Headlines Cont. – 8/12/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – August 12, 2005

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Green bond set at $1 million;
     Farese seeks to lower amount
By Billy Davis

Ashland attorney Tony Farese has filed court papers requesting a bond hearing for his client, Johnny Green.

A Sardis bail bondsman, Green, 59, is accused of shooting and killing 33-year-old Ricky Taylor II July 23.

Green’s bond was set at $1 million, and he is still incarcerated at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex.
The case was bound over to a Panola County grand jury by Justice Court Judge James Appleton, who also set Green’s $1 million bond at an August 2 preliminary hearing in Sardis.

Farese requested a $30,000 bond for his client at the preliminary hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly is pursuing the state’s case against Green.

Farese made the bond hearing request in a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which was filed August 4 at the Panola County Courthouse in Sardis.

Since Farese has filed his petition, the next step is for Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker to decide whether to hold a bond hearing, explained Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid.

"In a case like that, Mr. Kelly doesn’t respond to the petition," Reid said. "It’s up to the judge to decide."

In his court filing, Farese suggested that Green deserves a lower bond since he has no felony record, his family resides in Panola County, and he has "strong ties" to the community.

The defense attorney made similar arguments – standard in such circumstances – in the preliminary hearing.

"The Defendant maintains that his release from custody would not constitute a danger to the community nor would he pose a flight risk," the petition states.

Reached this week, Appleton said he set the bond at $1 million because of the "circumstances of the killing," namely that Green allegedly left Taylor’s home late at night and returned the next morning with an intention to kill him.

"That made me wonder that, if he’s guilty, he might do something else," Appleton said. "I’m not saying he would, but it troubled me."

Appleton said he has set bonds at $1 million in the past.
  

Tupelo judge selected to rule on contested Como Mayor’s race
By Jason C. Mattox

Judy Sumner’s challenge for the Como Mayor’s office is still ongoing, according to her attorney, Steven Pittman of Hernando.

Sumner, who received more votes than incumbent Azria Lewers according to unofficial primary results, was defeated by eight votes when the Democratic Executive Committee certified the run-off election in May.

Pittman, who filed a petition for judicial review of the primary run-off election on behalf of Sumner, said the Mississippi Supreme Court has become involved in the fight.

The state’s highest court recently appointed Circuit Court Judge Sharion R. Aycock of Tupelo to preside over the case.

In response to the petition, a motion was filed by Ellis Turnage of Cleveland who serves as attorney for the Como Democratic Executive Committee.

Turnage’s motion claims the petition filed against the committee failed to state how relief could be granted.

Sumner’s petition claims that inappropriate ballots were counted by the committee during the certification process.

"But for improper conduct of the voting procedures, Judy Sumner would have been the winner," the petition claims.

In his client’s answer to the claim, Turnage denies the allegations set forth in Sumner’s petition.

As part of Sumner’s complaint against the committee, a pair of affidavits, one by Judy Gravatt and one by Mike Sumner each claim Democratic Executive Committee chairman Arrilla Kearny stated she was not going to be counting votes all night and that the election would be certified.

During the certification process, Sumner’s petition alleges that 19 rejected ballots were opened and 12 of them counted. Lewers received all 12 votes making him the winner by a count of 310 to 302.

"The primary election is being contested on the grounds of fraud, bribery and that inappropriate ballots were counted," Pittman stated in a letter addressed to Kearney in early June.

Pittman said he is working with Judge Aycock to secure a court date.

"I do believe the case will be heard in Panola County as all of the witnesses are there," he said.

Sponsors step forward to fund NIE program
By John Howell Sr.

The Panolian’s Newspaper In Education program gained momentum this week with two new sponsors. Revitalized for the 2005-2006 school year, the program will deliver newspapers to every fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders in North Delta, North Panola, and South Panola schools plus the South Panola Alternative School and the Batesville Boys and Girls.

"Sponsors have been encouraging to us when they hear how we plan to expand the NIE program this year, Panolian publisher John Howell said.

