Headlines Cont. – 9/9/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – September 9, 2005


Supervisors back firing of two employees
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors have upheld the termination of two road department employees during a 40-minute hearing.

The supervisors voted 4-0 Tuesday to uphold the August termination of assistant road manager David Arnold, fired over allegations of insubordination.

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Arnold had said he was fired as a "whistler blower" for alleging the county provided culverts for private property in Wildwood subdivision.

District 1 Supervisor James Birge abstained from the vote against Arnold.

The supervisors voted unanimously to uphold the firing of Norman Hughes, a receiving clerk who worked in the road department shop in Sardis.

The county supervisors are permitted by law to hold such personnel meetings in private, meaning public access to the hearing is denied. The outcome, however, is public record.

Sardis attorney Jimmy McClure represented both Arnold and Hughes in the Tuesday hearing.

Reached later in the week, Hughes said he was also fired for insubordination after communicating with the state attorney general’s office about illegal use of county funds.

"We were both fired for reporting wrongdoing and misuse of county money," Hughes said.

Hughes faulted the supervisors for allowing County Administrator David Chandler to "control the county."

Chandler recommended upholding the firings to the county supervisors after he heard appeals from both Arnold and Hughes.

Board hires marina consultant
By Jason C. Mattox

The Sardis mayor and city aldermen are ready to move forward with the next phase of the Sardis Lake Marina Project.

The aldermen unanimously voted to hire Emad Al-Turk as consultant for the project at a fee of $18,000 for six months, plus travel expenses.

Al-Turk will be responsible for recruiting the possible developer for the hotel/conference center.

"Most people come into Sardis and stay at the lake for half a day and then leave," Al-Turk said. "If you have a major developer put in a hotel, you could get people in here for three or four days at a time."

Al-Turk said having the marina opened will provide an anchor to go to the potential developers with.

"You have the marina and a close proximity to Memphis, so that will help get the interest up from several developers," he said.

Al-Turk said the city will see a greater economic impact from the hotel conference center than they did from Skipper Marina’s opening.

"You will have more people employed by a hotel and the people occupying the rooms will be spending money in the city," he said.

"The marina you have out there is first rate," he said. "And you don’t want to get anything less in a hotel developer."

Mayor, board of aldermen try to mop up water bill problems
By Jason C. Mattox

Problems with water bills prompted the City of Batesville mayor and aldermen to allow two billing adjustments and make changes to meter reader routes.

The action came at their Tuesday meeting this week.

The first adjustment allowed was a waiver of penalties to Boyce Crowell who appeared at prior meetings of the Batesville city board with billing disputes.

Crowell, who maintained his claim that he went months without receiving a water bill at his business, asked the city to remove a 10 percent penalty that had been added to his bill this month.

"You ruled on this and there was a penalty added," Crowell said of last month’s decision to allow him to pay the balance of the $800 bill off at $100 per month. "All I am asking you to do now is remove the penalty that was added."

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders made the motion, which passed unanimously, to remove the penalties from Crowell’s bill.

The second billing adjustment came when aldermen unanimously voted to lower the water bill of Steve Whitworth to $18 for the month of July.

Whitworth appeared before the mayor and board questioning why his bill for July was $55 when it had been less than $20 monthly for more than a year.

"I just can’t understand how the bill would almost triple from one month to the next," he said.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said he didn’t believe the meter was being read on a regular basis.

"I think if you go back and look at the bills, you will find that it hasn’t been read for months at a time," he said. "There is no way a man can use the exact same number of gallons from one month to the next, especially six months straight."

Yelton suggested having the gas and water superintendents spot check behind meter readers.

"We need to get on top of this," Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said. "We are losing money on the water department anyway, and we can’t afford to keep giving water away."

Following both adjustments, Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley suggested the four meter readers be rotated.

"I know it might take some people time to learn a new route, but we would know they were reading the meters," he said. "This is something we really need to do or we are going to keep having problems.

"We have been getting complaints about water bills regularly for the past 18 months, and it’s time we did something about it," Manley added.

Gas Department superintendent William Wilson, who has two of the gas and water meter readers in his department, said a previously discussed plan would have rotated the readers every six months.

"I think we changed them once while Mayor (Bobby) Baker was in office, but we didn’t after that," he said.

Manley’s motion to begin rotating meter readers every 90 days, beginning with the next reading cycle, passed with a unanimous vote.


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