Headlines Cont. – 9/23/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 23, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – September 23, 2005


Silent victim puts investigation on hold
By Jason C. Mattox

Despite having what he calls solid leads, Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis has been unable to make arrests in a drive-by shooting that took place August 26.

Davis informed The Panolian Monday morning that attempts to reach the victim have been unsuccessful since the incident took place.

The victim, a juvenile, was shot in the leg at the intersection of Dewberry Street and Highway 51 during the late hours of the evening with a semi-automatic weapon, the chief said.

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"I have tried to call the victim and his family every day for weeks since the shooting," he said. "They have not been returning calls."

Davis said it is the lack of cooperation on the part of the victim and his family members that has hindered the investigation.

"I know what the suspects were driving that night, and we have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but without cooperation from the victim, the department’s hands are tied," he said.

Water bill problems continue plaguing Batesville leaders
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville’s mayor and aldermen at their Tuesday meeting continued to deal with water bill complaints.

Norman Cody told city officials that his residential bill had been between $18 and $20 per month until last month, when it rose to $44, and this month, when it rose to $99.

Aldermen questioned Cody about the possibility of a water leak. He told the mayor and aldermen that city workers came to his home to check the accuracy of their meter reading.

"First thing he did was take his finger and move away the mud," Cody said.

Cody is the latest among several city residents who have complained about sudden spikes in water usage. Aldermen have expressed suspicion that meters are not being read monthly.

"They’re just estimating," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.

"I’m going to make the motion that we adjust it back to a three month average," Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said.

"The last couple of months we’ve been on them to read the meters," Mayor Jerry Autrey said.

Citizen protests North Panola budget
By John Howell Sr.

"I came to the budget meeting and all I could get was an agenda," Julius Harris said, complaining to school board members at the Monday, September 19 meeting of the North Panola School District Board of Trustees.

Harris, who retired in 2000 after teaching school for 32 years, said that he was told that to get a copy of the budget, he would have to pay $1 a page and that he would have to pay the same amount for a copy of the minutes of the school board’s meetings.

Harris spoke during the latter part of the board meeting reserved for public comment. Comments are limited to three minutes and people making comments must have placed their names on the meeting’s agenda in advance.

The retired school teacher held up the pages and copies of his cancelled checks he had accrued in his quest for information. He also said that even when he obtained the copies of budget pages, he had to go back to purchase additional pages containing the codes to identify expenditures from various funds.

Harris requested that the copies of the minutes and budget be placed in local libraries and made available online for public review. The North Panola School District’s budget meeting was held June 30.

Mobile home damaged in a.m. fire
By Billy Davis

Heavy smoke from a house fire damaged the mobile home of Clarence Hawkins Wednesday morning, but the 61-year-old managed to escape the blaze without injury.

Hawkins said he was in his kitchen about to cook breakfast when he noticed smoke thickening around him.

His home is located at 655 Hartzell Road, about 10 miles southwest of Batesville near the Tocowa area.

"There was smoke everywhere so I got out of there," the homeowner said, watching from a safe distance as firefighters beat back the smoke.

The first firefighters arrived at the scene at 9:46 a.m. to find thick smoke rolling out of the windows and doors of the home.

A Batesville police dispatcher alerted firefighters that someone could be trapped in the home, but firefighters learned that Hawkins was safe when they arrived at the single-wide trailer.

The firefighters would have used a thermal imaging camera to search for Hawkins in the home, said Batesville firefighter Daniel Cole.

The homeowner said he had insurance on the home.

"That’s one thing I believe in – insurance," Hawkins said.

Board approves raise for police chief, others
By John Howell, Sr.

City officials in Batesville entered executive session to adjust salaries for six administrative employees during their Tuesday, September 20 meeting.
Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said that the city clerk’s salary was raised $500 monthly.

The amount reflects the increased duties for newly-appointed City Clerk Laura Herron, he said.

Two clerical employees in city departments were raised $200 monthly. Of the amount, $100 per month is routinely added upon completion of certification.

The other half was in compensation for increased responsibilities, Mitchell said.

In the police department, aldermen voted to raise the salaries of Chief Gerald Legge, Deputy Chief Tony Jones and Major Don Province by $200 monthly.

Totals provided by the city clerks office and the longevity accumulation indicate that the police chief’s pay is $5,128.94 monthly with 24 years, the deputy chief’s pay is $4,568.37 with 28 years, and the major’s pay is $4,263.58 with 19 years.

The city clerk’s monthly pay is $3,802.96 with 22 years.

Purchase of new computer equipment deferred
By John Howell Sr.

North Panola school trustees on Monday night deferred the purchase of $446,000 worth of computers and software for the district’s seven schools.

The district school board will meet again Monday, September 26 to reconsider the purchase, district superintendent Robert Massey said.

School administrators and curriculum coordinators and consultants had lobbied heavily for the purchase during the early minutes of the September 19 school board meeting. The proposal called for the lease-purchase over five years through First Security Bank of 151 to 155 new computers with Classworks software, Massey said.

Dr. Belinda Mothershed, a consultant for the district and North Panola curriculum coordinator Jennifer Mock made a multi-media presentation describing the Classworks software for board members, administrators and approximately 15 parents and school patrons.

"It will help teachers not spend so much time trying to analyze test data," Mothershed said.

The software allows each student’s strengths and weaknesses in specified areas to be plotted and identified quickly. Having the information will allow teachers to direct individual attention to areas where the individual student is deficient, the consultant said.

Assistant curriculum coordinator Michael Britt said that most of the computers currently in use are five years old and many are not working.

"If we purchase the computer software and we don’t have computers which will carry the software, we haven’t done anything," Britt said.

"Classworks is essential to what we do to assure continuity and consistency from one grade to the next," Como Elementary School Principal George Knox said.

Principals from each school spoke in favor of the computer and software purchase as they gave reports from their schools. Massey told trustees that repayment of the lease-purchase would be made from the district’s federal-state program funds.

"What’s going to assure us that we’re going to get this?" board president Cecil Dowden asked.

Massey replied that a state education official had assured him that "federal programs were guaranteed, probably surer than any other funds."

"I think we need to put it in two schools and see if it works," trustee Mack Taylor said. "Then next year, I will have no problem at all putting it in the rest of the schools."

Taylor said that he was concerned over diversion of federal funds to finance the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and over the impact of rising fuel costs to the district.

"We need to sit down with the administrators in the central office and discuss it among ourselves," Dowden said.

The board tabled the motion to for the computers and software purchase. It will be reconsidered at the September 26 meeting.


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