|Sheriff’s Christmas list:
1 deputy, 2 patrol cars
|By Billy Davis
A new sheriff’s deputy position and the purchase of two new patrol cars are the latest requests of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.
The county board of supervisors unanimously approved the requests made by Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright last Friday, December 16, during a recessed meeting in Batesville.
In making his requests, Bright asked that the department’s 2005-2006 budget be amended to allow for the purchase of two vehicles totalling $50,000 and $33,300 for the the salary and benefits of one deputy.
The deputy’s salary will be $1,965 a month, and the vehicle monies will be spent on new cruisers, Bright told The Panolian after the meeting.
Bright, 46, begins his fifth week as county sheriff this week after being sworn into office November 23.
Also at the supervisors meeting, Bright requested and supervisors approved a $29,000 budget increase to the Panola County Drug Task Force for 2005-2006.
The $29,000 increase will boost the county’s funding of the drug-fighting unit to $70,000, up from the $41,000 budgeted for the 2004-2005 fiscal year.
Prior to the November sheriff’s election, the sheriff’s department had requested $75,000 to fund the task force in the new fiscal year.
The task force, which is led by commander Jason Chrestman, operates mostly from grant monies but also depends on budget contributions from the county and the City of Batesville.
Batesville aldermen voted last week to postpone city funding of the task force until Bright can appear before them to discuss the matter.
The task force and its work ethic and budget became a campaign issue during the sheriff’s campaign, though Bright mostly left the subject alone.
"If y’all will give us a chance, this task force – they are working," Bright told supervisors at the Friday meeting.
The supervisors also voted to allow $1,300 for the new deputy’s uniforms and a ballistic vest, bringing the requests made by Bright – a deputy, two vehicles, and task force money – to $113,600.
Earlier this month, supervisors approved the hiring of four part-time deputies, a full-time deputy, and a jailer, and the promotion of Otis Griffin from deputy to chief deputy.
"We’ve been waiting on a new sheriff and knew we had some things to do, and knew some changes had to be made," District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins told Bright regarding his request to amend the budget.
At the supervisors’ request, County Administrator David Chandler and Bright had collaborated on the budget amendment prior to the sheriff making the formal request Friday.
| State okays $1.2 million for Eureka Rd. improvements
|By Billy Davis
Construction contractor Lehman-Roberts has won a million-dollar state contract to overlay and widen six miles of Eureka Road, county supervisors announced last week.
Supervisors unanimously accepted the company’s $1.2 million State Aid bid, the only one received for the project, to improve Eureka from Highway 51 South to Good Hope Road.
State Aid is a division within the Miss. Department of Transportation. The agency helps counties with construction and maintenance of their non-state owned roads and bridges.
State Aid allocates $57,000 each month for Panola County’s roads and bridges, an amount that builds until supervisors choose to spend it.
Road work on Eureka should begin in May, 2006, District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins said after the meeting.
Eureka Road stretches from Hwy. 51 in Batesville to Pope Water Valley Road in the Bynum community. It crosses through county districts 3 and 4.
State Aid originally rejected Lehman-Roberts’ bid but later allowed the bid to be let, county engineer Larry Britt told supervisors Friday.
"The bid was 17 percent over State Aid estimate, but they went back and looked at it and justified it," Britt said.
"As much as fuel has gone up, we’re probably lucky (the bid) was just 17 percent," Perkins said.
The coming Eureka Road project follows similar State Aid work performed throughout the county in recent years, county road manager Lygunnah Bean told The Panolian.
In recent years, past projects include rebuilding Ballentine Road and most of Macedonia Road, and restriping all State Aid roads in the county, he said.
"The Eureka Road project has been programmed since 2000," Bean said. "It’s the last on the list."
Following the board’s meeting Friday, supervisors met in the downtown Batesville office of county engineer Larry Britt for a "strategy session" to discuss the county’s next phase of State Aid road work.
In an informal setting, Britt showed supervisors a listing of Panola’s State Aid roads and the projected expense of improving each road through either a patching and resealing method or overlay, which is more costly.
For most roads, Britt said, the patching and reseal costs $50,500 a mile while overlay costs $125,000 a mile.
The patching and reseal of Dummy Line Road, for example, would cost $313,000 while an overlay would cost $775,000, estimates show.
The county’s other State Aid roads are: Eureka Road, Good Hope, Ballentine, Hwy. 310 (east of Como), Pope-Crowder, Pope-Water Valley, Terza, Blackjack, Parks Place, and Curtis.
The total cost to reseal the county’s State Aid roads is $3.8 million, Britt’s figures showed. The cost of overlaying those same roads is $9.4 million.
While supervisors discussed roads they want programmed into State Aid, they took no action due to the nature of the meeting.
| In other county business:
||Funeral home owner Jerry Cooley asked supervisors to rethink their plan to purchase a county van for county coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.
Cooley currently transports bodies to Jackson for autopsies at a cost of $405 per body, but Gulledge told supervisors in their December 13 meeting that the purchase of the van will save taxpayers’ money.
Providing a written cost and savings estimate, Gulledge told supervisors a van and equipment purchase of $19,651 would save the county about $13,500 a year.
The present cost comes from hauling bodies to Jackson for autopsies in a private vehicle – Cooley’s service – compared to $120 per trip in a county-owned van.
Cooley told supervisors he has been "more than fair" with his price to taxpayers.
"It’s not like I’m making a million dollars or anything," Cooley said. "I do what I can to help out."
