 11:35 AM
& 1:00
South Panola High School Band 1:30 PM
Barbed Wire 2:30 PM
Willy Waggs 3:30 PM
  Sherry and Tabitha Turner TBA

According to Stevie Adams, who is assisting with entertainment and games, events for children will include a moon bounce, basketball, train rides, pony rides, face painting and darts.

The Batesville Fire Department and the Batesville Police Department will be on hand for presentations throughout the day.

Ard said the event will also feature a large auction that is scheduled to begin at noon.

Some of the items up for auction are framed artwork, granite cutting board, knife set, tool kits and sunglasses, all of which have been collected from local vendors by members of the Civitan Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club and Lions Club.

"Several of the vendors for the flea market have agreed to donate items to the auction as well," Ard said. "We will have over 100 items up for bids."

The auction will be conducted by Mark Lipscomb of Como.

Regarding the flea market, benefit volunteer Judy Russell said 83 vendors have signed up to participate.

"Considering this is the first year we’ve offered this, we are very happy with the outpouring of support," she said. "People are really coming out and helping us reach our goal this year."

As another way of raising money for the event, pre-sold Boston butts are available.

Russell said anyone interested in purchasing a Boston butt cooked by members of the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department for $20 can do so by calling her at 563-8787.

A parking fee of $2 will be charged to help pay for the rental of the building. Each ticket is entered into a raffle. Drawings will be held at noon and 3 p.m. for $100 gift cards from Wal-Mart.

"With all of the things going on this year, we believe this will be our most successful benefit," Ard said.

Trash ordinance being considered
By Billy Davis

While Panola Countians are attacking roadside trash in their communities, county supervisors are mulling over a proposed ordinance that could help curb the problem.

If supervisors implement the ordinance as-is, however, it would affect private property as well, clamping down on junk cars, tires, appliances and other unsightly garbage.

Mississippi’s rural road litter is 30 percent above the national average, according to an anti-litter Web site operated by the state Department of Transportation.

Panola County Sheriff’s Deputy Bobby Walton delivered the eight-page ordinance to a supervisors meeting in March.

Walton is a part-time enforcement officer for the county’s Solid Waste department. He also transports prisoners for the sheriff’s department.

Walton told The Panolian the ordinance is copied from a similar ordinance being used by a peer in Wayne County, Miss. He picked up the copy at a seminar of other Solid Waste enforcement officers.
On April 18, county supervisors resurrected the ordinance when board attorney Bill McKenzie asked about their intentions.

McKenzie and the supervisors flipped through the ordinance for about 10 minutes, agreeing that some wording would need tweaking if the ordinance is voted on and approved.

Reading through the ordinance, Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins noted the use of receptacles for depositing trash, a section that would likely be dropped since it would be impractical in the rural county.

Another section of the ordinance would allow Walton to nab illegal dumpers if he finds their names and addresses in the trash they leave behind.

Walton had used that tactic in the past but gave up when the county’s justice court judges refused to convict, citing a lack of the burden of proof.
McKenzie said the language in that section had little "teeth" since the burden of proof is still lacking.

"The wording says, ‘A person caused it to be there,’ and you can’t prove that person put it there," McKenzie told the board.

The ordinance also states, however, that the burden seems to be on the alleged litterer – not Walton – since it’s presumed that "all generators of such items are responsible for such items until such time it has been property disposed of."

Regarding that particular section of the ordinance, Walton said he hopes it will pass muster with the supervisors because it would give him more flexibility in nabbing illegal dumpers.

"Tate County’s already using it, and the state of Arkansas is using it, too," Walton told The Panolian.

Reached at his office last week, McKenzie said he is too busy on the pending sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center to discuss the litter ordinance.

Another part of the ordinance would allow the county to fine drivers who let trash blow or fall from their vehicles, such as the bed of a truck.

Male drivers behind the wheels of pickups account for two-thirds of items that escape onto roadways, according to the MDOT Web site.

Still another aspect of the proposed ordinance would require the cleanup and upkeep of private property in the county. Fines could be imposed if the property is left trashy and junky.

