Headlines Cont. – 10/7/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – October 7, 2005


Financing of new fire truck hot topic at meeting; aldermen considering two payment options
By Jason C. Mattox

The financing on a new pumper truck for the Batesville Fire Department has come down to two options for the City of Batesville.

During its meeting on Tuesday, the board of aldermen discussed how to pay for the new truck.

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Two bids were received for financing, one from Covenant Bank and one from First Security Bank, with both agreeing to finance the full $305,000 purchase price.

Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said he would rather see the city use approximately $250,000 in funds the fire department has on hand to assist in paying for the truck.

"We are looking at having to possibly float a bond issue, and you can only do that for capital improvements," he said.

"I think we could get money that way for the new construction (sleeping quarters) they want to build."

Yelton then reneged on that position, citing increased interest rates on certificates of deposit (CDs).

"I think we should have [City Clerk] Laura [Herron] look at the CD rates and see which option is better," he said.

Fire department representative Chris Olsen said whatever the city decided would have to happen quickly.

"We know that the costs of the trucks are going to start climbing," he said.

"We aren’t sure how long this price will be good for, so we need to know what to do."

Aldermen instructed Olsen to discuss the matter with Herron and reach a decision.

In other board business:
Blake Mendrop, representing McBride Engineering, gave city leaders an update on the Downtown Square. Two parking spaces will be eliminated to allow for wider turning lanes.
     "We don’t want any 18-wheelers coming in but if they do, we want them to have enough space to turn around without causing damage," Mendrop said.
Aldermen voted to allow Batesville Civic Center Director Roy Hyde to advertise for an electronic messaging center sign.
     "When the promoters leave and fill out their surveys, the only complaint we have gotten has been about not having an electronic messaging center," Hyde said.
Hyde also received permission to advertise for bids on round banquet tables.
     "We have lost a few receptions because we only have the rectangular tables," he said. "The round tables are something we really need."
     Yelton questioned the impact the purchase would make on the center’s business.
     "We are going to go out there and spend thousands of dollars to get these tables and we only get $300 for the largest room out there," he said.
     "But just because he advertises doesn’t obligate us to buy the tables."
Two trash cans were ordered for the Memorial Park on the Downtown Square at a cost of $325 each.
Advance Auto Parts was granted a variance to allow more signage as the company progresses with a corporate re-branding. This will be the last variance granted until a moratorium is lifted.
The Halloween curfew was set at 10 p.m. for Monday, Oct. 31.
‘Jason’s Haunted House’ blown away by Hurricane Katrina
Due to Hurricane Katrina, the Pope Fire Department has to cancel "Jason’s House of Horrors" for this year, according to John McCollum, Pope Fire Chief.

The fire department has about 10 firemen who are working either directly on the Gulf Coast with relief efforts or their jobs at home are requiring them to work longer hours at home in preparation for deployment to the Gulf Coast, McCollum said.

With this many people gone from the fire department it is nearly impossible to have the haunted house, he said.

"We would like to thank everyone that has supported the haunted house in the past. This haunted house has been our biggest fund raiser for the past 10 years," he said.

One thing is for sure, they will be back in full operation next year.

"Mark your calendars for October 2006 to come to the haunted house because, we will be back and dare you to enter the house."

Local civil defense office seeks to contact evacuees
By Emily Williams

The Panola County Civil Defense Office wants to help displaced residents from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Louisiana in Panola County affected by Hurricane Katrina, according to Daniel Cole, deputy director for the civil defense office.

"We want to arrange a meeting with FEMA for the displaced ones," said Cole.

The civil defense office is acting as a mediator between the evacuees and FEMA.

Many evacuees displaced from Katrina are still in Panola County he said.

FEMA has been visiting hotels, but still can’t find all of them because some are renting apartments or staying elsewhere, said Son Hudson, Panola County Civil Defense Director.

If you are a displaced evacuee from Hurricane Katrina call the Civil Defense Office at 563-6245 so a meeting with FEMA can be arranged, said Hudson.

Sardis city leaders raise water deposit, reconnect fees
By Jason C. Mattox

Renters using water from the City of Sardis will have to pay a larger deposit following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said the city needed to make some changes to fees and deposits on water to help lower the number of late payments on water bills.

"We have a lot of people who run up a high water bill and then either skip out on it or come down and put water in another family member’s name," he said.

City Clerk Odessa Johnson said the water deposit for a new renter inside the city limits was $80 and $90 outside the city limits.

"What if we raised the deposit amount," Ward 1 Alderman Joseph "JoJo" Still said. "That would at least cover us more if someone skipped out on a bill."

Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson said the deposit amounts should be raised.

"Should we also look at changing the cut-off dates," he added.

The present cut off date in the city is when a bill becomes 40 days past due.

"It does seem to me like we are giving them too long," Dye said. "By the time we reach the cut-off date, people have two months of water bills. You could be looking at a $150 bill."

Still made the motion to raise the in city water deposit for renters from $80 to $100 and out of city renters fees from $90 to $125.

Those motions passed unanimously.

The next step taken by the city to reduce the number of late bills was changing the reconnect fees.

"Presently we charge $25 to reconnect," Johnson told the board. "We charge them $50, if we have to go replace a pulled water meter."

"That’s way too low," City Attorney Tommy Shuler said.

Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn said he felt like the low fees were a major reason in late payment.

"A lot of people will meet our people at the streets to pay the bill when we go to cut off the water," he said.

"Some of these people are not going to pay until there isn’t any water coming through their faucets," Dye added.

Scallorn proposed raising reconnect fees to $75 and $150 if the meter was pulled.

The board unanimously passed that motion.



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