Headlines – 9/6/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – September 6, 2005

  From the 9/6/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Gas prices vary day-to-day
     In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, gas prices continue to rise. The Phillips 66 on Highway 6 was one of the last stations to raise its price per gallon from $2.69 to $2.79 on Friday.
By Jason C Mattox

Prices at the gas pumps continue to rise as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.

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Several stations around Batesville continued to hold gas prices at $2.79 per gallon while some were charging $2.89.

John White of C.W. White, Inc., agreed with President Bush’s observation that a gas shortage is pending.

Representatives of other suppliers like Huron Smith Oil Company and Graves Oil were not available to comment.

"You will start seeing spot shortages in places," White said. "There are going to be some service stations running out of gas."

White said he also expects people will start seeing more stations operating fewer hours.

"With the short supply and rising costs, station owners could start operating shorter days," he said. "I know at our stations we will not be open on Sundays for a while."

White, who supplies several stations in the area and owns stations in Batesville and Sardis, said prices from his suppliers are the reason for his push at the pumps.

"I am seeing my cost from one supplier coming in at $3.27 per gallon," he said. "Factor in that it takes 10 to 20 cents more per-gallon to pay operating expenses, and you could soon see prices near $3.50 per gallon."

White said he uses three suppliers and his cost depends on which supplier delivers the fuel from one day to the next.

"As it stands right now, I am only able to get fuel deliveries between midnight and 6 a.m.," he said.

White said consumers should be prepared for rapid increases at the pumps.

"Approximately 25 percent of the nation’s gas supply was coming in off the Gulf Coast," he said. "We don’t have that supply now.

"As the cost from the suppliers we are using continues to rise, you will see prices at the pumps keep going up," he said.

As for when prices of gas might begin a slow and steady decline, White said it’s hard to predict.

"We were already in short supply due to the drought we had been going through," he said. "Then you factor in a disaster like this (Hurricane Katrina), and it’s almost impossible to say when prices will go down."

Local crews sent for disaster relief
By Emily Darby
and Billy Davis

Panola Countians are among the thousands of helpers who are working on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the description they give is one of utter devastation.

"When we arrived in Gulfport, it was total devastation," said highway patrol Sgt. Dennis Darby of Batesville.

Panola County’s Troop E of the Miss. Highway Patrol is rotating troopers in the Gulfport area of Interstate 10 and Hwy. 49.

A detachment of state troopers returned to the county last week and were scheduled to go back to the Gulf Coast by the weekend.

Miss. Highway Patrol spokesman Scott Swanson said troopers had been dispatched to the coast by the time Katrina rumbled north from the coast.

"Those troopers down there are sleeping in their cars and working 14-hour shifts," said Swanson, who is set to depart for the coast this week.

"If you’re dedicated to this job, it’s gutcheck time," Swanson said.

According to Darby, the troopers helped survivors, protected storefronts from looting, and performed search and rescue operations.

Asked about the conditions the troopers worked in, Darby said the officers slept in their cars but hesitated to give other details about their plight.

"The focus is on the victims, not on us," Darby said.

The coastal victims were so appreciative of the troopers’ work, Darby said, that when a trooper asked a victim with two dirty small children if she had Baby Wipes, the victim misunderstood the question and offered to find some Baby Wipes for the troopers.

Batesville firefighters traveled to the coast last week to perform search and rescue, returning again last Friday to work three-day shifts at fire departments along the coast.

"We’re rotating three firefighters every three days for the firefighters who are exhausted and need time to take care of family business," said Batesville firefighter Chris Olson.

Many of the firefighters in Biloxi, Gulfport, Waveland and other cities lost their homes to the hurricane, Olson said, and some are living at the fire stations with their families.

Panola County’s volunteer firefighters are awaiting their chance to travel to the coast and perform any job necessary, said Mt. Olivet Fire Chief Arthur Biggers.

"We can’t go until FEMA tells us they need us, but it’s only a matter of time before they’re tired and need some help," Biggers said. "When they call, we’re ready to go."

Like Panola County’s firefighters, Panola’s law enforcement community is helping how it can: a trailer loaded with unused uniforms, food and personal hygiene products, and other items left here over the weekend.

