Headlines – 6/17/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – June 17, 2005

  From the 6/17/05 issue of The Panolian :             
  

The (barn) party’s over after vote by county land commission
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Land Development Commission denied a permit this week to a party barn that has drawn the ire of neighbors and complaints from law enforcement.

The property is located on approximately two acres at 3534 Eureka Road, about two miles east of the city limits.

The unanimous vote from commission members denied a special exception to property owner Anthony McCoy, who lives in Los Angeles.

McCoy said the property belonged to his late wife, who passed away last year and left him the land.

The property is located in an agricultural zone. The special exception would have allowed commercial activity at the red barn.

The facility was being used for parties when county permit clerk Diane Stewart contacted McCoy in April and told him to apply for a permit.

In his appearance before the commission, McCoy referred to the party barn as a "community center," where he wants to hold wedding receptions, birthday parties and benefit events.

"This is my attempt to give back to the community," McCoy told the commission during the public hearing.

He also said relatives of his late wife were opposing his plans because of an ongoing family squabble.

According to Eureka residents, however, McCoy’s barn has given them dangerous traffic, loud music, stumbling drunks, brawls and fights, and discarded beer and liquor bottles.

During a 25-minute public hearing, more than 10 Eureka residents spoke out against McCoy’s plans.

"Mr. McCoy has fixed up his barn and it looks real nice, but the parking is on the other side of the road and adjoins our property," said resident Jeanne Warren. "After they have a party, we have to pick up the beer bottles and liquor bottles that are thrown on our property."

Eureka resident Calvin Martin said he lives within 100 yards of the barn.

"When the music is up loud, the pictures on my wall start moving," he said.

Residents also noted that the barn is located in a sharp curve on an already-dangerous rural road.

"There’s been a person killed for every mile of Eureka Road. One of them was my brother," said Eureka resident Rodney Hentz.

South Panola student Richie Redwine was injured in that same curve on May 23 and was paralyzed by the wreck, Warren also noted.

The hearing also included Panola County Under Sheriff James Rudd, who said the sheriff’s department would take McCoy to chancery court if the barn is allowed to remain open.

"The sheriff’s department is opposed to (McCoy’s) plan for safety reasons," Rudd said. "It’s too close to the road, it’s already a dangerous curve, and it will be even more dangerous with drunks turning in and out of that place."

Following the barrage of complaints and pleas from residents, McCoy was allowed to respond to the residents’ statements. He suggested the county post a warning sign to drivers about the dangerous curve.

"Do you think a drunk’s going to read the sign?" Rudd asked.

McCoy also suggested he could use a tram to transport people from the parking lot to the barn, a suggestion that brought laughter from the crowd.

Commission member Danny Jones made the motion to deny the special exception, saying a cow barn on a sleepy gravel road had become a party place on a busy, dangerous roadway.

"Whether it’s a place for family get-togethers or ever becomes a beer joint or anything like that, I don’t think this commission should touch it with a 10-foot poll," said Jones.

The motion was seconded by Ann Cobb.
 
City officials to be sworn in Fri., July 1
By Billy Davis

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson will preside at the July 1 swearing in for Batesville’s elected officials.

Mayor-Elect Jerry Autrey and Alderman-At-Large-elect Teddy Morrow with take their oaths of office for the first time at the ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger, Ward Two Alderman Rufus Manley, Ward Three Alderman James Yelton and Ward Four Alderwoman Bobbie T. Pounders will take their oaths of office for their new terms.

City officials voted for the July 1 ceremony at a special meeting June 14. The new city officials will hold their first meeting Tuesday, July 5.

Both Autrey and Morrow were present for the June 14 meeting along with the city’s current elected officials. In other business:
 

Accepted resignations of Jim Hardy and Judy Savage, both effective June 15, from the board of trustees of Tri-Lakes Medical Center. Hardy and Savage were the city’s two appointees in the joint ownership arrangement with the county. City officials agreed to appoint two new representatives for the city at their next meeting Tuesday, June 21.
    
Placed a conference call with attorneys representing the city in the lawsuit styled Lange vs. the City of Batesville. Autrey and Morrow listened along with current officials;
    
Reported the city’s purchase of property at the end of Van Voris Street. The property had been foreclosed and the city was the only bidder. The city will sell the property;
    
Discussed the city’s interest in property to be auctioned at Med-Serv Inc. on Highway 6. Loans from the city’s economic development revolving loan account are secured by the affected machinery;
    
Discussed roof repairs needed to the former Panola Mills facility which Batesville Casket Company will use for storage to accommodate an expansion at its Panola manufacturing site;
    
Cable One franchise extended in city, surcharge to stay same
By Jason C. Mattox

Despite initial objections from Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders to limit the city’s new contract with Cable One to three years, the city unanimously voted to extend its franchise agreement with the service provider for five years.

Pete Peden of Cable One was on hand during a special called meeting Tuesday, June 14, in hopes of securing the new long-term agreement.

"You have been extending it for a month or two at a time for six months or more," he said. "I just want to see us get a deal done."

Pounders said she did not want to see the city commit to another seven to 10 year agreement that would lock the city in with Cable One.

