Headlines Cont. – 8/9/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – August 9, 2005

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Wounded soldier recovering at home in Pope
      Tammy and Ben McCarty are enjoying spending time together as he recovers from injuries he received in a bomb blast in Iraq in May. The miniature purple heart pinned on his sling is a temporary ornament until he receives the real thing in a future ceremony.
 
By Rita Howell

Ben McCarty of Pope celebrated his 32nd birthday May 20 in Iraq. McCarty is home now, but to hear him tell it, that birthday is one he’d just as soon forget.

A National Guardsman with the 98th Armored Cavalry’s Alpha Troop (made up mostly of Guardsmen and women from the Hernando area, though he is a member of the Batesville unit), Sgt. McCarty was manning his position as a gunner on a Humvee in an area south of the Baghdad airport that night. They’d been on the road for about five days, and were heading back to the group’s Forward Operations Base (FOB) Kalsu. His vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).

"I was on top of the truck. I even slept up there," he remembered. "I never take it (the gun) off."

He was hit in the left arm and shoulder. Dazed – and mad – at first, he noticed a burning sensation in his arm. He climbed down from the truck and collapsed. He lost two-thirds of his blood that night, he said. The upper arm bone was shattered.

His platoon sergeant and others in the unit saw that he got prompt medical attention. He was transported by a Blackhawk helicopter to the first of a series of medical facilities, and ultimately to a base in Germany.

Eleven days later, he was home in time to attend the funeral of his friend Daron Lunsford, a Panola County soldier killed in Iraq on May 23.

McCarty has had four surgeries to repair the damage to his arm, which is still in a navy cloth sling decorated with a tiny purple heart.

"I don’t have the real one yet," McCarty said.

There’ll be a presentation ceremony sometime in the future, he said.

Meanwhile, he is still on active duty, recuperating at home.

"They’ve found that the soldiers recuperate better when they’re at home and around their families," McCarty’s wife Tammy said.

He’s due for additional surgery, but between doctors’ appointments, McCarty has been going to football practice, watching his 11-year-old stepson Hunter Hynum, who plays in the North Mississippi League.

The son of Richard and Sue McCarty of Batesville, the sergeant has followed in his dad’s footsteps and served in the Marines for three years. Later he worked in factories and as an EMT on an ambulance.

The day after September 11, 2001, McCarty enlisted in the National Guard, thinking "there might be something I could do to help," he said.

With his dad at his side he attended the local VFW meeting last week. They made him a life member.
  

 
Sardis aldermen discuss relationship with Mississippi Warrant Network
By Jason C. Mattox

Continued use of the Mississippi Warrant Network for collection of past due fines is up to Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis, according to the board of aldermen.

Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye told the board there had been some distention with the company and former Police Chief Sonny Stepp about the collection of fines.

Municipal Court Clerk Emily Appleton said she believes the problem developed because the company adds a 25 percent fee to the fines.

"All I know is that we turn over our collection to these people and the police department does not want to add the 25 percent collection fee to the fines," she said.

City Attorney Tommy Shuler said the problem occurs if the city’s police department picks up one of the people on a warrant that has not been sent to the agency.

"Basically if we pick someone up, even if they had not sent a letter of collection yet, we are expected to turn over the 25 percent collection fee," he said.

Ron Cook of the Mississippi Warrant Network explained that the city has a 30-day open-ended contract with the agency to collect delinquent fines.

"The way this works is the city clerk sends a list of delinquencies to the office in Jackson," he said.

Cook said once the delinquency is reported to the network, the office takes the following steps:

1.  Issue a letter of demand for payment.
2.  Issue a notice to show cause as to why the fine
     has not been paid.
3.  Send notification of a court date.
4.  Issue a warrant for arrest on contempt of
     court charges.

"Once we reach that point, anyone can pick them up on the warrant," he said. "For the most part we get people that aren’t local and might be hard to find."

City Clerk Odessa Johnson said the city recently sent a list of 194 delinquencies to the collection agency.

Retired Chief of Police Sonny Stepp said the issue is that the city is sometimes asked to pay the collection fee before a letter could be sent.

