Headlines – 7/15/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – July 15, 2005

  From the 7/15/05 issue of The Panolian :             

     Charley Ann Nix of Batesville recently grew this enormous cabbage, weighing in at 121 lbs., three oz., for a school project in Mrs. Tina Joyner’s third grade class at North Delta School. Planted in April, the cabbage could win Nix a $1,000 scholarship in a national cabbage competition through Bonnie Plant Farm.
Charges dropped after interview
By Billy Davis

A week after an explosion and fire at a Batesville home began a drug investigation, a Batesville man has had the charges against him dropped.

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The decision to drop charges was made after Lloyd Turner gave a two-hour interview Thursday to the Panola County Task Force, said task force commander Jason Chrestman.

"Mr. Turner was not placed under arrest," said Chrestman, who said last week he expected to charge Turner with manufacturing meth in the home.

"We determined that Mr. Turner was not at home when the fire occurred," Chrestman said.

The task force will "probably have to amend" an affidavit it swore out for an arrest warrant on Turner, the task force commander also said.

Chrestman said he will still pursue charges on Ross Tittle, who was injured in the July 6 explosion and remains hospitalized with severe burns.

Tittle and Turner live in the Westmoreland Heights home at 111 Hillcrest. They operate Amazing Vase, a downtown flower shop and antique shop in Batesville.

At noon on Thursday, Batesville attorney Adam Pittman and Turner met voluntarily with Chrestman regarding the incident.

Prior to that meeting, Pittman told The Panolian he was surprised that Chrestman announced the charges last week.

"I think it’s a rush to judgment because there’s public pressure to do something," Pittman said. "It’s really early on in this process."

Pittman said he represented Turner in an earlier case in which the task force charged Turner and Tittle with purchasing meth precursors from Wal-Mart in Batesville. He confirmed that case is continuing.

In this newer case, however, Pittman said he was acting Thursday as "counsel" for Turner and had not been hired as a defense attorney since Turner had not been arrested.

Zoning tabled by board Thursday
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors yesterday postponed a decision on whether to allow the commercial use of a Eureka Road "party barn." About 25 opponents of the measure attended the recess meeting held at the Batesville courthouse.

The Panola County Land Development Commission had voted last month to deny Anthony McCoy’s request to operate a party rental facility in the red metal barn he owns on about two acres at 3534 Eureka Road, about two miles east of the city limits.
A special zoning exception is required since McCoy wants to operate a commercial business in an area zoned for agricultural and residential use.

A motion to table the issue was made by District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant. District 1 Supervisor James Birge seconded the motion. The vote was 4-0, with District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson absent for the vote.

Benson arrived at the meeting minutes after the vote was taken. The facility is located in Benson’s district.

During a half-hour discussion before the vote, Avant questioned opponents about eyewitnesses to alcohol sold at the barn, and the need for a community center, which is what McCoy is proposing.

McCoy was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

Brad Shackleford, a Batesville Police Department officer, told supervisors he was called for "drunks in the road" at that location when he was with the sheriff’s department about a year ago.

The property is known by some as the Pauline Smith place. Across the road from the barn, McCoy is in the process of turning a house into a pre-school.

He’s allowed to do so without need for a special exception, land commission members agreed (see story, page A10).

McCoy has made two trips to the Board of Supervisors in recent weeks, where he appealed the commission’s decision and defended his plans.
At his first appearance July 5, McCoy said he’s been the subject of death threats, a near-fatal attack with a hammer, and a conspiracy among the family members of his deceased wife and the sheriff’s department.

McCoy also did not deny that unruly activity had taken place at the facility, assuring supervisors that those who had allowed the parties were no longer employed there.

"Those people are gone, and you can consider (the community center) under new management," McCoy told supervisors.

McCoy had insisted to the county land commission, however, that he had allowed only family-friendly events at the facility.

More than a dozen Eureka residents, meanwhile, complained to the commission last month about a rowdy party atmosphere that included loud music, boozing, and road-choking traffic.

Panola County Under Sheriff James Rudd also voiced concerns about McCoy’s "juke joint" in the public hearing. He later voiced his concern again when McCoy appeared at the two supervisors’ meeting.

After the matter was tabled Thursday, opponents demanded to know when the supervisors would take it up again. Board President Jerry Perkins said the board would meet again on August 1, but he did not state that the zoning question would be taken up at that time.

Blood drive scheduled at Tri-Lakes Medical Center
Tri-Lakes Medical Center’s Women’s Auxiliary will sponsor a blood drive Wednesday and Thursday, July 20 and 21, at the hospital. Mississippi Blood Services will conduct the drive.

Donors may come Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Thursday from noon until 8 p.m. All donors will receive a t-shirt and a chance to win a "simple-set" above ground pool. Donors should bring identification.



Jernigan accepts position with DRA
By Rupert Howell

Panola Partnership Executive Director Blair Jernigan has resigned to accept the position of Chief Operations Officer with the Delta Regional Authority.
"It was a very difficult decision," according to Jernigan who said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to benefit his family. He has been with the Panola Partnership for approximately 14 months.

Panola Partnership is the county’s economic development organization and also serves as Panola County’s chamber of commerce.