"I don’t think we need to go any longer than three or four years," she said.

Peden said Cable One wanted an agreement for six years in order to recoup its investment in upgrades to the cable system. He also proposed upping the city’s portion of the franchise fee to four percent from its present three percent.

"I am not going to be for increasing anything that will mean more out of pocket for the people of the city," Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still said.

Mayor Bobby Baker pointed out to Pounders that the agreement with Cable One is non-exclusive meaning another provider could come into the area.

"If another provider wants to come in here and offer its services to the people of Batesville, they can certainly do that," Baker said.

Pounders said one of the sticking points for the new franchise agreement was providing cable to the new National Guard Readiness Center and Panola County Civil Defense.

Peden said the main reason Cable One is not providing services to Keating Road, where the Readiness Center is located, is because the developer of Keating Grove subdivision did not show an interest in bringing cable to the area.

"The developer told us they did not care if the people in the subdivision had cable or not," he said. "As for the Readiness Center and Civil Defense, we could run services out there for $9,800."

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley asked if Civil Defense could pay for the expansion.

"That is something that can be looked at," Baker said.

Manley indicated during the meeting that he would make contact with Civil Defense coordinator Son Hudson to determine if funds were available to pay for the cable.

Pounders then asked about providing service to Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

"If you were able to get the hospital to agree to take services, would you consider offering services to Hunter’s Trace subdivision as well?" she asked.

Peden said just serving the subdivision would be a risky investment, but if the hospital would agree, it could be feasible.

"We want our investment to be self-sustaining," he said. "If we could get the hospital, I think we could definitely offer services to the subdivision."

The city voted unanimously to extend the contract for five years with no increase to the franchise fee.
    
Judge Westfaul hands down ruling in DUI case
By Rita Howell

Batesville Municipal Court Judge Pro Tempore Jay Westfaul ruled this week in a DUI case that had drawn attention from as far away as Arizona, but in the end the ruling had little to do with the issue that had drawn widespread attention.

Judge Westfaul, in a five-page judgment issued on Tuesday, dismissed a charge of DUI and a charge of failing to consent to a breath analysis filed against Albert G. Barnett. The case was tried in Batesville City Court on May 11, but Judge Westfaul had postponed his ruling in order to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General regarding questions about the newly-implemented Intoxilyzer 8000 machine used to test a DUI suspect’s blood-alcohol content.

Barnett’s attorney, Tom Womble, had raised questions about whether the new testing procedures violate the constitutional rights of a defendant. The new machines are in use in several other states and 250 have been purchased for use in police and sheriff’s departments across Mississippi.

Westfaul did not address the issue of constitutionality, instead dismissing both charges based on testimony from the trial.

"The charge of failing to consent to a breath analysis is dismissed since the defendant was physically unable, though willing, to provide such a sample," Westfaul wrote, citing the fact that the defendant had been involved in an automobile accident and was bleeding from the mouth at the time.

He also dismissed the DUI charge, stating that "factors other than intoxication could have reasonably been the cause of the defendant’s alleged impairment based on the officer’s observations."
    

 
     Batesville firefighter Steve Whitworth douses the charred remains of a wooden fence at 306 Hickory Lane Wednesday. The fire started in a workshop behind the home of Mr. and Mrs. Durl Raines, destroying the shop and adjoining carport before spreading to a second shed on the property and a finally to a neighbor’s shed beyond the fence.
    
City officials to be sworn in Fri., July 1
By Billy Davis

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson will preside at the July 1 swearing in for Batesville’s elected officials.

Mayor-Elect Jerry Autrey and Alderman-At-Large-elect Teddy Morrow with take their oaths of office for the first time at the ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger, Ward Two Alderman Rufus Manley, Ward Three Alderman James Yelton and Ward Four Alderwoman Bobbie T. Pounders will take their oaths of office for their new terms.

City officials voted for the July 1 ceremony at a special meeting June 14. The new city officials will hold their first meeting Tuesday, July 5.

Both Autrey and Morrow were present for the June 14 meeting along with the city’s current elected officials. In other business:
    

Accepted resignations of Jim Hardy and Judy Savage, both effective June 15, from the board of trustees of Tri-Lakes Medical Center. Hardy and Savage were the city’s two appointees in the joint ownership arrangement with the county. City officials agreed to appoint two new representatives for the city at their next meeting Tuesday, June 21.
    
Placed a conference call with attorneys representing the city in the lawsuit styled Lange vs. the City of Batesville. Autrey and Morrow listened along with current officials;
    
Reported the city’s purchase of property at the end of Van Voris Street. The property had been foreclosed and the city was the only bidder. The city will sell the property;
    
Discussed the city’s interest in property to be auctioned at Med-Serv Inc. on Highway 6. Loans from the city’s economic development revolving loan account are secured by the affected machinery;
    
Discussed roof repairs needed to the former Panola Mills facility which Batesville Casket Company will use for storage to accommodate an expansion at its Panola manufacturing site;
    
Bethlehem Road/Hwy. 35 area ripe for development
By Billy Davis

A longtime Batesville car dealer and a would-be dealer who plans to open a car lot have something in common: they both see potential growth around Hwy. 35 North.

