Headlines – 8/23/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – August 23, 2005

  From the 8/23/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

     Sports Editor Myra Bean watched as the first copies of The Panolian’s special football section, "Playbook 2005," came off the press late Monday for today’s newspaper. For paper catcher Rick Mills (from left), pressman James Martin and pressroom foreman Morgan Parducci, it was the beginning of a long evening – 25,500 total impressions for today’s three sections.
     Today’s newspaper is the beginning of The Panolian’s 2005-’06 Newspaper In Education program which will place newspapers in the hands of every Panola County student in grades four through seven. Details on pages B10 and B11.
County set to begin budget meets Thursday
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors will begin carving up the taxpayers’ pie when it begins meeting this week for budget sessions.

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The fiscal year for 2005-2006 begins October 1.

Panola County government is operating this fiscal year on a budget of about $12 million, said County Administrator David Chandler.

The county will begin its new fiscal year without a tax raise, Chandler also said, expecting the tax levy to remain at its current rate of 54.91.

The board of supervisors "will do everything possible to keep taxes down," predicted Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.

The first budget session is scheduled for Thursday, September 25, with additional meetings set for Friday, Monday and Tuesday, September 26, 29, and 30.

The sessions are expected to be held in the evenings, beginning with a 5:30 budget meeting on Thursday.

Panola County government employs about 150 full-time employees and about a dozen part-time employees, Chandler said.

The county’s tax pie is carved up among the sheriff’s department and jail, the road department, justice court offices, county constables, and various courthouse offices such as the circuit and chancery clerk’s offices.

The county also budgets money for Northwest Community College, the county drug task force, and First Regional Library, which operates four branches in Panola County.

Chandler said the largest percentage of taxpayers’ money goes to the road department and the sheriff’s department.

For the 2004-2005 fiscal year, Chandler said, the county budgeted about $2.6 million for the road department and $2.7 million for the sheriff’s department ($1.2 million for patrol and investigations, $1.5 million for operation of the jail).
Asked about any costly expenses in the upcoming fiscal year, Chandler said the county will pay about $500,000 to improve air conditioning at the county courthouses in Batesville and Sardis.

The county will pay for the project via a five-year note as part of a lease/purchase agreement, Chandler said. The yearly payment will be between $50,000 to $75,000, he said.

Most of the improvements will take place at the Batesville courthouse, which is in worse shape than the Sardis locale, Chandler said. Work in Batesville will likely begin in November when the weather gives in to fall temperatures.

Tri-Star Mechanical of Batesville has designed an improved ductwork system for the Batesville courthouse, and the county will put that job out for bids in September or October.

In Batesville, county courthouse employees and patrons suffered through the summer heat when an AC unit coughed and sputtered until it completely quit and had to be replaced with a new $75,000 unit.

Panola County operates with a tax levy of 54.91, a levy that has remained the same since the 2002-2003 fiscal year according to figures provided by the county administrator.

"The tax levy actually dropped from 56.78 in 2001 to 54.91 in 2002," Chandler said.

The county supervisors last raised taxes in September of 1999, he said, with a levy increase of .31.

According to Perkins, county taxes will increase some due to a tax increase by the South Panola Public School District.

The school board trustees voted to raise taxes this year, an action that is exempt from the supervisors’ veto if it remains below a four-percent increase.

"What everybody has to understand is that some taxes go up without our approval," said Perkins, who is himself a former South Panola trustee. "By law we have to give (the school districts) what they ask for."

Jury seated, trial begins in capital murder case
By Billy Davis

A Panola County circuit jury was seated at 2:55 p.m. Monday afternoon for a capital murder trial that’s expected to last the entire week.

A jury of 10 women and two men, and two female alternates, was chosen from a jury pool of 225 Panola Countians to hand down a verdict on defendant Demetrius Smith.

Opening statements from the prosecution and defense were expected to begin later in the afternoon.

Smith, 26, who is from Quitman County, is charged with murdering Carnesha Nelson, an Ole Miss student.

Nelson’s body was discovered by fishermen at Sardis Lake during the Memorial Day weekend last summer.

Nelson, 19, was from Moss Point.

