| At age 81, Mrs. Margaret Oliver has found that her motorized scooter with a wagon for a trailer has opened up new dimensions for her life. She uses the vehicle for transportation to the doctor, the bank, the grocery store and to church and wants other elderly people to know they "don’t have to give up," she said.
| Main Street Program to take $10,000 cut
|By Jason C. Mattox
While the City of Batesville’s 2005 operating budget has yet to be adopted, it is known that the Batesville Main Street program will receive quite a financial cut although SpringFest will continue.
The cut of $10,000 to a previous budget of $20,000 came after much discussion amongst Mayor Jerry Autrey and the Board of Aldermen
The city must adopt its operating budget no later than Sept. 15.
Shaving off half of the downtown revitalization organization’s budget might have kept SpringFest off the chopping block for another year.
"Well, I think we should pull the $20,000 we give to SpringFest," Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said. "We aren’t supposed to be supporting it anyway."
Yelton told fellow aldermen that when the downtown festival was started, the city was to support it for two years after which time it would operate off profits it generated.
"The way I see it, SpringFest isn’t making enough money to support itself," he said. "They keep bringing in people that cost more money and we have to keep paying for it.
"I have been against the SpringFest since it started, and that is not going to change this year," he said.
Yelton questioned whether the festival had a positive impact on business owners downtown.
Aldermen-at-Large Teddy Morrow, who operates Stubbs, said his business experienced an increase in customer traffic.
"In the years past, we haven’t had a lot of people walk in," he said. "But since they moved it to the other side of The Square, we had a lot of people coming in.
"They weren’t just interested in our store either," Morrow said. "We had people asking why Jeanette’s was closed and why the flower shop was closed."
It was at this point that Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders suggested making a cut to the Main Street program.
"I think we need to fully fund SpringFest if possible," she said. "I would rather see us cut $10,000 from Main Street."
Following a brief discussion, board members agreed to Pounders’ suggestion.
The board of aldermen is expected to meet again Tuesday morning to further discuss the 2005-06 budget.
| C. J. Williams was civil rights pioneer
|Panola County civil rights pioneer Cleveland J. Williams died Friday at the home of his daughter in North Carolina.
Williams was active in the struggle for voting rights for African Americans for most of his life. In 1964, he was among Panola residents who hosted out-of-town Council of Federation Organization (COFO) volunteers who had arrived in Panola County as part of
the statewide Mississippi Freedom Summer.
Voter registration efforts during that summer led
to the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which challenged the credentials of Mississippi’s regular delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Williams, along with Mrs. Alta Lloyd of Sardis, Robert Miles and Rev. W. G. Middleton attended as delegates from north, central and south Panola County.
Later, in 1966, Williams was among the first blacks since Reconstruction to qualify to run for elective office in Panola County.
Williams, 95, a member of West Camp M.B. Church, was a graduate of Piney Woods School. Complete obituary information will be published in Friday’s edition.
| Drug Task Force receives noted increase from City of Batesville
|By Jason C. Mattox
The City of Batesville agreed last week to budget $70,000 to help fund the Panola County Drug Task Force.
During a budget work session on Thursday, Chief Deputy Craig Sheley met with the mayor and board of aldermen, requesting $76,000 on behalf of the task force.
The city’s funding is one-half of the monies requested by the Panola County Sheriff’s Department for the task force’s 2005-2006 budget. The second half, if granted, will come from the Panola County Board of Supervisors in coming weeks.
Sheley first addressed rumors of under-performance by members of the task force, reports that surfaced when aldermen Bobbie Jean Pounders and James Yelton made them public in an August 5 budget meeting.
"The rumors that the task force is not doing its job are completely false," he said. "On next week’s circuit court docket for Batesville alone, 67 percent of the cases are drug-related. Fifty-five percent of the next week’s (docket) are drug-related."
Sheley said the task force’s four agents and its commander have all worked on the drug cases that are headed to court.
"So the first thing I want you to know is that your task force is working and working hard," Sheley told the city leaders.
The requested 2005-2006 budget for the task force is $318,337, Sheley told the city officials. Of that amount, he said, $165,152 is expected to be funded by grants, which leaves $153,185 to be split between the city and county budgets for the fiscal year.
Despite his earlier criticism of the task force, Yelton made a motion to put $70,000 into the budget for the task force. The motion passed 5-0.
The city had originally budgeted $40,000 to cover the salary and benefits package for a Batesville undercover officer, but the aldermen removed that money to make the contribution to the task force.
"Take out the money for the undercover man and give them $70,000," Yelton said. "I assure you they will be happy with that."
Despite his motion later to budget the $70,000, Yelton first pressed Sheley about the sheriff’s department request for a 250-percent increase.
"I want to know why we are being asked for this much when we have always contributed $30,000," he asked.
Sheley explained that in the past, the late Sheriff David Bryan had made up the funding difference with seized drug funds rather than asking for the extra money.
"That money was pretty much depleted with the purchase of five new cars for the department last year," the chief deputy told Yelton.
Sheley added that more task force work is done in the City of Batesville and the outer areas of the city than is done in the county.
Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow also questioned the increased request, noting the size of the county’s tax base compared to that of the city.
"That just seems like a large budget for an agency with five or six total employees," Yelton added. "That’s over $60,000 a person."
Sheley explained that the task force is evaluated on a monthly basis by a two-person board that includes the sheriff and the Batesville police chief.
Yelton asked Sheley why task force commander Jason Chrestman was not present to make the budget request to the mayor and board.
"I can have him here if you want him to be," Sheley said, "but I am here because, ultimately, the sheriff is responsible for this program."
Yelton said the city might not have to pay all of the budget money because the newly elected sheriff might not want to continue to operate the task force.
