|High taxes, ‘high sheriff’ among county’s agenda
|By Billy Davis
The topic of fair taxation somehow blended with opinion about the current sheriff’s race during the county supervisors "first Monday" meeting, which was held yesterday in Sardis.
Speaking to the Panola County Board of Supervisors, landowner Traci Stevens asked for a re-evaluation of an acre of land she owns near Hwy. 315.
The property was assessed at $2,000 by the county but once was assessed at $1,000 by Batesville Realtor Ronnie Coleman, Stevens told the board.
Reading from a prepared speech, Stevens said she was "shocked and appalled" by assessor Bill Bryant’s stubborn behavior during a hearing with him and called the higher assessment an "intolerable injustice."
Stevens expressed similar concerns in a Panolian letter to the editor that was published last week.
Bryant, who was not present at the meeting, is hired by the supervisors on a contract basis.
After receiving appraisal notices in the mail, county taxpayers have been meeting with county appraisers since last week to justify lower tax assessments on their property.
Responding to Stevens’ complaint, County Tax Collector David Garner showed assessments of the property from 1997 that showed the $2,000 assessment for every year since.
"The value of those lots has been $2,000 since 1985," Garner told the supervisors.
Supervisors agreed to continue the matter at next week’s board meeting, also saying they will talk to Bryant to hear his side of the story.
The Board of Supervisors also heard from Clarence Chapman, who owns Meadowview Apartments in Batesville.
Chapman said he was mostly pleased with Bryant’s assessment of the property with the exception of one variable, capitalization rate.
A new state law should help clarify the assessment, said Chapman, who was hopeful that he and Bryant could work out the only sticking point of the assessment.
The county supervisors also heard from Bill Elmore, who expressed his frustration with rising taxes.
"Why is it that everybody’s got to tighten their belt except county supervisors?" Elmore asked.
Elmore also complained about "waste" at the sheriff’s department, wondering why the department needed Sheriff Ida Bryan, Under Sheriff James Rudd and Chief Deputy Craig Sheley all acting in the sheriff’s role.
Elmore said Sheley, who is campaigning for sheriff, should be the county sheriff, endorsing Sheley within earshot of another candidate, jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright.
Sheley and Bright are among 11 candidates running for county sheriff.
| City Board meets at Civic Center to review first months’ activities
|By John Howell Sr.
Batesville Civic Center Director Roy Hyde gave Batesville’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen an overview of the facility’s operations last week, seven months after it opened in January.
In what became a "state of the civic center" meeting, the mayor and aldermen joined Hyde in the facility’s meeting room C. They authorized Hyde to hire an assistant administrator, heard his description of the need for sponsorships and signage, and reviewed construction deficiencies that have become evident during the facility’s first seven months of use.
Most evident among a list of minor construction deficiencies is the inadequate drainage allowed for the large area of the center’s roof.
Mayor Jerry Autrey got a first-hand look at the problem as he approached the meeting during a rainstorm. Runoff flowing through downspouts into underground drain pipes was regurgitated back through the connection at ground level, as though the underground part of the drainage system was blocked.
However, Hyde said that the drainage lines had been "scoped" and no blockage was found. "It’s hitting the pipes and they can’t handle it," he said. He blamed the drainage problem on insufficient capacity.
"The subcontractor said he put it in to specifications," Hyde added.
"Who has responsibility for oversights – city or architect?" the director’s work session agenda stated.
Hyde told city officials that 70 percent of his time as director was spent on the operational requirements at the facility, "keeping me from performing my primary role, marketing the facility and getting the shows in here," he stated.
The center director’s work session agenda outline an extensive list of areas in which an assistant director should be experienced
"What are we looking for in price?" Alderman James Yelton asked.
The amount is $38,000 annually, Hyde said.
"I would like to see this person live in Batesville," Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.
"How many permanent people have you got out here right now?" Yelton asked.
"There’s four of us," Hyde replied. Some of the shows run 24 hours, he added.
"I think you’re right, that we’ve got to get someone immediately … . That way you can get on with getting more events out here," Yelton said, who made the motion to hire an assistant director for the civic center.
Pounders provided the second and the motion passed unanimously with Alderman-At-Large Teddy Morrow and Alderman Rufus Manley adding their votes. Alderman Bill Dugger was absent due to family illness.
