Headlines Cont. – 8/5/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 5, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – August 5, 2005


Med’s helicopter now located ten minutes from Batesville
By Jason C. Mattox

The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center (The Med) and Memphis medical community moved closer to north Mississippi counties July 29 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the establishment of a new HospitalWing helipad base in Tunica County.

"We have been strategically placing bases through out the tri-state area," said Allen Burnett, executive director of HospitalWing, "to better serve this region and the Tunica County base will be our newest addition."

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The location of the Wing’s (HospitalWing) new northwest Mississippi base in addition to its bases in Memphis and Brownsville, Tennessee will have each Wing helicopter and its medical capability within approximately 40 to 50 miles of the major Memphis medical complexes.

Burnett said the Tunica-based helicopter would be 10 to 12 minutes from Batesville and I-55, 18 minutes from Clarksdale, 30 minutes from Cleveland and 20 minutes from Oxford.

"The Wing’s critical care nurses and our medical capabilities bring the trauma center that much closer to the patient. From the time we take off, our flight nurses can have radio contact with the MED’s trauma center surgeons," Burnett added.

"We are the only medical helicopters dispatched by MEDCOM located inside the Elvis Presley Trauma Center at the MED," he continued.

Coldwater resident David Childress will be a pilot for the Tunica-based aircraft. Childress has piloted helicopters for the MED since HospitalWing was founded in 1986. He is also a 37-year veteran pilot with the Mississippi National Guard.

HospitalWing is a non-profit service formed by a consortium of Methodist, LeBonheur and the MED hospitals in Memphis.

"The Wing’s medical capabilities, its state-of-the-art aircraft with their speed and power, the experienced nurses and highly-trained pilots with their spotless safety record … have enabled it to save countless lives since 1986," its executive director said.

Signs spark discussion among aldermen during Tuesday meeting
By Jason C. Mattox

Signs, signs everywhere signs. Some of them are getting bigger while some seem to multiply. This is a problem the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen want to examine in the near future.

The discussion to limit signage variances to no more than 10 percent over city code regulation came after the aldermen unanimously voted to allow a variance to Rent World for an additional 38 square feet of signage, including a moving message center much like the one at KFC.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said he felt like the city allowed the increase in sign size without much reason other than the business wanting it.

"It bothers me that we have regulations for signs and it seems like we always rubber stamp it and let it go on," he said. "If we are going to keep doing that, we should just let them make the signs as big as they want them."

Dugger said he would not have as much of a problem with it if the owner of the business requesting the sign variance would give the board a reason for the request.

Code Enforcement Office Administrator Pam Comer said one way of limiting the number of businesses going to larger signs is to increase the fees.

"If you increase the amount they have to pay, it might deter some of the people coming to us wanting these bigger signs," she said.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton also wants to see something done about campaign signs.

"I think we need to look at limiting the number of signs we allow in certain areas," he said. "If you go to the courthouse, you can see that some candidates (for sheriff) have three or four signs in the same area.

"That causes our mowers a lot of trouble," Yelton added.

Yelton said he feels like it takes a lot of time for city employees to move the signs, mow and then replace them.

"I can remember back when I was running for office once. You had to put up a deposit for signs," he said. "They gave you so many days after the election to take down the signs or they kept your money."

Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell suggested revisiting the city ordinances at a later date to see what route to take to resolve both issues.

No action was taken on either matter.

Sardis police seek robbers
By Jason C. Mattox

The Sardis Police Department is looking for two men involved in a Monday robbery.

Police Chief Mike Davis said officers were called to the Flash Store on Highway 51 at approximately 9 a.m.

"All we know at this time is that two black men took the victim’s wallet," he said. "We have been told that no weapons were used in the incident."

Davis said no arrests have been made, and the case remains under investigation.

Employee says firing was over ‘whistle blowing’
By Billy Davis

An assistant Panola County road manager who was fired from his job this week claims he was let go for being a "whistle blower," but his bosses say the supposed whistle blowing stemmed from a misunderstanding.

At the "first Monday" supervisors meeting this week, David Arnold was handed a termination notice by county road manager Lygunnah Bean at the behest of Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.