The destination was the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

The Batesville Police Department and the Panola County Sheriff’s department donated the items last week after hearing from other police departments farther south.

"The only clothes these men and women have is what they are wearing on their backs," said a message sent to the Batesville Police Department.

Long-term refugee shelter being considered
By Billy Davis

The former North Panola Hospital in Sardis has been deemed unsuitable for a long-term refugee shelter, but plans are moving forward to turn a doctor’s office into a suitable facility.

Sardis and Panola County officials toured the hospital at noon on Friday, backing away from the three-story hospital because of its condition but deciding to pour work into a large doctor’s office located next door.

Panola County Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins said the doctor’s office includes several showers, six bathrooms and a kitchenette among its layout of office space, waiting rooms and a front lobby.

"I would guess the square footage is about 8,000 feet," Perkins said.

Sardis Mayor Rusty Dye said a cleanup will begin today on the doctor’s office and also at the former ambulance facility located nearby.

The doctor’s office is located east of the old hospital. The ambulance service is located west of the hospital.

Those leading the effort for a semi-permanent shelter include City of Sardis officials, Perkins, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, and concerned citizens of Sardis.

Dye stressed that the purpose of the Sardis shelter would be long-term housing for hurricane refugees.
"This isn’t something that will be put together over night," Dye said. "We’re going to do this right so we can properly care for these people for a long time, maybe for a year’s time."

Dye said the doctor’s office could house 75 people while the ambulance building could house another 25 and provide space for a cafeteria. The ambulance facility also has shower facilities, the mayor said.

Asked about federal assistance, Dye said he was confident that Mississippi’s federal delegation would support the effort with funding.

"I think they’ll come through for us, and I’m told there’s no red tape because of the situation," Dye said.

The visit to the hospital comes after local leaders considered the Batesville Civic Center and the former Batesville American plant in recent days.

The civic center was considered as a possible shelter, but the facility has only two showers and no kitchen facility, said Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey.

Autrey and other officials have apparently been barraged with phone calls by citizens about the civic center, some of them all but demanding that the city use the center as a shelter.

Autrey said the demands might stem from people seeing so much despair on the coast while a large building is seemingly empty and unused in their community.

Batesville’s current Red Cross shelter has yet to be filled to capacity, however, and a newly opened shelter in Oxford has only a few refugees.

The Batesville Church of Christ is also a certified Red Cross shelter but to date hasn’t been needed.
"We took a good look at the civic center partly because people were calling and calling," Autrey said, "but it just wasn’t feasible as a shelter."

Perkins headed a delegation that looked at Batesville American, located north of Batesville on Hwy. 51.

Perkins said the facility, like the civic center, would need additional bathroom facilities and doesn’t have a kitchen.

A large facility such as the hospital or Batesville American could house Katrina refugees on a long-term basis, a requirement that is coming in the next few weeks, said County Civil Defense Director Son Hudson.

Hudson said he has heard of a planned "tent city" for the Winona area, adding that a permanent building would fare better with winter weather just months away.

More trusties qualify to work
By Billy Davis

A dozen state inmates who are certified to work outside their cells as county trusties are now performing public work in Panola County.

Interim jail administrator Clint Roberson said last week the 12 trusties include eight who were recently sent from Parchman prison to the county jail, two more inmates who arrived in recent days, and two inmates who were already certified to serve as trusties outside the jail.

Only two of 47 state inmates at the jail had been screened for the county’s work program before state investigators with the Miss. Department of Corrections and state Attorney General’s office began investigating apparent problems with the trusties.

The investigators arrived August 11 at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex. Jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright was placed on leave that same day by interim Sheriff Ida Bryan.

Roberson, a former MDOC officer, is Bright’s interim replacement.

Neither MDOC nor the Attorney General’s office have announced any findings from their investigation.

Roberson said 19 state inmates who were working as Panola trusties were sent to a Rankin County facility last week to undergo a screening process.

All state inmates in Mississippi are classified at MDOC’s Central Mississippi Correction Facility in Rankin County, said Roberson.

The screening process can take several weeks, and that process is likely delayed because of the hurricane, Roberson also said.




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