Headlines – 8/9/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – August 9, 2005

  From the 8/9/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

No fatalities, lucky escapes reported in multiple wrecks
By John Howell

A rash of accidents on Panola roadways kept law enforcement and emergency personnel running and helicopters flying Monday.

In related accidents on Interstate 55 about one mile south of its intersection with Highway 6, State Trooper Hughey McDaniels escaped injury when his patrol car was "pancaked" between an 18-wheeler and Batesville Fire Department’s Engine Nine.

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McDaniel, fire fighters and ambulance personnel had responded to the site in response to an earlier accident. "I don’t think there was much to it; the fire department responded because of gas fumes," MHP spokesman Sergeant Scott Swanson said.

McDaniels had positioned his car in the right traffic lane to direct traffic away from other emergency vehicles, Batesville Fire Department Captain Banks Brasell said. McDaniels had left his car and was completing paperwork in front of the fire truck when the car was struck by the 18-wheeler, Brasell said.

"We were getting ready to leave; that’s when we heard the brakes," Brasell said.

The driver of the 18-wheeler was unable to stop his vehicle and crashed into the back of McDaniels’ car, forcing it into the parked fire truck, Brasell continued.

"If he had been in this one, it would have been tragic," Swanson said.

Several fire fighters on the scene received minor injuries from flying debris. Two firemen, Travis Inman and Jason Turner, were taken to Tri-Lakes Medical Center for x-rays.

"Jason Turner had those heavy fire boots on; it ripped a hole about two inches wide in the side of the boot," Brasell said.

A second truck right behind the first missed colliding with the emergency vehicles "by about two inches," Brasell added.

"You’ve just got to watch," the veteran fire fighter said, referring to reducing speed when approaching roadside emergencies.

Additional information about the people involved in the initial accident and the driver of the 18-wheeler was not available at press time.

Victim airlifted in Como wreck
At almost the same time, a southbound van lost control on Interstate 55 at the Como intersection and left the roadway, pinning its driver inside.

A witness said that the van left the roadway between the southbound exit ramp and the bridge over Highway 310 and stopped after flipping on the driver’s side.

Fire fighters from Como and Sardis were able to free the victim, who was then transported to Memphis via the HospitalWing helicopter summoned by the emergency officials.

The identity of the victim was unavailable at press time. The van bore a DeSoto county tag, the witness said.

Perry injured Monday

The accidents on the interstate were not the first calls for the Batesville Fire Department on Monday.
"We started at 5 o’clock this morning," fire fighter Brasell said.

Mike Perry was driving his pickup, pulling a boat east on Highway 6 when he struck the trailer of a log truck about 10 miles west of Batesville.

Apparently, the trailer had become detached from the truck when the accident occurred in the pre-dawn darkness.

"He’s lucky to be alive," Brasell said. The victim was airlifted to the Med in Memphis. At press time, he was undergoing surgery for a badly broken right leg.

"He went into surgery with a smile on his face," Perry’s wife, Kay, said.

The five to seven-hour surgery is expected to repair a femur broken in two places, a crushed kneecap and crushed ankle, she said.

"The first thing he wanted to know about was his boat," Kay Perry said.

"After that, he asked what about his restaurant," she added, referring to Perry’s Restaurant which the couple owns at Highway 6 and Eureka Street in Batesville.

"I told him his employees are taking care of the restaurant," Kay Perry said.

Supervisors vote down ‘party barn’
     appeal 4-1
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors has upheld the recommendation of its land development commission, denying a permit for commercial activity at the so-called "party barn" on Eureka Road.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to back the volunteer commission, which voted unanimously in June to refuse Anthony McCoy’s request that he rent his red barn for birthday parties and other activities.

The red barn is located in an agricultural zone. McCoy needs a special exception to operate a business.

Acting on behalf of the land development commission, Panola County permit clerk Diane Stewart asked McCoy in April to close down his facility and apply for a permit.

In his appearance before the commission, McCoy referred to the party barn as a "community center," where he wants to hold wedding receptions, birthday parties and benefit events.

At the supervisors "second Monday" meeting, supervisors James Birge, Mack Benson, Jerry Perkins and Bubba Waldrup, who made the motion, voted to stand by the commission’s finding.

The second came from Benson.

Supervisor Robert Avant voted against the motion without comment.

Immediately after the 4-1 vote, McCoy told supervisors that he had wanted to have family events at the barn all along and never intended to operate a commercial business.

"Then why did you go to the commission to start with?" Perkins asked.

"Because I wanted to have the capability of having commercial activities," McCoy said.