"People just have to learn that there’s a benefit to having these shows," Hyde told city officials when he addressed the need for sponsorships at the facility. He outline two types of sponsorship: Sponsors solicited by show promoters who received publicity during a performance and building sponsors who purchase place specific advertising messages that are placed in the facility itself on an extended basis.
Chief among the latter is a lighted, outside sign to be located next to Highway 6. Hyde presented a recommendation and drawing for a sign 34 feet tall, 20 feet wide with a space nine feet tall for "full color, LED message, with five feet above and below the message for sponsors’ names.
The cost estimate pegged the sign at $143,795, and Hyde recommended the center purchase the sign and pay for it with the sale over time of its advertising space.
Hyde also made recommendations about internal signage but added: "I don’t want to take any sponsorships that’s available to promoters."
"We’re now tapping in to promoters who have corporate sponsorships," Hyde said.
| Civic Center policy clarified by manager during city meet
|By John Howell Sr.
Batesville Civic Center Director Roy Hyde used a July 28 work session with city officials to explain and clarify facility policies.
Responding to a claim made by a constituent to Alderman James Yelton that rental fee for the center was too high for the South Panola High School graduation, Hyde said: "We’ve never been approached; we’d love to talk to them."
"We’d love to have it here, that’s good public relations," Mayor Jerry Autrey said.
However, the facility might limit the number who might attend the graduation to fewer than the number able to attend at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford where exercises are currently held each May.
The Tad Smith Coliseum holds 8,700 people, a spokesman for the Ole Miss athletic staff said.
Boston Culinary has exclusive catering rights for food and beverage at the civic center, Hyde said.
That means that Boston Culinary must be given an opportunity to provide the service for any meeting. However, Boston Culinary would not be interested in a self-catered event, such as a church meeting or family reunion where participants bring their own food, Hyde explained.
However, a group which furnishes its own food cannot sell it, the center director said.
In addition: "no alcohol may be brought into these premises. Any alcohol must be provided and served by Boston Culinary," Hyde said.
In response to other questions about options in the civic center, the rental fee for a meeting room starts at $200 and depends on the length of time used and optional services furnished by the center, its director said.
In response to a request from Yelton, Hyde said he would bring a complete list of rental costs, services and options to the August 2 board meeting.
| Kids Day Out
| Spencer Sutton (left) and Taylor Brown (right), both of Pope, enjoyed the bike rides at Kids Day Out at Sardis Lake Saturday. Also pictured is vice president of the Dream Riders, Billy Jack Welch.
| Party Barn decision postponed
|By Billy Davis
Panola County supervisors have put off any action on the so-called "party barn" until their "second Monday" meeting next week.
District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant made a motion to delay a vote until supervisors can view a new parking area on the Eureka Road property. He received a second from District 1 Supervisor James Birge and unanimous approval from the board.
Speaking to the supervisors, property owner Anthony McCoy said he knocked down trees and spread gravel in hopes of their approval.
McCoy also provided a petition of residents who support him. A total of 53 residents are listed on the petition, though some signatures – in one case, six of them – seem to be written in the same handwriting.
McCoy’s request in June to turn a red barn on the property into a community center was turned down by the county land development commission. The supervisors can back the commission’s recommendation or vote to allow McCoy to proceed.
The lack of a final vote comes after a July recess meeting in which supervisors heard from 20-plus Eureka residents who opposed McCoy’s plans.
The "party barn" is located in District 3, an area overseen by Supervisor Mack Benson, who was absent for most of the recess meeting.
At that meeting, supervisors told residents they would decide on the "party barn" at their August meeting.
Prior to the opening of yesterday’s supervisors’ meeting, Eureka resident Sue Roberts asked Board President Jerry Perkins if the board planned to act on McCoy’s request.
Perkins responded that they hadn’t planned to vote unless McCoy showed up but might discuss it anyway.
"They said they wouldn’t take it up before today," Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock told Roberts.
A few minutes later, McCoy entered the board room, asking Perkins the same question that Roberts had asked.
|In other county business:
||Supervisors have apparently terminated the employment of assistant road manager David Arnold.
