| Como’s Walton, Ruhl will square off Jan. 3
| At-large seat to be decided
| By Jason C. Mattox
A special election next Tuesday will decide who will fill the Como alderman-at-large post: incumbent John Walton or challenger Dr. Forster Ruhl.
Walton was declared the winner in the June 7 municipal election, but Ruhl successfully challenged the outcome, questioning the legality of 38 absentee ballots.
In an October trial in Sardis, Circuit Judge Sharon Aycock ruled that the absentee ballots in question were not legal, and the original election must be set aside. A new election was ordered to be held January 3.
The Mississippi Code states candidates interested in running in a special election must qualify 20 days prior to the election, but only Ruhl qualified for the special election by the December 14 deadline.
The same code also states that if only one candidate is certified to run 19 days prior to the scheduled election, "the governing authority, or remainder of the governing authority, shall dispense with the election and appoint that one candidate in lieu of an election."
As Como City Attorney Gaines Baker and other officials were trying to determine if Ruhl should be sworn in last week, Judge Aycock issued a decision Wednesday that John Walton was not required to qualify for the special election.
Apparently Walton is back in the race for a seat he’d held for approximately 18 months after winning another special election.
Walton had served as an alderman for two terms in the 1990s.
The at-large seat is empty at this time.
"I’m very pleased with the judge’s ruling," Walton said. "I am going to be out campaigning hard trying to get people to come out and cast their votes."
Ruhl told The Panolian via telephone Monday morning that he intends to appeal the judge’s verdict.
"We do not believe it is legal to go against state statute in a ruling," he said.
Ruhl said Aycock’s ruling also said the election could be between only him and Walton.
"We don’t believe that can be done either," he said. "State statute does not exclude anyone from running in a special election."
Both Walton and Ruhl said they are hoping for a good turnout during the special election.
"I am out there campaigning as much as I can," Walton said. "I’m hoping we will have a good turnout."
Ruhl said he planned to go out again on Monday to shake hands, put up signs, talk to voters, and remind them of the election.
"People who are interested in the future of Como will come out to vote," he said. "In a special election, everyone should take an interest in it."
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
| Batesville shows boost in sales tax
| By Rupert Howell
Batesville retail business has improved as well as overall sales in Mississippi according to figures of the Mississippi State Tax Commission.
According to most recent figures, sales tax proceeds paid and then returned to municipalities to fund local government are up three percent for the fiscal year and eight percent for November in the City of Batesville.
A statewide increase paid in the month of November over November of 2004 shows a 20 percent increase, although those figures may reflect irregular circumstances due to effects of Hurricane Katrina.
The state’s increase as of November is up eight percent for the fiscal year which began July 1 according to State Tax Commission figures.
Those figures show that the City of Batesville was reimbursed $285,983 during the month of November compared to $263,330 reimbursed last November.
Batesville’s Tourism and Economic Development Tax also showed an increase paid in the month of November.
The city received $65,456 in November of this year compared to $60,172 received during the same period last year, an increase of approximately nine percent.
The city’s year-to-date figures for the tourism tax increased more than three percent at $323,273 compared to $312,982 collected during the same period last year.
The Tourism and Economic Development Tax is derived from a three percent tax on hotel/motel rooms and restaurants.
Other Panola County municipalities showed increases/decreases for sales tax payments for November 2005 and 2004 respectively:
Como, $10,515 and $11,239;
Courtland, $1,536 and $1,207;
Crowder, $980 and $1,092;
Pope, $1,860 and $1,558 and
Sardis, $20,120 and $20,928.
Other nearby municipalities received sales tax payments for the month of November 2005 and 2004 respectively:
Clarksdale, $221,795 and $224,797;
Oxford, $456,839 and $436,300;
Grenada, $313,553 and $319,948; and
Senatobia, $157,117 and $168,759.
| I-55 wreck injures one
| By Billy Davis
A Ford truck carrying three people rolled over on Interstate 55 Friday evening after the driver steered to avoid a merging vehicle.
Matthew Costello, 16, of Collierville, Tenn., was driving northbound when he flipped the Ford F-250 on the bridge at I-55 and Highway 6 East, said state trooper Bubba Bryan.
A passenger in the truck suffered a minor injury and was transported from the scene to Tri-Lakes Medical Center, the state trooper said.
