Headlines – 11/29/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – November 29, 2005

  From the 11/29/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Coming soon to a fire near you: Red Hill F.D.
     A 1962 pumper truck gets a new coat of paint from Red Hill Fire Chief Dennis Pearson Friday in his backyard on Old Panola Road. The department plans to answer fire calls with the truck in January.
By Billy Davis

A 1962 Ford pumper truck belonging to the Red Hill Volunteer Fire Department has an important destination: the Batesville Christmas parade.

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The classic fire truck will make its public debut at the December 6 event, marking its first time on the road since the City of Sardis Fire Department donated the vehicle to Red Hill five years ago.

The donated fire truck has sat idle since then, however, a symbol of Red Hill’s belated efforts to organize and equip the department after the area became a county fire district in 2000.

While progress crawled forward, the Batesville, Sardis and Curtis-Locke Station fire departments answered fire calls in the Red Hill community.

Starting soon, that could all change.

"We hope to be answering calls by January," said Red Hill Fire Chief Dennis Pearson, who was putting a fresh coat of paint – fire engine red, of course – on the vehicle last week.

The fire department’s leadership recently tapped Pearson as chief after the resignation of long-time Chief Joe Gardner during the summer.

Gardner quit amid a department tussle over leadership and priorities, but the dust has apparently settled since Gardner plans to work as a volunteer firefighter.

"I intend to support them any way I can because the community needs a fire department," Gardner said when reached Monday morning.

A search for manpower is the greatest need of the Red Hill department, Pearson said, especially able-bodied volunteers who can respond to calls during the day.

"We’ve got 10 volunteers right now, but most of them are available at night and on the weekends," Pearson said. "We’re looking for volunteers who are available for the dayshift."

Red Hill is considering the purchase of a 1975 tanker truck owned by the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, the fire chief said, and hopes to purchase radios through a rifle raffle at Batesville Pawn Shop.

The fire district owns a fire station, a three-bay metal building located on Barnacre Road near Wilson Road.

A well-equipped volunteer fire department is helpful for both fire calls

and insurance costs, said civil defense director Son Hudson, who also serves as fire coordinator for the city and county fire departments.

When Red Hill can display the proper equipment and manpower in the coming weeks, the fire district will be certified with an insurance rating of 10, the highest number in the ranking.

"Some people don’t realize it, but a volunteer fire department can be their best friend," Hudson said. "The more they give to the department, the more it saves them when that number drops to a seven or an eight."

B’ville Casket introduces ‘Marsellus’
By John Howell Sr.

The product of Batesville Casket Company’s master woodcrafters will be celebrated Wednesday with a ceremony marking the first completed Marsellus by Batesville mahogany casket to roll off the assembly line of the manufacturing facility in the W. M. Harmon Industrial Park.

"The Marsellus name has stood for quality workmanship in the construction of wood caskets," for over 130 years, Batesville Casket Company Director of Public Relations Joe Weigel stated in a release announcing the ceremony.

"Over the years, so many Marsellus caskets have been selected by dignitaries throughout the world that the Marsellus line has earned the title, ?Casket of the Presidents.’ In fact, former President Ronald Reagan was buried in the Marsellus Masterpiece last summer," Weigel added.

Batesville Casket Company purchased the intellectual property necessary to manufacture the Marsellus caskets in 2003. For the last two years, the caskets have been manufactured in the company’s Nashua, New Hampshire plant. Since early this month, the Panola facility’s master woodcrafters have been perfecting the process to handcraft the Marsellus models. The ceremony to mark their accomplishment begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Weekend burglars hit pay dirt at Pay Less
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Police Department is looking for the person or persons responsible for a burglary over the weekend.

According to Detective George Williford, Pay Less Shoe Store was burglarized some time Friday night or Saturday morning.

"Whoever broke into the store did so between 8:30 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday," he said.

Williford said the burglar(s) gained access to the store by breaking through the back door. An undisclosed amount of money was taken from the business.

"We are offering a reward to anyone who might have seen or might know anything about this burglary," Williford said.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Williford at 563-5653.

Lester St. apartment fire spares all but ruins home

By Billy Davis

An early-afternoon apartment fire Monday at the Lester Street elderly apartments in Batesville left one apartment in blackened ruins.

No one was injured after fire broke out in apartment No. 2, which neighbors said is occupied by Laura Folly.

Folly was not home at the time of the fire and was not present as firefighters beat back flames that ruined the entire living quarters.

The cause of the fire was unknown.

Apartment tenant Cleo Towns said he was in his apartment when the fire alarm went off about 12:30 p.m.

Willie Harris, who was visiting Towns, gathered in the hallway with others before seeing smoke escaping beneath the front door of Folly’s apartment.

Harris said he and another man kicked in the door to the No. 2 apartment and were greeted by thick smoke and flames licking out the windows.

"We kicked it in because we didn’t see nobody come out," Harris said. "We went under the smoke to see if anybody was in there, but it was too much and we backed out."

Shopping season promising after bustling ‘Black Friday’
By Jason C. Mattox

Black Friday – the traditionally heavy shopping day after Thanksgiving – has come and gone and some Batesville retailers report they are happy with its impact on the bottom line.

"We had a really good weekend this year," Stubbs manager Teddy Morrow said. "There were people waiting to get into the store when we opened (Friday) at 9 a.m."

Morrow said he believes the reason for the line of eight to 10 people was early sales at other stores.

"People started their shopping early that morning and had already finished up at other places," he said.

"We were really busy on Friday," he said. "At one point, I looked up and there were 50 people in the store."

Away from the square, at the Candle and Gift Shoppe, "it was fabulous," owner Linda Goodnight said of the weekend’s business.

"This is probably one of the busiest weekends we’ve had in quite some time.

"I was really surprised by the number of people who were coming in and buying things on Friday," she said. "We had such a good day Friday that Saturday was a drop off."

Goodnight said she had fewer browsers and more serious shoppers.

"In the past, we have had a lot of people who come in and look around on the Friday after Thanksgiving," she said. "They usually come back closer to Christmas and buy, but this year they were buying instead of just browsing."

Lisa Heafner of the Factory Stores at Batesville said she was happy with the support the center received from local traffic as well as out-of-town customers.

"The local community has always supported us really well," she said. "This year they made up half of our business while the other half came off the interstate."

Jeweler Mark Smith said the weekend shopping traffic at Plaza Jewelers was good but predicted it wouldn’t be the store’s best weekend.

"Most of the time people who are going to buy jewelry will wait until closer to the holiday to go do their shopping," he said.

After court order, Como voters will return to polls January 3
By Jason C. Mattox

A court-ordered election to fill Como’s alderman-at-large position will be held Tuesday, January 3, according to the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office in Sardis.

The date was set following a ruling in October by Circuit Court Judge Sharion Aycock who had ordered the new election after hearing two days of testimony regarding contested results of the June 7 general election in which John Walton defeated Dr. Forrester Ruhl.

Ruhl had contested the election results, questioning the legality of 38 absentee ballots.

Judge Aycock had declared that a number of the absentee ballots were illegal.

"Since the petitioner Dr. Forester Ruhl received a greater number of legal votes cast than did the respondent John Walton, the results certified by the Election Committee of the Town of Como must be set aside," Aycock stated in her ruling.

A Panola County jury spent two days in late October at the Sardis Courthouse hearing testimony, but Judge Aycock stopped the proceedings and issued the directed verdict.

Since the ruling on Ruhl’s challenge of the election was handed down, Walton has not served in the position.

During the October trial, no allegations of wrong-doing or fraud were made by either party.

When ruling, Aycock said she believed mistakes made during the election were unintentional.



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