Heafner Motors owner Henry Heafner made his second trip to the Panola County Land Commission this week, where he presented updated plans for a second-phase mobile home subdivision along Bethlehem Road.

The commission met Monday night at the Panola County Courthouse in Sardis, where it voted to reclassify the subdivision and accept plans for a 10-acre, 20-lot subdivision.

Heafner and Batesville pharmacist Randall Sullivan are real estate partners in the Bethlehem Road/ Hwy. 35 development.

About a half-dozen mobile homes are already located along Bethlehem Cove, a bumpy gravel road that extends north from Bethlehem Road and deadends into pasture land.

The pastureland, which is located across from the county airport, is planned for Heafner’s commercial development, drawings show.

Heafner has not announced his plans for the commercial property.

City of Batesville sewer lines already stretch out to Bethlehem Road, which means the mobile homes can forego septic systems, the commission noted during Heafner’s appearance.

With the sewer in place, Heafner can sell the lots in half-acre increments instead of the one-acre minimum lots required for septic systems.

"We want people to understand that Mr. Heafner can do that because of the municipal sewer," said commission member Danny Jones.

After Heafner’s appearance, future car dealer John Chrestman appeared before the commission. He received permission from the commission to reclassify 1.2 acres along Hwy. 35 from agricultural to commercial.

Chrestman had already placed an office on the property and put down gravel when he learned he must seek a special exception for the property.

Chrestman said he intends to open a small, part-time car lot he can operate upon retirement.

"I think with what Mr. Heafner is planning, this area is going to grow," Chrestman told the commission.

Chrestman said he is in the process of receiving his car dealer’s license.

Chrestman’s future lot adjoins a storage business owned by John Burson, who appeared with Chrestman to speak on his behalf.

Burson rents four trailer homes behind his business but plans to one day build brick homes there, he said.

Citing county standards for commercial development, the commission gave Chrestman four months to pave part of his car lot, to install water, and to hook into the city’s sewer system.

Yet another nearby residential development in the area, this one farther down Bethlehem Road, was also on the agenda Monday night.

Commission members gave preliminary approval to the Holcombe Hill Estates subdivision, located at the corner of Bethlehem and Brasher roads.

The 14-lot development will require brick homes with a 2,000-square-foot minimum, developer Mike Massey told the commission.

In other commission business:
    

Martin Bros. co-owner Henry Martin updated the commission on work at the future home of the scrap metal business along Holston Road.
     Commissioners saw a site plan for buildings and viewed photos of progress requested by the commission, such as construction of a nine-foot berm that screens the business.
    
County to move voting precincts, hopes for grant money to comply with ADA
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors are juggling the location of polling places in the county as they adhere to stricter rules for voters with disabilities.

As the supervisors take a closer look at some locations, they are also planning improvements to some of the polling precincts, such as concrete ramps for wheelchair-bound voters.

The county’s polling places are being improved by way of the Help America Vote Act, which requests in part that polling places follow the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The supervisors were pressed to act at their "second Monday" meeting when grant writer Dr. James Smith quizzed them about the county’s plans. He is seeking the grant funds to improve some of the precincts.

The movement of polling places included:
  

In District 1, Supervisor James Birge said he would move voters from the Butler Trucking Company to the life center at Mt. Gillion church.
     Birge also said he would move the polling place in Sardis from city hall to the courthouse but decided later in the week that he would keep the current precincts.
     "With the voters coming in and the regular employees there, too, it was going to be too hectic at the courthouse," Birge said.
     Birge also told The Panolian later in the week that he would combine voting in Como at city hall and the city library to the library.
 
In District 2, Supervisor Robert Avant said he would combine voting at the old radio station and the Sardis Public Library to solely the library.
 
In District 3, Supervisor Mack Benson said he would combine the Tocowa and Crowder precincts to the farmer’s club in Independence.
 
In District 4, Supervisor Jerry Perkins first said he would like to relocate voting at Bethlehem M.B. Church to the Extension Service building in Batesville.
     After Circuit Clerk Joe Reid cautioned against that, saying the voters couldn’t cross district lines, Perkins chose the Blackjack Community Center instead.

After working through the list, the supervisors then decided where to spend the grant monies to improve the polling places. Those locations are: 

Union Volunteer Fire Department, the courthouse, Sardis City Hall and the old Como City Hall in District 1
Curtis and Pleasant Grove fire departments, and the Crenshaw police station in District 2
Courtland Fire Department in District 3
Eureka Community Center and a second location in District 4

Smith noted to the supervisors that the amount of grant monies coming to the county is still unknown.

Perkins noted that the switches in voting precincts were necessary since the alternative would be expensive improvements to each one.

"We need everybody to understand that we’re doing this to alleviate the cost to taxpayers’ dollars – several dollars," Perkins said.

The county is also expecting help from the state to help pay for special voting machines for voters with disabilities. Those machines are required in each precinct and cost $6,600 each.
   

 



 

 

                                         
                         
 

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