One section of the ordinance would ban landowners from junking up their own property by declaring such trash an "unauthorized dump."

An "unauthorized dump" is defined by the ordinance as "any collection of solid waste either dumped on a property either public or private, whether or not regularly used."

Automobiles, large appliances and similar large items would constitute an "unauthorized dump," the statute reads, but not the "careless, scattered littering" of smaller items such as tires, bottles and beer cans.

Smaller trash is covered elsewhere in the ordinance, however, and would also be forbidden on private property if the ordinance is passed as-is.

The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $250 to $500 fine that would be paid through the county’s justice court system. Further violations would jump to a $1,000 fine.

If the violator refuses to clean up the mess, the county could impose a fine for cleaning up the property.

The enforcement of the "unauthorized dump" section could affect Panola Countians such as contractor Tim Mayer.

After Mayer and his family built a brick home at 1216 Terza Road, he dumped piles of building materials next to the road on his own land.

The dump sits about 200 yards from Mayer’s home, which is also the only home in the immediate area.

The curvy road helps hide the trash from Mayer’s front porch, but drivers passing by can easily see it.
The trash has been pushed back farther from the road, and some of it has been burned, county road manager Lygunnah Bean told The Panolian Thursday.

Mayer did not respond to a request for an interview by The Panolian.

If the litter ordinance was in place, Mayer would be required to clean up the dump he created, acknowledged Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.

Perkins said Mayer was visited by Walton, Solid Waste manager Dean Joiner and Bean after a neighbor complained about the dump site.
"He’s been asked to clean it up, and he refused, and right now he can do what he wants to," the board president said.

Regarding Mayer’s right – and others’ – to deposit trash on their own property, Perkins said he respects people’s property rights but views such trash as a health hazard.

"The biggest complaints I get are about the unsightly garbage on the roads," Perkins said, "but I do get calls from people whose neighbors have trash and who say that decreases their property value."

Asked about his views on the ordinance, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said he would likely support the ordinance but first must voice some concerns. One concern, he said, is the legality of forcing residents to clean up their own property.

"I believe in trying to instill community pride, but do we go in and tell them to clean up the inside of their houses, too?" Avant said. "And I wonder how we enforce it? Do we hire more deputies?"

Asked about any political fallout if the ordinance is passed, Avant said the results wouldn’t be surprising: Panola Countians who are forced to clean up their property would be angry at the supervisors, and people who are not affected would support them.

At the April 18 meeting, McKenzie cautioned supervisors that the ordinance alone would do little to solve the county’s littering and illegal dumping problem.

"Words on paper don’t cure society’s ills," McKenzie said.

Tuesday’s vote will leave three
By Billy Davis

A 20-year veteran of Batesville politics and a near-winner in the mayor’s race four years ago are among four candidates vying to become the next Batesville mayor.

Democrats Hudson Still and Jerry Autrey are running for mayor, both of them hoping for a top finish in the Tuesday, May 3 party primary.

Only one of their names, however, will appear on the general election ballot. The general election is June 7.

Independent candidate Gary Kornegay and Republican candidate Dr. Richard Corson are also on the general election ballot. Neither of them drew primary opponents.

Still, a real estate broker, has served as Batesville’s alderman-at-large since 1985. He gave up his at-large seat to run for mayor, hoping for – as he says on the campaign trail – a "job promotion" to the mayor’s office.

Jerry Autrey, 56, is a longtime car dealer for his brother Jeff, who owns Wheels and Deals in Batesville. He also owns Mid-South Floor Mats, which manufactures vehicle mats.

In the 2001 mayor’s race, first-time candidate Autrey barely lost to five-term Mayor Bobby Baker in the May primary.

Baker, who is not seeking re-election this year, slipped past his opponent 739 to 726. Autrey later requested a recount and picked up one vote.

"I told the people during the last election – and I’m saying it again now – that I intend to turn the city back over to the people," Autrey said.

Autrey is running what political observers would call a populist campaign. If elected, he promises to be the "people’s mayor" and is championing campaign themes such as "help me help you" and "home grown and Batesville proud."