The jury pool had assembled at the county courthouse in Batesville at 8:15 Monday morning. The 12 jurors and two alternates took their oath at 3 p.m.

Circuit Judge Ann Lamar , in her opening statements to the seated jurors, said the case would likely last throughout the week.

The jurors will not be sequestered, Lamar said from the bench, apparently citing a request made by Smith’s attorney, Clay Vanderburg.

Vanderburg filed a Motion to Sequester Jury on August 18, citing in part the appearance of Court TV at this week’s court proceedings.

A three-man Court TV crew is filming the murder trial this week.

In his court filing, Vanderburg writes that, if the jury members return home each day, they will "be wanting to watch the Court TV proceedings" or have family members watch the proceedings and comment on them.

The filmed trial will not be shown until the fall, however.

District Attorney John Champion is prosecuting the state’s case against Smith. He is not seeking the death penalty against Smith.

Companies showing interest in Sardis’ vacant Air Kontrol building
By Jason C. Mattox

Seven potential tenants have shown interest in the City of Sardis-owned Air Kontrol building in recent weeks, according to Mayor Alvis L. "Rusty" Dye.

The sale or lease of the 40,000-square-foot building, located on Highwy 51, would be a windfall for Sardis, Dye said.

The building was built for Air Kontrol, a manufacturer of air filters, in 2000 and the company closed its doors later the same year, leaving the city to pay back a loan from the Mississippi Development Authority.

The closure of the Sardis facility left approximately 30 people unemployed.

"I don’t know what the interest in the building was like before, but since the new administration has been in office, we have been called by several companies looking for space," Dye said.

Dye would neither confirm nor deny rumors that one interested party is Batesville Casket, presently working with the City of Batesville to lease the old Panola Mills building on Van Voris Street for warehouse space.

"I can’t really say who all has shown interest because we have so many people looking and we don’t want to hurt our chances with a potential tenant," he added.

Dye said he will meet with a seventh company about the facility this week, but wasn’t sure how much of the building they would want.

"You have a lot of companies out there looking for buildings that are 5,000 to 10,000 square feet," he said.

Dye said the city presently pays $5,700 per month, or $68,400 per year for the building.

"That amount of money eats up a good chunk of our budget," he said. "We really want to see someone come in and rent the whole thing, but the city is not going to turn away someone that might just want to rent some of the space."

Dye said one of the reasons the building is drawing interest is because it is basically brand new.

"I don’t think Air Kontrol realized they had a bankruptcy filing over their head when they built the building," he said. "They were in it for about three months when they closed down."

Since the closing, space in the building has been used as warehousing for Springs and other companies in Panola County, the mayor said.

"There has been a lot of interest in the building," he said. "I think we will all be happy to see the facility sold or leased within the the next six months."

Main Street program honors design, outstanding volunteer
     Main Street volunteer Glenda Bailey congratulates Mike Carver, CEO of Carver Enterprise, LLC and Micah Carver, president of Carver Enterprise, LLC and owners of Eureka Antiques, for earning the Oustanding Design Award for 2005. The award was given for enhancing the downtown business district in appearance and encouraging further design improvements.
By Emily Darby

Batesville’s Main Street downtown revitalization program honored members with a banquet at The Veranda on The Square last Thursday.

The Outstanding Design Award went to Eureka Antiques for enhancing the downtown business district in appearance and encouraging further design improvements.

"The Carver family gives all credit and thanks to Candy Carver, who dedicated her wonderful talents, time, research, and endless effort in making this happen," said daughter-in-law Kim Carver.

Mike Carver, owner of Eureka Antiques and several other businesses on the square, is the CEO of Carver Enterprises, LLC. His son Micah Carver is the president of the company.

Downtown business owner Maria Prather received the Volunteer of the Year award for her dedication in helping with the Batesville Main Street Program.

Prather, who also does interior design work, owns Maria Prather Designs at 141 Public Square, a shop that sells home decor.

As a member of the Main Street Board, she helped with funding and organizing the placement of the planters on The Square. She also helps organize art receptions and has helped with fund raisers for the downtown park.

Kim LaVergne was introduced as the new president of the Main Street organization.

The guest speaker for the event was Vaughn Grisham, Executive Director, McLean Institute for Community Development.

