| Casket company to consolidate in Panola
| By Jason C. Mattox
By March of 2006, Batesville Casket will consolidate the entire manufacture of solid-wood caskets into its Panola Plant.
Batesville, the largest U.S. casket maker, is consolidating its solid wood casket production from Nashua, N.H. to its Panola plant to cut manufacturing costs and remain competitive, company officials said Monday.
The Nashua Plant employs 200 workers.
"The decision to make this move had nothing to do with the work force in Nashua," Weigel said.
"I will say this is something we have been looking at as a possibility since the Panola plant opened," he added.
Batesville Casket recently shifted production of a veneer casket to Mexico in response to cheaper caskets being built in China, public relations director Joe Weigel said.
Weigel said he is unsure how many new positions will be created at the Panola plant in Batesville.
"We are hoping that some of the people from Nashua will move to the Panola plant," he said. "We really aren’t sure if the new jobs will go to former employees or new hires at this point.
"We are trying to work out the logistics on all of this right now," Weigel added.
Batesville Mayor Bobby Baker said he is pleased with the company’s decision to expand its operations at the Panola plant.
"Anytime there will be more jobs created it is a good thing for the city," he said. "There are a lot of people unemployed and these new positions could offer them an opportunity for employment."
Although the final decision came to close the Nashua plant, Weigel admits closure of the Panola facility was also discussed.
"We looked at every possible option when it came to this consolidation," he said. "After we examined all of the factors, it was just in the company’s best interest to handle things the way we have."
Weigel said some of the reasons for the Panola plant winning out over Nashua included building issues, power costs and proximity to its lumber mill.
"Energy costs in New Hampshire are double what they are in Panola," he said. "The other thing is the geography.
"Batesville owns a wood-processing mill in Vicksburg, Miss., that supplies more than 90 percent of the wood needed for the caskets. It makes more sense to ship the wood 200 miles to the Panola plant than 1,500 miles to Nashua," Weigel said.
"We just see the Panola plant as being a more efficient operation and cost-effective for the company," he added.
The additional manufacturing lines also means Batesville Casket will be moving some of its warehousing off site to the recently acquired Panola Mills building.
Panola Mills was a cut and sew operation on Van Voris Street that until it closed in 1996 manufactured underwear and t-shirts for Fruit of the Loom.
"We were well aware of the fact that we would need new warehouse space," Weigel said. "We are going to need the space in the plant for production."
Weigel said the company asked the Panola Partnership and the City of Batesville to assist them in securing new space.
"The city really stepped up in helping us find the space we are going to need when the new lines become operational."
Panola Partnership C.E.O. Blair Jernigan said he believes the expansion of the local plant will be good for the county.
"We firmly believe in supporting all of our local manufacturers and industries," he said. "We are going to pull out all the stops for them.
"Our goal is always to help all of our local manufacturers expand and grow," Jernigan added.
Weigel said the company is thankful for the support it has received from Jernigan, Baker and representatives of the Mississippi Development Authority.
"We have been very happy with the relationship we have established with the local officials of Panola County," he said. "They have been very helpful in making this change possible."
Headquartered in Batesville, Indiana, Batesville Casket is a subsidiary of Hillenbrand Industries.
| Daron Lunsford will be memorialized this week
| By Billy Davis
Funeral services for Miss. National Guard Cpl. Daron Lunsford will be held later this week, most likely on Wednesday or Thursday.
Lunsford’s body arrived in the United States Friday afternoon, said his mother, Susie Lunsford, but arrangements for his funeral were still pending at The Panolian’s presstime.
Wells Funeral Home in Batesville will be in charge of arrangements.
The Panolian was unable to announce the service date in today’s newspaper due to Memorial Day holiday deadlines last week.
Lunsford, 29, and three other Guard soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb May 21 south of Baghdad.
Lunsford and the soldiers were patrolling in a Humvee when they were killed, according to press reports.
Lunsford, a former U.S. Army soldier, re-enlisted in the Miss. National Guard in January. He was a member of the HHC 2/198 Armor from Senatobia and was attached to the 155th Infantry from McComb.
The Guard soldier leaves behind his wife, the former Evangeline "Vangi" Cannon, and their 9-month-old daughter, McKaLyne, as well as his mother, Susie Lunsford; his father, Jason Daniel Lunsford of Etowah, Ark.; three brothers and a sister.
"I would like to say that I thank all of the people who have been so wonderful and have been so good to us to help us through this hard time," said Susie Lunsford. "Every phone call, every prayer, every card has helped us so much. Words can’t express it."
Vangi Cannon said she’s been sustained by the community’s support.
"The prayers and phone calls are keeping me going. The prayers stand out," Vangi Cannon said.
Lunsford’s body arrived too late to hold a Monday Memorial Day service, and his widow has said she wouldn’t hold the funeral on Tuesday, her husband’s birthday.
Lunsford was Panola County’s first combat casualty since the Vietnam War.
He had served as an officer with the Sardis Police Department for three year and was an EMT with the North Tunica Fire Department for three years.
| Boggan joins Panolian sales staff
|Bob Boggan has joined The Panolian as advertising sales representative, publisher John Howell announced this week.
Boggan will replace Michelle Sanders who has accepted the position of Community Education Director with Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
"We are fortunate to have a person with Bob’s advertising and sales background to be able to step in and take over from Michelle," Howell said.
Boggan was publisher and owner of the North Mississippi Shoppers Guide from 1993 to 2004. He also worked as staff writer for the Mississippi Development Authority and announcer for Batesville radio station WBLE. His sales background includes having worked as a sales consultant for Yellow Pages publisher L.M. Berry and as branch sales manager for General Electric Leasing Company in the sales and leasing of commercial modular and mobile office structures.