"The new sheriff might not even want the task force," Yelton said. "If that’s the case, we will still have enough to hire an additional officer for drug work."
| Jail investigation under way, administrator on leave
|By Billy Davis
and John Howell Sr.
Panola County jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright remains on administrative leave while state officials investigate the management of state inmates in the facility.
Bright was placed on paid leave last Thursday by interim Sheriff Ida Bryan when investigators from the state Attorney General’s office and the Miss. Department of Corrections arrived at the jail.
Deputy Sheriff Clint Roberson has been named interim jail administrator "until the outcome of their reports," Bryan stated in a memo distributed to sheriff’s department employees.
"Undersheriff James Rudd will assist him (Roberson) with any problems that may arise," the sheriff’s memo continued.
An MDOC spokesman confirmed an investigation is under way by the agency while a spokesman for the attorney general’s office would not confirm nor deny any investigation.
At least part of the investigation involves state inmates who have been under Bright’s supervision, including state inmates who apparently have not been certified or classified as trusties.
Bryan confirmed that scope of the investigation in a Monday morning interview with The Panolian.
"They are confined now until they are classified," Bryan said of the state inmates. "They have to be classified before they can go out (of the jail facility)," she said.
"We are working to make sure we’re in compliance with state regulations," Bryan also said.
Forty seven of the 100 inmates housed in the jail as of Monday morning were state inmates, the interim sheriff said.
Bright contacted The Panolian Monday afternoon, acknowledging that so far the state inmates’ classification as trusties is the purpose of the state investigation.
The state inmates held at the jail are already certified to be trusties but haven’t been certified for the county’s work program, Bright said.
During a 10-minute interview, the jail administrator also said the purpose of the investigation came out during interviews with investigators, adding that he has no knowledge that the alleged improper use of inmate labor – the reported purpose of the investigation – is being looked at.
"I want to tell the people of Panola County that I have not been arrested and neither has anybody from the sheriff’s department," Bright said.
The jail administrator added, "The whole (sheriff’s) department is under investigation, not just Shot Bright."
Bright told The Panolian Friday morning the investigators arrived Thursday afternoon and took over his office as part of an investigation.
The investigation continued Friday morning when a pair of MDOC investigators interviewed Bright at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville for about an hour.
An investigator who said he was with the attorney general’s office later joined the other two investigators.
Bright emerged with a smile from his interview, which was held in the courthouse jury room, and hugged his wife Mary Nell, who had come to the courthouse in support of her husband.
"We were just talking," Bright said of his interview with investigators.
Immediately after the interview with Bright, the three investigators met with County Administrator David Chandler in his courthouse office.
Reached after that meeting, Chandler said he had asked the investigators to meet with him about the need for trusties to continue working on the county’s garbage trucks.
On Monday morning, Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins said the county’s Solid Waste trucks were running their routes with manpower from the road department, not trusty labor from the county jail.
"We’re hoping we’ll get some help when eight (state) inmates from across the state, who are all certified, come here to help," Perkins said.
Inmates have regularly worked on the county’s garbage trucks, Bryan said, and have worked in and around publicly-owned buildings such as city, county and school-owned facilities.
The trusties recently built a dog pound for the City of Batesville and helped maintain and replace E-911 signs on county roads, the sheriff said.
Bright has served as the jail administrator for 10 years. He also operates the Panola Country Club.
Bright is also campaigning for county sheriff, one of 11 candidates – and three sheriff’s department employees – to jump into the race after the death of longtime Sheriff David Bryan earlier this spring.
The special election is November 8.
Despite the investigation, Bright said Monday afternoon that he is still running for Panola County sheriff.
| Soldier serves with ‘family’ from home
Working with Southerners ‘makes a difference’
|By Rita Howell
Capt. Lonnie Moore of Crowder is serving his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East. Home from Iraq last week on a two-week leave, Moore observed that this time, it’s different. This time, he’s serving with "family," members of the National Guard from home.
An intelligence officer in the regular army for 11 years, he was in the world’s hot spot before it became quite so hot. He’s been stationed in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and now Iraq. When his army service ended in October, 2003, he immediately enlisted in the National Guard. By Mother’s Day, 2004, the Batesville unit had received word it was headed for Iraq, and by last August Moore was at Camp Shelby with the unit, in training, awaiting a January 3 departure.
He is stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Duke, near Najah, with the 155th Brigade. His work involves evaluating threats and helping train Iraqi army and police forces. Currently he teaches a class of 65 men twice a week.
Moore cites progress being made: the Iraqis he’s helped train have recently broken up a forgery ring. They’ve also apprehended kidnappers who had a lucrative business holding victims for ransom.
The situation there is not as bad as the national media usually report, he said. His opinion is that those who oppose a new Iraqi government are losing their battle.
"That boat’s already sailed," he said.
"There are bad things happening, people getting hurt and people dying, but there are also positive things."
The brigade sends out medics regularly to treat the local children, he said.
And in the process of helping rebuild Iraq, National Guard troops are an asset, Moore noted.
"They bring so many civilian skills," he said. "If we need an electrician or a mechanic, they’re there. Our cops have played a huge role in training Iraqi police."
Working around Southerners, he said, makes a difference.
"They are more loyal and more stubborn," he said. "They work harder because they know if they fail, it’ll follow them home. We’re all like family."
Moore, 33, graduated from South Panola High School in 1990.
He and his wife Libby have three children, daughter Casey, 3 1/2, and twin sons Gabriel and Ethan,
The son of Sandra Moore of Crowder and Phil Moore of the Philippines, he is the grandson of James Roy Waller of Crowder.
Plans are now for the local guard unit to be home in January.