Jernigan and his wife Dale will continue to live near Batesville according to Jernigan, who said, "This is our home now. I’ll still be in a position to help Panola County in a broader perspective."

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership serving an eight state region designed to stimulate economic development on the region’s economy. Chief Executive Officer for the Authority is former State Auditor Pete Johnson.

Panola Partnership President Brad Robison agreed, stating, "We hate to lose Blair, but he can do Panola County a lot of good where he’s going. We will continue to benefit from his new position."

As far as industrial prospects and economic development are concerned, Robison said Panola Partnership will use existing resources and staff already available to keep ongoing projects from falling through the cracks.

Jernigan will commute to Clarksdale to the office of DRA, stating that he and his wife plan to continue to be active in Batesville First United Methodist Church.
State Representative Leonard Morris is past president and member of Panola Partnership’s executive board. He has been named interim director of Panola Partnership and has served as interim director previously.

"Blair has done an exceptionally good job and we hope to be able to tap resources of the DRA through his position there," Morris stated.

Morris to again serve
     as interim Partnership head
Rep. Leonard Morris has again agreed to serve as interim Executive Director of the Panola Partnership following the resignation of Blair Jernigan who has accepted a position with the Delta Regional Authority based in Clarksdale.

Panola Partnership is an economic development organization for Panola County and also serves as the county’s chamber of commerce.

"Mr. Jernigan has done a good job of getting prospects to look at Panola County," according to Panola Partnership Executive Board President Brad Robison who is manager of T.V.E.P.A., the locally owned power cooperative.

"There are many companies looking at locating in Panola County right now, and we can’t afford to drop the ball," Robison said Thursday while announcing that Morris would pick up Jernigan’s torch until a successor is found.

This is not the first time Morris has served as interim director, having filled in during a similar transition in 2000. The District 11 State Representative also owns a real estate agency in Batesville.

Morris said that economic development was not an event but a process.

"It takes a team effort to be successful," according to Morris who said the Partnership would be looking to Panola County and communities within the county to join the team along with state agencies in putting together economic development efforts.

"Until we are able to fill this position permanently we will utilize the resources that are available to us through the Mississippi Development Association, Tennessee Valley Authority and North Mississippi Industrial Development Association for economic development activities," Robison said.

Morris said he had previously met with Entergy’s CEO to discuss property near Como as a mega-site for future industrial development.

"The Main Street Program and chamber of commerce type activities will continue under the experience of Colleen Clark who serves as office manager for the partnership," according to Robison.

Morris’s interim position will insure that economic development projects currently underway are aggressively pursued according to Robison who added, "He will make sure our existing industries have a knowledgeable person to contact for assistance they may need from the Partnership."

Oxford engineering firm is choice
     of Panola supervisors
By Rupert Howell
and Billy Davis

In a sooner-than-expected vote Monday afternoon, the Panola County Board of Supervisors chose a new engineering firm, Oxford-based Elliot and Britt, as the new county engineer.

The Oxford firm was chosen from among eight applicants who submitted bids for the engineering service.

The county engineer helps the county road department in its State-Aid projects, which are overseen by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Elliot and Britt Engineering, P.A. replaces Batesville firm McBride Engineering, which had worked with the county supervisors through its employee, county engineer Pete Sullivan.

Elliot and Britt is headed by CEO and President Thomas Elliot and Vice President Larry Britt. In the firm’s bid description, Britt would serve as county engineer with assistance from Elliot and others at the firm.

The bid also stated that the Oxford firm would "quickly open" a Batesville office if the firm is selected for the county engineering job.

Britt introduced himself to the supervisors at a recess meeting yesterday at 4 p.m.

Britt’s entrance into Panola County comes after work as Marshall County engineer since 1985 and Tate County engineer since 2005, the bid states.

Although supervisors at their Monday morning meeting had agreed to spend this week reviewing the applicants, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant made a motion at a Monday afternoon recess meeting to skip the interview process and hire the Oxford firm.

"Are we not going to interview anybody?" asked Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.

"I don’t think we have time," Avant replied, referring to the amount of engineering work that needs to be completed for State-Aid road work.

District 1 Supervisor James Birge delivered a second, and District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson confirmed to Perkins that he would side with Avant and Birge in a board vote.

Although no apparent vote was taken, District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup said he agreed that the Oxford firm is "is more up to speed on what’s going on in Panola County."

Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock reported a 4-1 vote when contacted later by The Panolian, saying Perkins voted against hiring the firm without a formal interview process.

Pitcock said the minutes from the meeting will reflect that Avant’s motion was to forego the interview process, which Perkins objected to.

Reached after the supervisors meeting, Avant said he spent much of the day Monday poring over the list of applicants and, when he was done, thought that Britt and Elliot stood out above the rest.

The other engineering firms that applied were: Russell Co. of Olive Branch; Evans Engineering of Batesville and Clarksdale; Houston Engineering of Batesville; Edward T. Davis and Associates, Inc. of Olive Branch; Daniels Williams Engineering, Inc. of Oxford; and Cook Coggin Engineers, Inc. of Tupelo.


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