"Bob joined us Monday, May 23, after his daughter, Erica, got married the Saturday before. He and his wife had hosted the rehearsal dinner at their home, so he’s been a busy man for the last week," Howell said.
Boggan is married to the former Teresa Gatewood. Erica married Casey Wilson. Following their honeymoon, they will make their home in Van Cleave, near Ocean Springs. Their other two daughters are Jessica, who just graduated from Ole Miss, and Brittany, a who just completed her freshman year at Delta State.
"We hate to lose Michelle. She’s been a great asset to the newspaper during her five years here. We know she’ll do a great job for the hospital, and we wish her the best," Howell said.
"Bob is well-known to Panolian customers. We’re confident that he can provide them with excellent service and results in their advertising," Howell added.
| Post Office Retirees
| Batesville postal workers (from left, front) Jim Brown and Tony Ware were recognized Friday prior to their retirement by Postmaster Lawrence Wills and fellow employees. They have a combined 61 years of service Brown with 30 and Ware with 31.
Wills presented certificates recognizing from District Manager James Daily and Operations Manager Richard Miller recognizing each man’s service. Their fellow employees gave Brown and Ware pocket knives with their retirement dates engraved on the blades.
| Fish Hatchery at Enid
| Earth moving machinery at Enid Reservoir is rapidly digging and reshaping the land between the outlet channel and I-55 into fish hatchery ponds.
The hatchery is being constructed for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on land leased from the Corps of Engineers. Native species of fish will be hatched and raised once the facility is complete.
The hatchery’s visitors’ center will include a 30,000-gallon aquarium and a pond for youth fishing. The project will be completed sometime next year.
| Local sales tax collections demonstrate decline during most recent months
|By Rupert Howell
Sales tax collections in the City of Batesville have decreased for the past five months reported according to figures from the Mississippi Tax Commission.
Year-to-date figures are down one percent while returns to the City of Batesville have decreased steadily since the first of the year.
State-wide figures indicate increases in both the latest figures provided in April and year-to-date.
Year-to-date sales tax collections are up three percent statewide and were up four percent for sales taxes reported in April.
Sales tax figures reflect the economic health of retail sales for a given period. The seven percent sales tax is collected by merchants and paid to the tax commission who returns a portion to the municipalities in which it was collected.
An additional three percent tourism and economic development tax is also collected from restaurants and motels within the city of Batesville.
The amount of the tourism tax collected has increased three percent for the same period that registered a decrease in the seven percent sales tax.
Panola Partnership Executive Director Blair Jernigan was unaware of the recent decreases and questioned whether high gas prices might have an affect on the amount of sales taxes collected.
The state’s fiscal year begins July 1. The most current State Tax Commission figures show that $2,780,862.18 has been paid to the City since the current fiscal year’s beginning compared to $2,812,709.59 paid back to the city during the same period last year.
In the month of April, the City received $297,367.35 from the state compared to $313,404.46 last year, a decrease of five percent.
During the same reporting period the tourism tax brought in $64,457 compared to $61,759, an increase of four percent.
March sales tax returns also showed a decrease from the previous year. Returns to the City of Batesville were four percent below 2004 returns for a $268,227.17 amount.
March tourism taxes reported were up from $56,341 to $57,165, an increase of 1.5 percent.
February sales tax refunds to the city were down one percent from the February 2003 for a total of $243,749.97.
Tourism tax collections were up 3.2 percent to $62,286.
January sales tax refunds were down eight percent from the previous year at $316,936.86.
Tourism taxes reported in January were down less than one percent at $59,702.
Sales tax refunds are used to operate City of Batesville services while the tourism and Economic Development Tax is used to pay for the Batesville Civic Center and capital improvements.
(Totals listed were collected prior to the month they were reported and do not necessarily reflect that months retail sales.)
| County will pave 48 miles of rural roads
|By Billy Davis
Panola County’s road department will kick off its 2005 paving program in the next few weeks with plans to pave 48 miles of gravel roads over the summer months.
Fifteen miles of roads will also be resealed this summer, county road manager Lygunnah Bean announced to the Board of Supervisors at a Monday, May 24 meeting.
The supervisors and Bean discussed summer paving after wrapping up a joint meeting with City of Batesville officials regarding the sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
Bean submitted a list of roads that are ready to be paved or resealed, saying the work will cost the county about $1.1 million to accomplish.
The original list of roads could likely be changed, however, as the supervisors deal with the political hot potato of summer paving.
"This is a road map," Bean told the supervisors, "but we need to know pretty quick which way y’all want to go."
The preliminary list of roads was not submitted to the newspaper, but Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins told The Panolian on Friday that a final list will be made public soon.
Speaking to Bean as he scanned the road list, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said he didn’t want paving done on Park Place Road. Avant shares that route with District 1 Supervisor James Birge in north Panola County.
District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup, whose district will see road resealing but no paving this summer, asked Bean why he wanted to reseal Cutoff Road.
"We’ve got a problem," Bean replied, explaining that the road is "giving away" and must be fixed.
Perkins, who represents District 4, told Bean one road on the list would require removing several trees that are dangerously close to the roadside.
"It’s a two-mile road but it’s got probably a half -mile of a real dangerous situation," Perkins told Bean.
Bean also told the supervisors he wants to reseal several "bad roads," including Mt. Olivet, south Central Academy and Barnacre roads.
Reached Friday, Perkins said Mt. Olivet Road has "come all to pieces" over the years and requires more than a reseal job.
"It needs to be patched, we need to get it level, and then probably put asphalt over the top," Perkins said.
Asked about the politics of road paving, Perkins said, "All I know is that in the last five or six years we’ve got an excellent program that’s working. Some roads need lots of work, and we’ve got to maintain roads that we’ve already paved. It’s a hard process."
Perkins said the road department paved 60-plus miles of gravel roads last summer.