During his 35 years at The University of Mississippi as a sociology professor, Grisham has been named Outstanding Teacher and assisted in the establishment of leadership development programs in more than 300 communities in 20 states.

He emphasized that thoughtful and concerned citizens can make a difference in a community like Batesville.

Private property decision postponed for two weeks
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville’s mayor and board of aldermen at their August 16 meeting postponed a decision on whether to replace a bridge and clean out a creek on property belonging to Dr. Walter T. Hudson on Tubbs Road, allowing them more time to determine if the city’s earlier work on the creek caused Hudson’s current problems.

Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell told the board about a statute that allows the city to do work on water channels in the city limits whether they are on city-owned or private property, if the damage was caused when water channels were altered.

"Mr. Hudson wants the creek around his property cleaned out and a damaged bridge replaced so he can get farm equipment over the creek," Mitchell said.

"You basically have the power to determine if the damages to the property were caused by the city and not by natural erosion of the property," Mitchell said.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said the creek running through the Hudson property was altered when the city moved a culvert on Tubbs Road.

"I don’t know if we are responsible for it," Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said. "It’s the same amount of water, it’s just coming a different way."

Dugger said the city’s repairs to one person’s property could open up a can of worms.

"If we make repairs to one man’s property, there will be all kinds of people coming out asking us to do the same thing to theirs," he said.

"It really does look like we will have a lot more coming at us if we do this," Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said.

Mitchell suggested the board adopt a policy on how to deal with issues on personal property.

"You need to have a set way you handle things on personal property," he said.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said he remembered the board telling Hudson they would correct the problem.

"I believe we promised this man that we would remedy the situation in the past," he said.

Road Department Superintendent Teddy Austin told the board members he didn’t believe the repairs Hudson was requesting would correct the erosion problem on the property.

Dugger asked Austin to gather information and make a suggestion to the board.

"I don’t think we can make a good decision without hearing all of the information," Dugger said.

Manley’s motion to take the matter under advisement for two weeks was passed unanimously.

City will not use bond issue to balance budget
By Rupert Howell

The City of Batesville will not issue bonds to balance its 2005-2006 budget, unless a worse case scenario occurs during that budget year according to accountant Bill Crawford who advises the city on budget matters.

A front page headline and story in the August 19 issue of The Panolian stated that the budget would be balanced with a $1.9 million bond issue.

Crawford explained that the expense side of the budget often includes "wish lists" of department heads and city officials. Those wishes usually aren’t granted unless funding sources appear from grants or estimates on the income side of the balance sheet were too conservative and additional funding can be made available through traditional revenue sources.

The city’s ability to borrow is used on the income side to "balance" proposed expenditures with income.

A CPA, Crawford says he walks a fine line advising the city on budget policy and using city-provided numbers to assist them with making the budget. Crawford is with the William H. Polk, CPA firm which is also responsible for the city’s audit.

He also explained that if an item is included in the budget, it doesn’t indicate that it will be funded during that year.

"This has been done for some time. . . to get away from the potential debt issue," Crawford said and added, "The intent is not to incur additional debt."

Crawford described the city board as conservative in nature and commented that growth in the city by "leaps and bounds" had increased services weakening the city’s cash condition until sometimes down the road.

Prior to final adoption of the budget, the city will hold a public hearing on Sept 6 beginning at 6p.m. in the board room at City Hall. The budget must be adopted by September 15.

Candidates must meet Sept. 9 deadline
By Jason C. Mattox

Potential candidates for the office of Panola County Sheriff or trustee for District 3 on the South Panola School Board have less than one month to qualify for the Nov. 8 election.

According to the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office, the deadline to qualify for the special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Sheriff David Bryan is Sept. 9 at 5 p.m.

Those qualified so far include Noel Aldridge Jr., Hugh W. "Shot" Bright, Steve Chancellor, Antonio Daniels, John Hardy, John Rodgers, Craig Sheley, Kelvin Taylor, Jamie Tedford, Gary Thompson and Mark Whitten.

All candidates will appear on the November ballot with the top two vote-getters moving to a run-off election if no one candidate receives a majority.

No candidate has qualified to seek the trustee position. It is currently held by Dr. Carlock Broome of Pope.



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