Headlines – 7/12/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – July 12, 2005

  From the 7/12/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Pair to be charged in meth lab explosion
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Drug Task Force plans to file charges against two Batesville men who allegedly manufactured methamphetamine in their Westmoreland Heights home.

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Task Force commander Jason Chrestman announced the arrest warrants Monday afternoon, saying the agency will file charges against Lloyd Turner and Ross Tittle. Additional charges could come later, he said.

Tittle was severely burned Wednesday, July 7 during an explosion and fire at 111 Hillcrest, where he and Turner share a one-story brick home.

Tittle is being treated in the burn center at Vanderbilt University Hospital, Chrestman said last week.

Investigators believe the fire began in the attic, where two propane tanks were stored, Chrestman said.

"The tanks weren’t rigged to hold propane. They were modified to hold anhydrous ammonia," Chrestman said.

Anhydrous ammonia is an ingredient needed to manufacture meth and, although highly dangerous, is commonly stored in propane tanks.

Although a task force interview with Turner was set for Monday, Chrestman said he had not spoken to Turner by Monday afternoon.

Chrestman said Batesville attorney Adam Pittman was representing Turner and Tittle in an older charge, but he did not know if the pair had retained Pittman or another attorney.

Pittman could not be reached by press time.

The task force filed felony charges against Turner and Tittle earlier this year, alleging that the pair tried to purchase meth precursors at Wal-Mart in Batesville.

That case is still under investigation pending lab results, task force member Jamie Tedford said last week.

City board refines current budget
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville city officials met Friday morning, July 8, to amend the city’s budget for the remainder of the fiscal year which ends September 30.

Unlike the raucous meeting of July 5 when over 70 people attended, primarily to protest a mayoral pay cut and personnel decision made before the new administration took office, at Friday’s meeting, accountant Bill Crawford was the only visitor.

Considered "budgetmeister" of municipal finances, Crawford represented Will Polk and Company, the city’s accountant. He is often invited to guide city officials through budget meetings. At Friday’s meeting Crawford gave Batesville’s new mayor and alderman-at-large their first on-the-job training in the city budgeting process while reindoctrinating the four aldermen with previous service.

"This is the time of the year when you rub your crystal ball and project what’s going to happen," Crawford said.

State law prohibits municipalities from exceeding their budgets.

"We don’t want to overspend your budget because we get into a compliance problem," Crawford told city officials.

"It’s not a city budget, per se; it’s two dozen different budgets and each of them has to stand alone," Crawford said prior to delving into the funds for the city’s different departments and services.

Friday’s amended budget meeting was scheduled to allow city officials to adjust budgets for any department that might be headed toward overspending by year’s end.

In other business at the July 8 meeting city officials:
Approved travel expense for a police officer currently attending a 10-week polygraph training course;
Approved a bid from Coker Heating and Air to replace the air conditioning units at the city’s municipal court building. Aldermen agreed to allow city court to be held in the city board room until the replacement is complete. They also discussed the current contract with Larry Montgomery, owner of the building used for the municipal court.
Discussed an offer for a tract of city-owned land near the new Covenant Bank facility. Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell told aldermen that a buyer had made an offer, but questioned the amount and conditions.
     "I’m not for tying up property unless the man wants to put up earnest money," ward three alderman James Yelton said.
     "Not for half the money," ward two alderman Rufus Manley added.

The mayor and aldermen are scheduled to meet again Tuesday, July 19.

Davis named new Sardis Police Chief
By Jason C. Mattox

The Sardis Police Department will soon be under new leadership as the Board of Aldermen unanimously selected Mike Davis as the next Chief of Police last Thursday night.

Davis will replace Sonny Stepp as the city’s top cop. Stepp has agreed to assist the new chief in order to make an easy transition in leadership.

Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said Davis was selected from a pool of 10 applicants.

"We had some really good applicants for the position," he said. "When it came down to it, everyone who participated in the interview process agreed that Mike was the best fit for the job."

Davis appeared before the board for two interviews in recent weeks. The selection was made following an executive session Thursday night.

He is presently employed by Turner Dairies. His previous law enforcement experience includes working as arson investigator with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department and K-9 officer for the Batesville Police Department.

Davis will begin his first job as a chief of police following a one-week notice to his present employer.



