Headlines Cont. – 5/24/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – May 13, 2005


City board denies Brocato zone variance
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville city leaders turned down a variance request during their meeting last Tuesday, saying they thought the property might eventually be used for a commercial business.

Local contractor Chris Brocato appeared before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen asking for a variance that would allow him to construct a 60 foot by 140 foot metal building on his property on Brewer Road.
The variance would allow use of the building for housing and a home-based business. The area is zone R1 residential.

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"That big of a building threw up a red flag for us at the office," Code enforcement officer Pam Comer told the board.

Brocato said he wanted to use approximately 1,800 square feet for living quarters and the rest of it to house his construction equipment.

"I have already spoken with all of my neighbors, and they all said they had no problem with it," he said.

"If a man is going to live in it, the property is already zone R1," Ward Three Alderman James Yelton said. "There is nothing that predetermines how big a man’s house can be."

Ward Four Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders asked if the building would be visible from the road.

"It seems like that might cause a problem for someone," she said.

Brocato said he planned to construct the building 12 feet away from the road.

"It would be down in a hollow area on the property and wouldn’t be visible," he said.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger said he was afraid it would be used for commercial use.

"When somebody wants to build a building that big to house equipment, it worries me that it might become his place of business," he said.

Brocato said he does currently use his home as the office for his business, but said nothing would be sold out of the new building if it were allowed.

Following discussion, the request was denied with a unanimous vote.

"I think one of the biggest things to worry about is what would happen with the future development of the area," Dugger said.

In other board business:
Bids were received for the purchase of pipe to go into the city’s inventory. The bid was awarded to the apparent low bidder, Faulkner Pipe with a price of $4.10 per foot.
The bid for purchase of new pistols for the Batesville Police Department was awarded to Grenada Gold and Gun. Forty nine millimeter Glocks will be traded and 41 purchased. The cost to the city with the trade is $6,829.
City leaders voted unanimously to serve as a pass-through for a $1,000 grant received by the Panola County Humane Society to be used for a low-cost spay and neutering program.
     "If we see that this program is successful, we may be able to get more funds for it in the future," Humane Society representative Kim Strickland said. "This is a good program that will help control the animal population."
Board members voted to pay a final payment of $15,276 to Century Construction for a change-order on the downtown park.
     "This work has been done," Pounders said. "This is just a matter of getting the proper paperwork finished."
Civic Center director Roy Hyde received permission from the board to hire four new part-time employees to assist with clean up of the facility after events.
Aldermen unanimously voted to evenly split a $41,542 payment to Crawford Construction with PSC for work on sidewalks at the civic center.
North Panola School Board receives input on meeting procedures
By Jason C. Mattox

New rules for those wishing to be heard at meetings of the North Panola School District Board of Trustees were proposed last Monday night.

Three policies proposed to the board by Mississippi School Board Association C.E.O. Dr. Michael Waldrup were taken under advisement.

"School district personnel and the people of the community have to be on the same page," said Waldrup. "The common goal of everyone attending these meetings should be the education of the children in the North Panola School District."

Waldrup said while the meetings should focus on education, the community still has the right to be heard and outlined three ways for community involvement.

Public Comments
"You have to set a time limit for comments," Waldrup said. "The board needs a way to control the community debate at board meetings so the focus remains on education.

"As a board, you must set and enforce policy when it comes to public involvement," he added. "You have to be consistent and treat everyone the same."

One suggestion made by Waldrup was limiting the public comments portion of the meeting to 30 minutes.

"If you allow three minutes per person, that would mean the first 10 people to sign in would be allowed to address the board," he said. "If that is something you adopt, make sure you don’t deviate from it."

Waldrup said comments about personnel or students should not be discussed.

"By law, personnel and students have rights," he said. "Matters like that can not be discussed in an open meeting unless the employee or student asks for a hearing."

Public Participation
Waldrup said matters that could require lengthy discussion or debate should be on the board’s monthly agenda.

"By making the public follow this procedure, an issue like employees or students could be discussed in an executive session," he said.

Waldrup also suggested not taking action immediately following a discussion with anyone on the agenda.

"If someone gets on the agenda and asks why a principal is treating a student in a certain manner, you don’t need to react," he said. "The smart thing would be to have the superintendent, or someone else appointed by the board, look into the matter and bring it back before you at the next board meeting."

Public Hearing
Waldrup said if there is a specific area of community concern, the board could consider holding a public hearing to discuss just one matter.

"This type of meeting is used to address a specific topic," he said. "You have to limit the discussion to one topic or the community will take it in a million different directions."

Waldrup told board members if a person continued to speak about another topic after being admonished by the board president, the offender could be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting.

"You can’t allow the public to run your board meetings," he said. "You have to set policies and enforce them in order to make your meetings run more efficiently."

Arrangements being made for Boys and Girls Club move into former armory
By Jason C. Mattox

The Boys and Girls Club of Panola County will have a new home once a committee of city and county representatives determine who is responsible for expenses.

During a meeting with the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen, Katie Ashburn told officials the local/private legislation allowing the Boys and Girls Club to use the old National Guard Armory on Highway 51 had been approved.

"I guess what we need to know is when we can move in, and what costs we will be responsible for," she said.

Ashburn told the board that the county had decided to form a committee that would decide who was responsible for what expenses.

"I thought they were going to get with the aldermen to fully form the committee," she said.

Mayor Bobby Baker said he had not been made aware of the committee.

"I think it would be a good idea for everyone to get together and sort everything out," he said.

Ward Two alderman Rufus Manley recommended that he and Ward Four alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders be the city’s representatives on the committee. Jerry Perkins and Bubba Waldrup are the county’s representatives.

Code Enforcement officer Pam Comer said the inspection process had already been started on the building.

"We will have someone get with you about those inspections to see what needs to be done before they can move in," Manley said.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Manley and Pounders to the committee.




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