Headlines – 6/28/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – June 28, 2005

  From the 6/28/05 issue of The Panolian :             

     While Dalton Murphree (above, right)) looks on, LaDerycka Hall makes a "9-1-1 call" to a computer operated by Batesville firefighter Rip Copeland. The phone system teaches children how to provide needful information to an operator when reporting a fire.
Road paving list released
By Billy Davis

Panola County’s road department is expected to turn about 44 miles of gravel roads into paved thoroughfares by the fall of the year.

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The county has budgeted about $1 million to pave the gravel roads and reseal about 15 miles of paved roads.

County road manager Lygunnah Bean said an eight-man crew is tasked with the road paving work, which will begin July 5 and will continue until wet weather arrives in late fall.

The county supervisors released their individual road paving lists over the last week, responding to a public request from The Panolian to do so.

This summer, the planned road paving per district is as follows:

District 1: Parks Place Road (north end), Oakview subdivision, Goodnight Road, and Smith Road (located next to Smith Bros. gravel company).
District 2: Curtis Road (partial paving), McKinney Road, Davis Chapel Road, Ditch Bank Road (part), and Macedonia Road (finish).
District 3: Cannon Road, Tinside Road (two miles), Robert Road, Maurice Mitchell Road, Brown Road, Azzie Lee Road, Pund Road, and Redbud.
District 4: Crouch Road, Pittman Road, Joiner Road, and Bibbs Road.
     District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins said the county road crews could possibly prepare Rutherford, McMinn and Ales roads for paving later this year.
In District 5, four roads will be resealed this summer. They are Jaudon Road, Nash Road, Waldrup Road, and Curtis-Locke Station Road.

The paving process is known as DBST. It involves dispensing two coats of white rock mixed with an oil base.

The labor and materials for road paving cost between $21,000 to $22,000 per mile, said Perkins, who serves as president of the Board of Supervisors.

"We’ve got a good program going, but it takes lots of money to do it," Perkins said. "Without raising taxes, we’ve got to go at it slow."

The paving monies include $750,000 from a five-year road department loan and about $650,000 in FEMA natural disaster money, said County Administrator David Chandler.

The FEMA funds are coming to the county after county roads were damaged by severe weather about two years ago, Chandler said. The first payment, which will be approximately $300,000, is due in a couple of weeks.

"We’re doing this with no tax increase," Chandler noted, adding that the county’s road department funding is in "excellent shape."

The county has paved about 200 miles of county roads in the past few years, meaning the number of to-be-paved roads is dropping while the number of paved roads that need maintaining is increasing each year.

The county supervisors are responding to the apparent change, Perkins said, most recently by pulling two road graders out of service in order to pour more resources into maintenance of paved roads.

"If you don’t maintain what you’ve got, then you’ll go back to where you started four years ago," Perkins said.

Economic development behind Barbour’s second special session
By Billy Davis

Panola County state legislator Leonard Morris says he will support Gov. Haley Barbour’s Momentum Mississippi plan today, but he hopes the governor will stick by his word and consider other bond projects, too.

Barbour officially announced the second special session June 3 after hinting of a session in May when legislators adjourned without passing the Momentum package.

The Republican governor has publicly promised to include the bond projects if legislators pass the Momentum package.

Barbour introduced Momentum Mississippi in the first special session, where House members tacked on more than $100 million of bond projects to the $27 million Momentum plan, The Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported.

Barbour complained that the bond projects amounted to political "pork," and wrangling between the House and Senate over the projects ended with an adjournment and a dead bill.

Morris, a Democrat from Batesville, said the bond projects tacked onto the Momentum bill passed through the Economic Development sub-committee he sits on in the House.

"I know there was some so-called ?pork’ in there, but there were also some projects for economic development that are as important as Momentum Mississippi," Morris said.

The special bonds included an expansion in Cleveland at Baxter Pharmaceutical and an expansion at Northrop Grumman, the shipyard in Pascagoula.