In other county business: 
Supervisors voted 5-0 to stand behind a tax assessment on a mobile home lot owned by Traci Stevens.
     Stevens, who was making her second appearance in two weeks, had sought to reduce the county tax assessment from $2,000 to $1,000 and see assessor Bill Bryant punished for treating her rudely during a hearing.
     Perkins noted that the property has been appraised at $2,000 since 1997.
     Batesville Realtor Ronnie Coleman, who has appraised Stevens’ property at $1,000, explained to the supervisors that he appraised the property as vacant while the county appraised it as "in use."
     "We’re looking at two different scopes of work," Coleman said.
     Bryant, who appeared at the meeting, said the mobile home has water and a septic tank, is located on a paved road, and is actually appraised lower than similar lots nearby that have sold for $2,500 and $3,000.
     Stevens informed supervisors that she had contacted the state tax commission and state attorney general’s office regarding the county’s action.
     After that veiled warning, the supervisors immediately voted to stand behind Bryant’s assessment.
     "You can call them if you want to," Perkins quiety told Stevens after the vote.
Community leaders from Enid Shores made their second appearance in recent months to find out where they stand with turning the private roads into county property.
     Board attorney Bill McKenzie advised the group to take the matter to chancery court, where they can file suit to change the subdivision plat.
     The matter will likely end up in court anyway since some residents oppose handing the roads to the county, McKenzie added.
     Enid Shores spokesman Gwen Jackson asked Perkins if the county would accept the roads if the community goes through the proper channels to hand the roads to the county.
     The county will have to look closely at the roads, Perkins replied.
County road manager Lygunnah Bean said the same low-water area in the Wildwood subdivision that caused a recent dust-up over the use of county culverts is causing problems with a section of road there.
     Due to the "slough," the road is crumbling beneath the weight of construction vehicles and because of the wet soil, said Bean.
     The county is filling the bad spot with rocks until it can be repaired in the future when fewer heavy vehicles are traveling through, the county road manager explained.
     Bean also advised supervisors that he is putting together an "asphalt plan" for some county roads. 
Perkins advised the board of supervisors that he has had little luck with plans to continue the county’s beaver control program.
     The program, which helps prevent flooding on public and private lands, is being eliminated in the state.
     The county could possibly enter into a three-county agreement at a cost of $20,000 a year, Perkins advised his colleagues, but the deal is uncertain.
     "I went to a meeting with the USDA in Stoneville which I thought was a meeting to save the program, which we now know can’t be done," Perkins said. "The meeting was about not letting this happen again, not to save the program."
Panola County engineer Larry Britt announced to supervisors that he has opened a Panola County office.
     The office is located next to the old Eureka theatre in downtown Batesville.
     "We’re getting computer wiring put in today," Britt said.
     Britt and his Oxford-based engineering firm beat out several competitors to win the bid to be Panola County engineer.
Grant writer Dr. James Smith announced to supervisors that he is requesting $144,400 from the state for handicap accessible improvements to the county’s voting precincts.
     The improvements are required as part of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
     The bulk of the funds, $90,000, is requested from supervisors Robert Avant and James Birge for construction of new voting precincts in Districts 1 and 2.
     The monies will help with signage and parking and other improvements in 17 of the county’s 27 precincts, Smith told supervisors.
Fudgetown resident Robert Govan complained of foot-dragging by the county over improvements to Fudgetown Road and the paving of nearby Hudson Road.
     "The supervisors only care about rich people and their needs, and don’t watch after poor people," Govan said.
     "I checked on all of the roads you supervisors live on, and you all live on paved roads, not on gravel roads" Govan told the board.
     "I live on a gravel road," replied Perkins matter-of-factly.
     Apparently caught off guard by the comment, Govan said that Perkins was the exception.
     Fudgetown Road is in good shape and Hudson Road is in line for paving, said Bean, who blamed the publishing of the county’s summer road paving plans in the newspaper for "lots of phone calls" from complaining residents.
County Administrator David Chandler requested the hiring of a clerk for his office at $1,330 a month.
     The supervisors voted unanimously for the request, which is a replacement for an earlier hire.
Monster Melon
     Tommy Latham (left) and Barry Vaughn lift what turned out to be the second largest watermelon at the Water Valley Watermelon Carnival contest on Saturday. This melon weighed 168.7 pounds and was grown by Barry and Gene Vaughn. The winning melon, weighing 183.9 pounds, was grown by Jerry and Laura Vaughn. The top melons were both grown in Yalobusha County.
     The mammoth melons were auctioned off following the contest and brought $215 which was contributed to the Joe Elliott Scholarship Fund.
     Despite sweltering heat, the crowds flocked to Water Valley for the annual event which includes music, arts and crafts, and free slices of watermelon.
County turns down interim funds
Attorneys: plan leaves questions
By Billy Davis

Interim Panola Partnership CEO Leonard Morris is still seeking funds to land an industrial prospect after hopes for emergency funding from the City of Batesville and Panola County seem unlikely.

Board of Supervisors attorney Bill McKenzie told Morris Monday morning that the county wasn’t legally able to fund interim financing to help lure the industry to the county.

A total of $2.3 million is needed to purchase the former MOOG building in Batesville’s industrial park, Morris told supervisors.

"The key to this deal is to put that building in the public’s name," Morris said, explaining that a deal to secure permanent funding would take 60 to 90 days to finalize.