Autrey’s plans as mayor include the building of a youth center, a long-range plan for street repair and paving, and the creation of a "mayor’s advisory board." He will also order an audit of the city’s fiscal condition.

In an interview with The Panolian, Autrey said he will travel to Clarksdale during his first week in office and attempt to woo an un-named industry located there to Batesville’s industrial park.

Autrey said he will also look into complaints from residents that their water meter readings are estimated, which results in overcharged billing.

Still, 62, the city’s five-term alderman-at-large and vice mayor, said his experience in office will help him win the mayor’s office.

"Proven leadership is the key issue of this campaign. What I offer the people is experience," Still told The Panolian.

Still is pushing one project during his campaign, the widening of Keating Road in east Batesville.

Eighty percent of that road project will be paid for through a federal grant, Still noted, with the city paying the other 20 percent.

Making promises about plans in office is a mistake, Still said, especially since the new mayor will inherit a tight budget from the current administration.

"There are promises being made and deals being cut, and people talking about what ‘I’ am going to do," Still said. "I don’t make any promises, only to work full-time and be frugal with the taxpayers’ dollars."

Still added that he was not directing those comments at any of his opponents, including Autrey.

Regarding his plans for the city, Autrey said he plans to hold the line on taxes and, over time, will work toward his plans for a youth center, street repairs and other plans.

"The youth center will be done and the streets will be paved if I stay in office long enough," Autrey said.

Asked if he is cautiously telling voters about the tight budget, Autrey said he is "being positive on Batesville."

Regarding his lack of experience in office, Autrey said his 30-plus years of experience in business would be a positive for the city.

"Batesville is just like any other business, and I’ve been in business," Autrey said. "If we run it like a business, we will be in better shape than we are right now."

If elected, Autrey said he would work full-time for the first six months in office to better understand the city.

Hudson Still and Jerry Autrey also shot down political rumblings surrounding their runs for the mayor’s office.

"I intend to look for the next chief from within the police department," Autrey said, dismissing reports that he was seeking a Memphian for the job.

A rumor dogging Still is that he no longer lives within the city limits of Batesville.

"My address is 212 Moore Drive," Still said. "I haven’t really seen that to be an issue (of the campaign)."

While Still and Autrey compete for a win in the primary, both Kornegay and Corson are stressing their strengths to voters.

According to Kornegay, 54, economics and quality of life are the main issues facing Batesville and Panola County.

A CPA, Kornegay said his knowledge and business skills would help pull the city from its budget woes.

"The voters are looking for better fiscal management, and that’s where my expertise lies," Kornegay said.

Kornegay is also active in the county’s Industrial Development Authority, an economic development organization that recruits industry. He currently serves as president.

As a longtime member of the IDA, Kornegay said, he has first-hand knowledge about what prospective industries are looking for in the communities they visit.

Though the Batesville mayor has no direct involvement in the public school system, Kornegay said the mayor’s office during his administration would support public education.

"A level three school was good 20 years ago. Today, it’s not so good," Kornegay said.

According to Corson, 73, he, too, is stressing job creation and economics as the main issues facing Batesville.

Corson, a retired OB/GYN, said Batesville is poised to be the "queen city of North Mississippi" if its potential for growth and expansion can be tapped by the right leadership.

Asked about his plans if elected mayor, Corson said it would be "unwise" to list plans unless he has first-hand knowledge about how the city operates.

"A doctor doesn’t diagnose a patient without first understanding the symptoms," Corson said.  

BPD searching for missing man
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Police Department is looking for information regarding a missing Batesville man.

Det. George Williford said Tony Moore, a 41-year-old black male, has been missing for three to four weeks.

"Moore is 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds, has brown eyes and a beard," he said. "We are not certain about what he was last seen wearing."

Moore’s last place of employment was United Plastics in Sardis.

Williford said Moore usually calls to check in with his wife at least once per day, but she has not heard from him in approximately one month.

"Anyone with information that could tell us where he is should contact the Batesville Police Department at 563-5653," he said. "We just want to know where he is and make sure nothing has happened to him."



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