If Momentum Mississippi passes, it would aid new high-tech businesses and existing companies, allowing both to be eligible for loans and grants for the first time, Morris said. Momentum would also pour more funding into existing economic development programs, he said.

With those exceptions, Morris said, the governor’s Momentum package is largely a continuance of former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s Advantage Mississippi.

The governor’s Momentum package will once again pass in the state Senate, said Democratic Senator Nolan Mettetal of Sardis.

"I’m not concerned about it. It will pass quickly," Mettetal said when reached last week.

Momentum has passed twice in the the state Senate, where Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and the Republican-led Senate are closely aligned with Barbour.

Panola County legislator Warner McBride could not be reached for comment by press time Monday.

First Governor’s Job Fair deemed successful
By Jason C. Mattox

Approximately half of the attendees for last Thursday’s Northwest Mississippi Area Job Fair could be employed by one of the 50 companies with openings over the next year.

Cindy Martin of the Batesville Win Job Center said more than 2,000 people actually attended the fair held at the Batesville Civic Center, and more than 2,700 resumes were submitted to the employers.

Kristle Steward was looking for a current job until she passes the state nurses aid exam. She came to the Thursday June 23 job fair with her brother, Drew, who works at Appleby’s in Oxford. He was checking out other opportunities for employment.

Charlette Harris of Quitman County wanted to put in an application with Batesville Casket Company, but while at the job fair she would shop around looking for other opportunities.

Martin said she felt like the job fair would have a good turnout, but didn’t expect it to be as large as it was.

"The companies who had booths at the job fair were very happy with the quality of applicants we had seeking jobs," she said.

"Everyone who was involved with this job fair has been more than impressed with the turn out we had from both employers and job-seekers," Martin added.

Of those job seekers, 525 participated in on-site interviews and 804 left the job fair with job offers.

"That doesn’t mean that 804 applicants received a job offer," she said. "We believe there were several applicants who received more than one offer."

Joe Buckner, director of the Governor’s Job Fair Network, last week estimated that 1,130 people could be hired from this fair within the coming year.
Martin said she hopes this kind of success will translate into more participants in next year’s event.

"An event like this has to grow every year," she said. "We got off to a good start with this kind of success, and I believe that will get more employers interested when we do this again in 2006."

School board seeks increase for ’05-’06
By Rupert Howell

The South Panola School District is looking at an increase in expenditures for operations for the coming school year following a public budget hearing held last Thursday.

The district will ask for $5,956,838 in local funds for operations and $358,000 for debt service following last Thursday’s budget hearing. The school received $4,956,446 from ad valorem tax collections last year.

A large part of the increase is due to a funding shortfall that occurred during the current year while approximately one-half the increase is expected to be derived from new property, according to Finance Administrator Suzanne Covington.

Covington noted that there is $12 million in new property that will be taxed in the district for the coming school year.

A yearly increase of $1,200 per teacher for health insurance and a one-percent increase in retirement match paid by the school district is partially responsible for the increase, also according to Covington.

School Superintendent Dr. C.L. Stevenson noted an increase in state funds representing raises mandated for Mississippi school teachers. While he noted that the increase does not fully fund the mandated raises, "We’re glad to see it."

The additional funds amounted to $1,347,100 over last year’s amount of $16,475,031 to fund teacher pay increases.

Approximately $700,000 of the $8.5 million bond issue is paid from money from L.S. Power in lieu of taxes. The remainder of the $1,350,000 L.S. Power check is used for operations, according to Stevenson.

The superintendent, who is retiring at the end of the month, explained that the district is authorized to seek a maximum increase of four percent of last year’s base. The district is requesting two percent this year.

He explained that the county’s failure to fund $292,248 that the district had requested for last year had inflated the amount of the budget increase requested for this year. A portion of the shortfall will be borrowed through a tax anticipation shortfall note.

Local developer and commercial real estate magnate Woody Loden was the only member of the public to attend the hearing.

"Reckon y’all could do with a little less money," he asked?

"To be perfectly honest with you, we could," responded Stevenson. "We wouldn’t be able to give the level of service to the community that they have become accustomed. That’s what separates us from school districts who are struggling."