"We would get the warrants and if we bring in a person, they still want the money," he said. "It doesn’t matter if they have sent the demand letter out or not. If they have the name, they want their cut.

"That means you are getting paid for work that isn’t even being done," Stepp added.

Cook suggested that the city not submit the names of local people who owe delinquent fines delinquencies to the agency.

In the end, the board unanimously voted to allow Police Chief Mike Davis 30 days to determine whether his department will continue using the agency.
 

In other board business:
Aldermen agreed to enter into a new 25 year lease with the Red One Rook Club for the bottom floor of the old Sardis High School building.
     "The club has put a lot of money into renovating that floor," Dye said. "If the club ever dissolves, the space will come back to the city."
City leaders agreed to let Dye and Maintenance Superintendent Billy Bright look into a matter at the Restoration Outreach Ministry Church and report back to its pastor.
Aldermen unanimously voted to terminate the employment of one employee in the street department and one employee in the Sardis Police Department.  

Sardis Farmer’s Market under scrutiny
     of board of aldermen
By Jason C. Mattox

A crowd of concerned citizens packed the board room during the monthly meeting of the Sardis Mayor and Board of Aldermen last Tuesday night – most of them there to discuss the future of the Farmer’s Market.

A decision on the fate of the facility was delayed again as it was never put to a vote.

Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye reminded the board that it had wanted to revisit the issue after having time to gather information from people in their respective wards.

"I think the people need to understand that when the Farmer’s Market was started, it was just that, a place for people to go sell produce," he said. "Now you have people out there selling new merchandise."

Dye said he understood that the Farmer’s Market offered people a chance to purchase things at a lower price.

"The problem is we sell a three-month permit for $45," he said. "And sometimes one person will come in and get a permit and three or four will sell things off of it."

Ward 1 Alderman JoJo Still said he doesn’t want to see the Farmer’s Market closed.

"I know we don’t get any sales taxes off the merchandise that is sold down there, but I really don’t want to see it closed," he said. "Sure we need to make changes, but I would hate to see it closed."

One suggestion Still offered was having a large scale sale in the Sardis Industrial Park three to four times per year.

"If we do it that way, we could make money that might be helpful to our police and fire departments," Dye mentioned.

He voiced the desire to settle the matter as quickly as possible.

Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn suggested some of the sellers might need to apply for a transient vendor license.

"It really has gotten to where that is a business for some of these people, especially those who are out there selling new merchandise," he said. "If they file for this license, it would cost them $250 plus a bond."

Scallorn suggested opening the Farmer’s Market once a month and limiting the merchandise to yard sale items and produce.

Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson proposed that the Farmer’s Market’s popularity could benefit the city.

"Who would have ever thought the Como Steakhouse would do what it has for that town," he said. "This could do the same thing for the City of Sardis."

Alton Garrison voiced concern about people who come from out of town to sell new merchandise and then take their profits out of town to spend.

"They shouldn’t be allowed to sell new merchandise, and it should be limited to the people of Panola County," Garrison said.

Business owner John White told the board he wanted to see the Farmer’s Market continue.

"I’m going to be honest. I want to see it stay in business because I make a lot of money selling these people gas and food while they are here," he said. "It’s not just me either. Think about how much it would hurt the other businesses in town if you closed it down."

White said if the city did close down the Farmer’s Market, he had spaces on his property along "back street" (behind the businesses on Main St.) to rent out to merchants.

"Plain and simple, if you close it down, you will be make Sardis a ghost town," one resident added.

Citizen Audrey Roberson said the city should be aware that if the Farmer’s Market is closed, people will simply move to Batesville, Como or any other town that will have them.

"Sure you might have people who are coming here from out of town looking for a good bargain, but using that as a reason to close it down is doing nothing but cutting the throats of the people who need the income to pay for medication or food," she said.

Following the input from the community, Dye commented that the board needed to look at ways of better organizing the sales so they can benefit everyone involved  –  including the city.

"It’s big and it is growing every week," he said. "I think this is the time for us to find a way to take advantage of it."
 


                                         
                         
 

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