Arnold was present at the board meeting, where a termination letter notice was hand delivered to him by county road manager Lygunnah Bean.
Arnold attended the meeting with Sardis attorney Jimmy McClure.
After the meeting, Perkins confirmed that Arnold had been terminated. His next course of action was a meeting with County Administrator David Chandler before appealing his firing to the board of supervisors.
Perkins did not say why Arnold, a long-time employee, had been fired. Such information is usually kept private since it is a personnel matter.
||South Panola School District Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer submitted the district’s ad valorem tax request to supervisors.
The tax increase will generate $112,603 for the public school district.
Perkins told Shaffer that County Administrator David Chandler would be in touch soon to work out details of the request.
Per state law, a public school district can request up to a four percent increase in ad valorem taxes without approval from a board of supervisors.
||Supervisors unanimously approved the City of Batesville for the next round of state-assisted fire truck acquisitions.
The first five rounds went to volunteer fire departments in the county, said Civil Defense Director Son Hudson, who made the request.
||Perkins announced that Northwest Community College is requesting a 10 percent increase over the current amount given by Panola County.
"I don’t see how we can give that kind of increase without raising taxes, and we don’t want to do that," said Perkins, who did not state the current amount given annually to the school.
Representatives of the community college will likely attend next Monday’s board meeting, he said, following the sending of the letter.
||Pitcock followed up on recent discussion about county insurance with a suggestion to purchase vision plan EyeMed for county employees.
The plan would cost the county $6.74 per month per employee, he said.
Supervisors took the suggestion under advisement.
||Supervisors unanimously approved the renaming of the Batesville Readiness Center after longtime Guardsman Kay Goforth.
The county’s action followed similar action by the City of Batesville, board attorney Bill McKenzie said.
| Newspaper In Education program gains sponsors
|The reinvigorated Newspaper in Education program announced by The Panolian last week has found four of the minimum 10 sponsors needed to fully implement the 37-week effort, publisher John Howell said Monday.
"This is a wonderful program," stated Batesville attorney Richard T. "Flip" Phillips, whose law firm, Smith, Phillips, Mitchell and Scott, was the first sponsor to agree to the nine-month program.
The law firm was soon followed by Covenant Bank, Dunlap and Kyle Company and Tri-Star Mechanical Contractors.
"Shortly after the start of school, we’ll be delivering Tuesday newspapers to over 2,200 Panola County students," Howell said. Students in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades in North Delta, South Panola and North Panola schools will all receive newspapers.
Each Tuesday’s edition of The Panolian during the school year will include a page called "Panola Kids." The page will feature reading, writing, and other exercises designed as supplemental classroom material for teachers.
In addition to the page, each Tuesday’s newspaper will contain an anti-litter message for school students.
"It’s a double-barrel approach, fighting illiteracy and litter," Howell said.
"We appreciate the encouraging response we’ve received to date," he added.
A minimum of ten sponsors are needed to fully implement the 2005-’06 Newspaper in Education program. Past sponsors are being contacted by letter. For additional information on how to become an NIE sponsor, contact Howell at 563-4591, firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Add one name, drop one in sheriff’s race
|By Jason C. Mattox
Two changes to the field of candidates for Panola County Sheriff keep a total of 11 in the running.
According to the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office, John Hardy has qualified to seek the office left vacant with the passing of Sheriff David Bryan. Also, former Crenshaw Mayor Oscar Barlow has pulled out of the race.
Circuit Clerk Joe Reid said his office received Barlow’s withdrawal letter Thursday, July 28.
"The letter didn’t give any specific reason for the withdrawal," Reid said. "It simply said he was withdrawing his candidacy for the office of sheriff."
Hardy, who owned The Turning Point nightclub that was located on Highway 6 East at the Panola-Lafayette County line, works in construction and owns T.P. Construction Company.
The new candidate will join a field that includes Noel Aldridge Jr., Hugh "Shot" Bright, Steve Chancellor, Antonio Daniels, John Rodgers, Craig Sheley, Kelvin Taylor, Jamie Tedford, Gary Thompson, and Mark Whitten.
The deadline to qualify is September 8. All candidates will appear on the November ballot with the top two vote-getters moving to a run-off election if no one candidate receives a majority.