Over 2,200 newspapers will be delivered to schools each Tuesday. The newspapers will feature a "Panola Kids" page developed by Clarksdale Press-Register NIE Coordinator Flo Larson in conjunction with Millsaps College’s Education Department.

The Panola Kids page will offer reading problems and exercises in drawing conclusion similar to those required for passing the Mississippi Curriculum Test and the standardized tests administered in private schools, Larson said.

In addition, an anti-littering message will be targeted at school-age children in an attempt to educate youngsters about the unsightly litter problems in Panola County.

"We’re not having much luck with their parents, so we thought we’d better start with the kids," Howell said.

Charlie Baglan and Associates and Raymond Belk’s H and R Block said yes to NIE sponsorship this week.

They join the Smith, Mitchell, Phillips and Scott law firm, Covenant Bank, Tri-Star Mechanical Contractors and Dunlap and Kyle Company as NIE sponsors.

A minimum of ten sponsors is needed to cover the cost of printing and distributing the 2,200 extra Tuesday newspapers required for full implementation of the program.

"We’ve got six sponsors who have said ‘yes’ and about six more who have said ‘most probably," Howell said. "This is really encouraging."

The newspaper distribution is expected to begin Tuesday, September 23.
 

City chops $500,000 from budget
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen cut nearly $500,000 from the city’s proposed 2005 budget during a three hour work session Thursday.
The city still needs to cut $2 million to balance the $20 million budget.

Following lengthy discussions, a large change to the budget came from the Batesville Fire Department.

As has been the case in years past, a sticking point for the BFD budget has been new sleeping quarters and office space for full-time firefighters.

According to accountant Bill Crawford, whose figures the city is using during the budget process, the original request for the new construction was $400,000. The BFD was also asking for $300,000 to purchase a new pumper truck.

Crawford pointed out that Fire Chief Tim Taylor intended to use $282,000 in on-hand funds to help pay for the sleeping quarters.

Two-hundred sixty thousand of the money is fire rebate money the city has secured in certificates of deposit.

"We have cut these sleeping quarters in the past, and I think we might have to do it again," Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said.

Yelton suggested cutting out the sleeping quarters and using the on-hand funds to help pay for the purchase of the new pumper truck.

As for the sleeping areas, Yelton questioned why station one, behind City Hall on College Street, could not be converted.

"It seems like it would cost us a lot less than $400,000 to make that into a sleeping and meeting place," he said. "All they seem to use it for is a lounge to watch TV in after a fire.

"If we use the $282,000 in funds, it would really help us get our budget close," Yelton added.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger suggested allowing the chief to use the $282,000 to build the facility he wants.

"I would think he could build a really nice place for $282,000," he said. "I don’t think there is a need for us to spend the extra money."

Dugger suggested the city go with Taylor’s original plan of financing the purchase price of the pumper truck.

After further discussion, city leaders decided to allow the BFD budget $250,000 for the construction of the sleeping quarters and financing the pumper trucks.

"That way it will leave him a cushion of money and he would be able to go ahead and get started," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said. "I just feel like we have put it off long enough and at least he (Chief Taylor) will be able to do something."

Crawford explained the fire rebate money had not been figured into the budget figures.

"You cut the $400,000 in the original figures by $150,000," he said. "Then we have the $250,000 that wasn’t figured into the budget, so you actually cut $400,000 off your budget right there."

A small cut of $10,000 was made to the budget of the Batesville Main Street Program, the arm of the Panola Partnership that promotes downtown revitalization. That means the city’s overall contribution to the partnership and Main Street will be $60,000. That figure also includes $20,000 for SpringFest.

A $40,000 cut came from the budget of the street department when the city lowered the number of new dump trucks from two to one.

"If it is going to reduce our budget by $40,000 to go to one dump truck rather than two, I think they will have to make do with one for the time being," Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said. "If we find money later, we might can purchase another one."
Other accounts and department budgets went virtually unchanged. When the city board meets again next Tuesday at 10 a.m. for further discussion on the budget, Crawford said he might offer suggestions to help the city resolve the financial pinch.

"I think we made good progress here," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but I think we can get that worked out next week."

 

                                         
                         
 

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