The unnamed industry has said it will employ 80 people if it opens for business here and add about 40 more jobs within three years, Morris has said in recent days.

In a Friday city board meeting last week, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey and city aldermen told Morris they would give $1.5 million in interim financing if the process was legal.

Morris said the assistant city attorney contacted him Monday morning to say the city could not legally provide the interim financing.

"The clock is ticking. We’re competing with a community in Tennessee," Morris told the county supervisors.

Circuit trial for Pearson uncertain
By Billy Davis

The circuit trial of indicted Batesville man John "Cody" Pearson has been continued until November while the defendant recovers from physical and mental illness.

Pearson, 47, was handed a 10-count indictment earlier this year that charged him with sexual battery on several teenage boys.

Pearson could receive life in prison or 30 years in prison per count if the victims were under 14, said District Attorney John Champion.

The victims were 15 years old, the indictment reads, though at least one victim stated in a police interview that he was younger than 14 when he first had sexual relations with Pearson.

Pearson is represented by Oxford attorney Ronald Lewis.

The defendant was first represented by public defender David Walker, who withdrew from the case in April.

According to a Motion of Continuance filed by Lewis, Pearson was treated in recent months for sepsis, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream, at hospitals in Oxford and Tupelo. He was on life support at one time.

Pearson contracted the disease while in custody at the Panola County Detention Center, court papers allege.

Court papers also state that Pearson suffers from "severe mental illness."

Family members tried to care for Pearson once he was released from the hospital, court records state, but he was eventually placed in the care of an Indianapolis psychiatrist.

Lewis, the Oxford attorney, said his client is "very ill, both physically and mentally," adding that "it’s not at all clear" whether Pearson will be able to stand trial in November.

Asked about a possible continuance past November, Champion said that decision is the judge’s discretion.

"Whether it goes or doesn’t go is up to the judge," Champion said. "I say let the chips fall where they may."

Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly agreed with the continuance filed by Lewis but said in his court filing that he disagrees with Lewis’s remarks related to Pearson’s sickness and psychological treatment.

Circuit Judge Ann Lamar signed an order on July 30 to reschedule the trial date for November 7.

City budget cuts may include drug task force
By Rupert Howell

The projected budget with almost $20 million in expenditures and only $15.6 million in receipts was presented and discussed at last Friday’s meeting of the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Raising the minimum fee for city water, discontinuing payments to the North Mississippi Drug Task Force, and allowance for an increase in taxable property were solutions mentioned to help close the gap between proposed income and expenses.

Veteran Aldermen James Yelton, Bobbie Jean Pounders and Bill Dugger each voiced their opinion concerning the task force that receives partial funding from Panola County and the City of Batesville.

"The county said they’re not going to pay it," Pounders said and added, "We’re really not getting a lot out of the task force anymore."

Yelton, who also serves as vice-mayor said, "We’re getting word they’re kind of sitting on their fannies anyway."

Dugger suggested waiting to see what the county sheriff wanted to do after the November special election when a new sheriff will be elected.

Batesville Police Chief Gerald Legge said that an undercover agent would be needed if the city did not participate. The city currently has one officer whose work is connected with the task force.

The city presently pays $30,000 per year and according to city officials, the Task Force needs $71,000 for the coming fiscal year from both city and Panola County.

Another solution to the gap between revenue and expenses that was offered by Yelton was increasing the minimum charge on water service by six percent which would increase funds received by that department by approximately $77,166.

An additional mill added to the tax levy would bring in an additional $68,000 according to CPA Bill Crawford from whose figures the board was working.

He explained that currently the levy was set at 21.89 mills, and to bring in the same amount of revenue, millage should be set at 20.91 mills, representing an increase in taxable property.

He further explained that general fund ad valorem taxes can only increase a maximum of 10 percent of the dollar value legally collected during the prior year.

Court motion hopes to ditch challenges
By Jason C. Mattox

Attorney Ellis Turnage of Cleveland filed motions to dismiss petitions challenging the outcome of the Como general election in Panola County Circuit Court July 29.

Turnage is representing the Como Municipal Election Commission.

Mayoral candidate Judy Sumner, Alderman-at-Large candidate Forster Ruhl and Ward 3 candidate Josephine Cleveland filed separate petitions for judicial review of the election June 29. The answer to the petition was filed by Turnage.

Both Sumner and alderman-at-large candidate Ruhl lost by eight votes each. Sumner lost to incumbent Azria Lewers in the May 17 Democratic run-off. Ruhl, an independent, lost in the June 7 general election to Democrat John Walton.

Cleveland had nine votes less than Ruby Johnson-Higgenbottom before the election was certified. That number climbed to 17 following the certification.

The motions to dismiss the petitions each claim the Town of Como’s Democratic Executive Committee is improperly named as a defendant and is not a proper party to the civil action.

"The executive committee has no beneficial interest in the outcome of the election," the answer states. "The only proper defendant in an election is the successful party in the election."

Turnage’s motion also claims that the complaint fails to state grounds upon which relief may be granted.





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