A longtime employee of the road department, Arnold had been suspended with pay in recent weeks until his official firing Monday.

Arnold contacted The Panolian after the supervisors meeting, saying he was fired for asking questions about the use of county-owned culverts in the Wildwood subdivision east of Batesville.

Reached Wednesday about Arnold’s firing and accusations, Perkins and Bean said Arnold was fired for failing to follow the "chain of command" that included Bean as Arnold’s immediate boss.

Arnold also acknowledged he was told he was fired for the same reason.

Bean said the use of the culverts was legal because they are located on the county right-of-way beside Wildwood’s county-owned roads.

The right-of-way extends 75 feet beyond the roadway, Bean said. He made his case by providing a subdivision plat as well as a legal document, an Amendment to Restrictive Covenants, which notes the 75-foot setback from the roadside.

The notarized document, dated August 2003, was signed by developers Larry Montgomery and Chase Montgomery.

Perkins said the county road department was asked by Chase Montgomery to supply the culverts to help with drainage problems.

Even if the culverts are located on private property, Perkins said, their use would be legal under state law.

"If it takes that to move the water away from the road or something like that, I’m sure it would be okay," Perkins told The Panolian.

Perkins added, however, that he depends on Bean for the legality of such issues since county supervisors in the unit system aren’t supposed to be involved in road department work "on a day to day basis."

Arnold is being represented by Sardis attorney Jimmy McClure, who said Thursday his client met with County Administrator David Chandler on Wednesday.

Reached Thursday morning, Chandler said his dual role as county personnel director means he’s the first stop in a county employee’s "grievance procedure."

"After I investigate the firing, I make a formal recommendation," Chandler said. "If I agree with the firing, the employee can then appeal to the supervisors."

McClure said he hopes for an open meeting if Arnold is not reinstated and the appeal goes to the Board of Supervisors.

Aldermen say ‘yes to truckless Square
By Jason C. Mattox

The overlay of the Downtown Square has raised concerns about potential damage caused by heavy trucks.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton told fellow board members at Tuesday’s city board meeting of complaints he has received regarding 18-wheelers driving and parking in residential areas.

"I got several calls from people in Hunter’s Trace," he said, "that have been telling me about the big trucks coming in and parking there over night.

"That is not good for the city streets," he said.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she has watched large gas trucks travel through the Downtown Square to get to Highway 51.

"They could easily go around," she said. "The fact of the matter is, they just don’t want to."

Warner McBride of McBride Engineering said his company had concerns about the truck traffic on the Square.

"We hate to see the Square get the overlay and have the big trucks mess it up," he said.

Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said one way of deterring truck traffic is closing off the "zip" lanes on the square, referring to the two lanes parallel to the railroad tracks on the Square’s north side.

"If you take them out of the equation, it would eliminate a lot of the truck traffic," he said.

Yelton asked Street Department Superintendent Teddy Austin to order signs to stop truck traffic on the Square and in neighborhoods.

"There are other ways for these big trucks to get to the highway," he said. "We don’t need them coming through downtown, and we sure don’t need them parked in subdivisions."

In other board business:
The board voted unanimously to accept a bid from Tri-Lakes Asphalt in the amount of $9,796 to repair damage on Thermos Road and at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Van Voris Street.
Bids on a new fire truck were opened and taken under advisement.
Board members accepted a bid from Tri-Star for a new air conditioning unit at the Batesville Public Library in the amount of $21,500.
Aldermen unanimously voted to allow Kim Bickerstaff and Boyce Crowell to pay their respective water bills at the amount of $100 monthly until past due amounts are paid. In separate incidents at different locations, water bills had accrued without the customers’ knowledge.
Both customers also questioned the readings, and city officials questioned current water department policy about handling buildings thought to be unoccupied.
Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell informed the board he had written a letter to potential buyers of city property near Wal-Mart informing them of the board’s decision to reject the offer of approximately $4.50 per square foot.
     "It’s my opinion that they are just trying to buy it so they can tie up the property while they try to find a prospect," Yelton said.
Rick McMahan appeared before the board asking when the city planned to find a solution to mud and water run-off coming from the Batesville Civic Center.
A water department employee was terminated following an executive session.



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