After asking several questions concerning school expenditures and ad valorem taxes, Loden said, "Every year I come here and ask if you are spending wisely, and every year y’all convince me that you are trying to do what’s right."

Trustees will meet again this week on Thursday at noon when they attempt to adopt the 2005-06 school year budget.

City will republish floodplain notice
By Jason C. Mattox

Following discussions with two engineering firms, city leaders unanimously voted to re-publish a FEMA notice regarding Keating Grove subdivision.

Code Enforcement Officer Pam Comer reminded aldermen they had publicized the original changes FEMA made to the floodplain, but further changes had been made.

"FEMA made some changes to the floodplain for Keating Grove," she said.

Dale Perryman of Smith Engineering said all the city had to do was publish the notice.

"We will pay the cost of publication, it just has to be publicized by the city," Perryman said.

Perryman added that the only reason for the new notice is changes made to the subdivision plans. In the new plans portions of the floodway area have been moved.

"The new plans have been approved by Pete Sullivan of McBride Engineering," he said.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said he did not want the city to get involved in it for fear of problems.

Yelton was making reference to a period of five years when the city was excluded from participation in the flood insurance program.

Perryman explained that the city had to be the one to publish the notice because of the changes to the floodway.

"FEMA is going to be the one doing all of the work. All you need to do is make sure the notice gets into the paper," he said.

Perryman said the notice offers property owners a 90-day period to voice their concerns.

Warner McBride of the city’s engineering firm said he had examined the plans and felt like it would be OK for the city to move forward with publishing the FEMA notice.

"As long as it doesn’t obligate the city to anything, I don’t have a problem with it," Yelton said.

In other board business:
Police Chief Gerald Legge requested permission to hire two full-time officers with one hire conditional that a military service release is granted within 90 days.
In-service training for certified police officers was approved. Expenses will be paid by the city.
Mayor Bobby Baker asked Legge to determine if a yield or stop sign needs to be placed in the Green Acres subdivision where Pollard Street splits.
Street Department Superintendent Teddy Austin updated the board on the Sand Creek Ditch project. Austin said he hopes the project will be completed within the next three weeks.
Baker said Austin would be overseeing the cleaning of a box culvert at Pamela and Bates Street. The mayor said one side of the culvert is filled with sand and Austin will dig it out using the city’s equipment.
Aldermen unanimously voted to allow the rezoning of Don Province’s property on the west side of Mills Cross Road from R1 residential to C2 commercial.
The board approved the rezoning of Elijah and Rosie Hamilton’s property from R1 residential to M1 to allow the couple’s daughter to move a mobile home to the property.

"We have had problems out of this property before," Comer said. "But they have been keeping it clean. Having someone live there will help keep it clean."

A setback variance for Cube Ice company was granted. The setback will be eight feet instead of the usual 20 feet.
McBride informed the board that drainage work and overlaying of the Downtown Square will be the next project once the Sand Creek Ditch is completed.
The board was informed that options for the sidewalks of Martin Luther King Drive are being investigated.
Water and Sewer Superintendent Rickey Shirey told the board he has asked Panola County to look at the department’s parking lot for possible mat and seal. The city would provide the materials and pay for the labor. If cost estimates come in below $3,500, the project will not have to be bid.
In a hearing held in executive session, the board of mayor and aldermen upheld the firing of an employee of the city’s street department.
Aldermen approved Fire Chief Tim Taylor’s request that firefighter Cowles Horton attend additional training at the Mississippi Fire Fighters’ Academy. The transfer of a car from the fire department to the police department was also approved, pending appropriate legal stipulations.
The contract for the city’s franchise with Cableone was extended for five years with a three-year franchise fee paid to the city.
Mayor Bobby Baker informed the aldermen that Independence Water Association spokesman Jimmy Herron had offered the release of 38 meters in the area of Sherwood and Highway 6 West.
     The area is currently served by Independence which is willing to transfer the service to city responsibility at no charge to the city, the mayor said.