Cooley’s appearance came after supervisors had already agreed to allow the coroner and Chandler to work out the purchase and return to the board with financial figures.
Perkins indicated to Cooley, however, that the board’s decision isn’t final.
"We haven’t made a decision on that," Perkins told Cooley regarding the coroner’s request.
||In a brief appearance before the supervisors, Dr. Bob Corkern supporter Ed Allen told Supervisor Jerry Perkins he was "arrogant" during the negotiations to sell Tri-Lakes Medical Hospital to Corkern.
"I never talked to you because you are too arrogant to talk to," Allen told Perkins.
Allen also accused Perkins of trying to get County Administrator David Chandler fired during negotiations but backtracked after Perkins called the accusation a "bald-faced lie."
||Supervisors and Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright announced plans to put vehicles into an auction, planned for January 14 at Hwy. 35 and I-55.
Bright said seven vehicles seized by the county drug task force will be auctioned. The county plans to auction several old tractors as well.
Crenshaw Auction Company is performing the auction.
|| County road manager Lygunnah Bean said the county will seek $30,500 from FEMA stemming from over-time pay in the road department that accumulated when Hurricane Katrina swept through the area.
|| Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock told supervisors Batesville Building Supply was the low bidder for carpeting for his office. The bid was $4,960.
The office was damaged by a water leak. Insurance will reimburse the amount, he said.
| Services Thursday for fallen Marine
| By Billy Davis
Funeral services will be held later this week in Batesville for a U.S. Marine who was killed in Iraq.
Cpl. Michael Brandon Presley, 21, died Wednesday, December 14, at a military hospital in Germany.
The funeral service for Presley will be 11 a.m. Thursday, December 22, at Calvary Baptist Church.
Visitation is 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Calvary.
Interment will be at Batesville-Magnolia Cemetery.
Wells Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Wells spokesman Chris Wells said the U.S. Marine Corps is overseeing the funeral service, including pallbearers and a 21-gun salute. A Marine chaplain will speak, he said.
"This will be a full military funeral," Wells said.
Presley, a North Delta School graduate, was mortally wounded in the Iraqi city of Fallujah while a passenger in a Humvee. He was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Reports from family of Presley indicated he was wounded in Iraq from a roadside bomb. A later press release from the Department of Defense indicated the Marine died from a "vehicle-borne improvised explosive device," most likely meaning a car bomb.
The press release indicated Presley was part of a unit "conducting combat operations against enemy forces" in Fallujah.
Presley was part of a Marine Expeditionary Force, where he was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
See page A2 for a complete obituary.
| City ‘probably will’ fund drug task force
|By John Howell Sr.
Batesville aldermen voted December 6 not to renew the interlocal agreement with Panola County regarding the city’s support for the Panola County Task Force according to the meeting’s minutes.
"That’s not saying that we’re not going to do that; our thinking is that we probably will (renew the agreement with the county)," Alderman Bill Dugger told The Panolian after the meeting.
Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow also said that the city would likely renew its interlocal agreement with the county after a review of the policies and discussions with newly-elected Panola County Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright.
At Bright’s request, county supervisors voted last week to fund the drug task force at $70,000 for the current fiscal year.
The Panola Task Force is jointly supported by the county and by the cities of Batesville and Sardis.
Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said that the current interlocal agreement was due for renewal in March and a 90-day prior notice was required if a new agreement is to be negotiated.
City leaders during budget meetings in August agreed to an allocation of $70,000 from the city’s 2006 budget for the narcotics task force, which was jointly supported by the city and Panola County.
At their December 6 meeting, aldermen voted 4-0 to decline renewal of the interlocal agreement between the city and the county and to prepare a letter notifying the county of their intent not to renew the agreement. Alderman James Yelton in currently undergoing therapy during recovery from a recent illness.
| Cities, courthouse announce closings
| County and municipal officials have announced closings for the upcoming holidays, as well as changes in garbage collection schedules.
Panola County government
The county courthouses in Batesville and Sardis will be closed Friday and Monday, December 23 and December 26, for Christmas.
The courthouses will be closed Monday, January 2, for New Year’s.
Because of the holiday schedule the county’s garbage pick-up will operate one day behind for two weeks, beginning Tuesday, December 27.
Tuesday customers, for example, should put out their cans for pick-up on Wednesday, December 28.
In the City of Batesville, city employees will be off work Friday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Dec. 26 for Christmas and Monday, Jan. 2 for New Year’s.
Garbage collection in the city will be one day behind schedule.
The City of Sardis will take Friday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Dec. 26 for Christmas and Friday, Dec. 30 and Monday, Jan. 2, for New Year’s. Garbage will be collected Tuesday and Thursday those weeks.
| Live Nativity
| A live nativity scene beneath the star of Bethlehem was created at Bethany Baptist Church last Friday evening. More performances are set for Thursday night at 7 and 8 p.m. The church is located five miles east of Batesville at Eureka Road and Hubbard Road. Everyone is invited.
|Aldermen approve increase in water rates
|By John Howell Sr.
Rates for water sold through the City of Batesville will increase about six percent starting this month.
Aldermen voted December 6 to increase the rates following approval from the Public Service Commission, the meeting minutes state.
The vote was unanimous. Alderman James Yelton was absent due to illness.
The price for water for customers both inside and outside the city will rise from $5.65 for the first 2,000 gallons to $5.99. That amount is also the minimum monthly bill.
For over 2,000 gallons, the price increases from $3.62 to $3.84.