     Mary and Jerry Troxler were honored last week for their volunteerism and contributions to Tri-Lakes Medical Center’s West Campus. The hospital dedicated "Troxler Garden" at the entranceway at a ceremony last Friday. The garden was first established by the South Panola Community Hospital Auxiliary a number of years ago in memory of the Troxlers’ son Michael. It has been refurbished recently.
     Though extensive television coverage took all the hot air away from Hurricane Dennis and lessened its intensity, a violent thunderstorm passed through Panola County Tuesday, July 5, leading to the toppling of a large tree later that evening. Mary Weldon Daniels (center) and Ashtyn Hensley, enjoyed the tree’s newly prone position as Mary Lou Mitchell declined their invitation to join them. Mary Weldon and Ashtyn are granddaughters of Dr. C. L. and Ann Stevenson, whose home the tree missed by about a dozen feet.

Corps of Engineers officials had recorded from Hurricane Dennis’ passage a maximum of 1.5 inches of rainfall in the upper reaches of the watersheds of Sardis and Enid reservoirs with only .15 to .20 inches in the Delta below the dams.
The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

‘Dennis’ causes paving check to be stuck in Jackson
By Billy Davis

A natural disaster check that’s coming to the county for road paving work has been delayed because of Hurricane Dennis, county supervisors announced Monday morning.

Panola County was mostly spared the whirl and swirl of Hurricane Dennis, but the hurricane changed the priorities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its Mississippi office, MEMA.

Panola County is due about $350,000 from FEMA after a 2002 storm flooded and destroyed county roads. Those funds must come through the Jackson, Miss. office before they’re sent to Panola County.

"It looks like, right now, nobody’s in the (Jackson) office to write the check," Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins announced to his colleagues.

The FEMA money is about one half of the $1.1 million dedicated to the county’s summer road paving. The second $750,000 is a bank loan, which could arrive in the county coffers any day.

The county road department started its summer paving last week.

County Administrator David Chandler told supervisors the paperwork for the FEMA funds is sitting on the desk of Larry Bowman, executive director of MEMA.

The money is electronically sent from FEMA to MEMA, and then sent to the county, Chandler later told The Panolian. That process takes about 10 days, he said.

In other county business:
Chandler announced that an audit of Tri-Lakes Medical Center shows the public-owned hospital made a profit of $279,047 last year.
     The audit was performed by Watkins, Ward and Stafford of Starkville.
     The hospital is about two months from a final sale to Dr. Bob Corkern, the Tri-Lakes administrator.
Supervisors re-arranged the working hours for the county road department, citing the importance of summer paving and the problem of recent wet weather hitting the county.
     The road crews were working four 10-hour days. The seven-man paving crew will work five 10-hour days while the rest of the road department will work standard eight-hour days five days a week.
Panola County Airport Board chairman Tommy Wells announced that the board has hired an engineering firm, Airport Development Group, to work with the board after a bidding process. The company is headquartered in Colorado, he said.
     Development Group representative Mike Corkern, who was introduced by Wells, said the airport board and his firm are working together to construct a high fence around the entire airport, using FAA grant funds to do so.
     Corkern said $197,400 is appropriated for the county airport.
     The fence will help keep deer off the runway, an obvious safety factor that has drawn the attention of the FAA, Corkern said.
Supervisors agreed to let county coroner Gracie Grant Gulledge pursue a relocation of a county morgue, citing the pending sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center which now houses the bodies.
     Gulledge made the request, asking if the older county building near Hwy. 51 could be retrofitted to hold a morgue. The county coroner office is operated from that same building.
     Gulledge said she needs a walk-in cooling unit that will cost at least $2,500.
Panola Playhouse chairman Pam Martin left empty handed after requesting the county help the Sardis theatre with its finances.
     Martin requested the county give $30,000 to the theatre, splitting the funding in half over two years.
     That funding would match Playhouse’s request made to the Mississippi Arts Commission, which gave the theatre about $22,000. That money was used for infrastructure improvements, Martin said.
     District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant suggested that Martin request funding from the City of Sardis before seeking funds from the county.
Supervisors voted unanimously to hire two full-time employees for the county road department and two fill-in garbage truck drivers for the Solid Waste Department.
     The road department employees will make $1,600 a month. The fill-in drivers will make $10 an hour.
County Administrator David Chandler announced that Gene Welch of Tri-Star Mechanical has finished the plans for the new air conditioning system for the courthouse in Batesville.
     The county will now advertise for bids for the project, Chandler said.
     Welch did not give a likely figure for the cost of the project, he said.
Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock said he received three bids for new carpeting in the chancery vault, where flooding from a pipe damaged the floor.
     "I can’t get people to bid apples to apples," Pitcock said, explaining that the bidders didn’t agree on whether matting was needed for new carpet.
     Pitcock said he will contact the bidders for better details.


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