The incident occurred about 5:13 p.m. December 23.
"The driver snatched it to the left when a car came on the entrance ramp, and when he went back to the right he overcompensated," Bryan said. "The truck hit the guard rail and flipped upside down."
The truck ripped away part of the bridge’s guard rail, and the hanging railing and debris causing a shutdown of the interstate and westbound Highway 6, the state trooper said.
The vehicle, which was totaled, belonged to one of the passengers, Bryan said.
| Some Panola families got a gift: fathers, sons, husbands
| The sign in front of Ricky Swindle’s automotive shop in Batesville tells the story: national guard soldiers from the 155th Brigade Combat Team are returning home from Iraq. Some of the soldiers have returned in time to enjoy Christmas with family, including Swindle’s son-in-law, Sgt. Nick Hughes.
| By Billy Davis
Mary Reeder and daughter Jessica left Camp Shelby, Miss. Christmas Eve with the best gift they could ever take home, Staff Sgt. Darrell Reeder.
The Mississippi Army National Guard soldier arrived at the Hattiesburg base Saturday morning, a passenger on one of six buses that had picked up returning soldiers at a Biloxi airport. The buses rolled into the base at 7:30 a.m. Christmas Eve.
"I was watching for him and I told Jessica to watch, too," Mary Reeder recalled. "We got away from the crowd so he could find us, but when Darrell got off, he went toward the crowd expecting us to be there."
The family reunited minutes later, however, amid tears and hugs.
"We ran to him," she said. "We were so glad to have him home."
Reeder is one of several thousand Mississippi guard soldiers of the 155th Brigade Combat Team returning right now from the war zone in Iraq.
The 155th, a 3,500-member armored brigade, is based in Tupelo but has 49 units scattered throughout the state.
In Panola County, the 155th unit includes a tank company from Sardis and a platoon of scouts and a platoon of mortar soldiers from Batesville.
Other soldiers returning this week included Sgt. Nick Hughes of Central Academy and Specialist John Lauderdale of Courtland.
Hughes is the son of Norman and Nancy Hughes. He is married to the former Jennifer Swindle.
Lauderdale is the son of Curtis and Evelyn Lauderdale.
Hughes’ father-in-law, Ricky Swindle, picked up the soldier at Camp Shelby Christmas Eve, said his father, Norman Hughes.
Asked if Nancy Hughes cried when her son returned, Norman Hughes replied, "You know she did. We all did."
According to Evelyn Lauderdale, her son arrived at Camp Shelby on Christmas Eve after catching the final flight out of Kuwait that would get soldiers home in time for Christmas.
"It’s just overwhelming," she said of his safe return.
Mary Reeder said she and Jessica travelled to Hattiesburg Friday night with expectations of her husband’s return the next day.
"He was supposed to arrive at midnight, then at 3 a.m., then at 4:30," she recalled. "I kept calling the telephone number to check about his arrival so much that eventually they recognized my voice."
Many soldiers from the 155th are still waiting to return home, meaning some who missed Christmas will likely miss New Year’s Day as well.
"I’m still looking at the calendar and waiting," said Judy Brown, whose husband, Master Sgt. Danny Brown, is due to return home in mid-January.
For Christmas, she said, the family made videos with a digital camera and e-mailed them to the national guard soldier.
"I told him Merry Christmas and said when he gets home, we’ll have a party just for him," Brown said.
| City: redo bidding after slack response
| Batesville aldermen on Tuesday, December 20 voted to reject some bids for materials and supplies and re-advertise for new bids.
The city had advertised in November for bids for one year on materials and supplies, hourly equipment work and annual sewer rehabilitation. Twenty-two related businesses provided bids on various aspects of the city’s needs, but aldermen became concerned about some categories where no bids or only one bid was received.
Aldermen voted 4-0 to reject bids received in categories where only one bid was received and re-advertise for bids in those categories.
In other business, the board of aldermen voted unanimously to:
||Accept the low bid of Hood Equipment Company for a one-year lease of up to five backhoes for $10,999 per machine;
||Approve the requests of waste water treatment plant superintendent David Karr for three employees to attend a five-day training session in February and for two of the department’s employees to attend the Mississippi Rural Water Association’s annual meeting and technical conference in Jackson during March;
||Approve a request by police chief Gerald Legge that a communications officer attend dispatch training in Grenada in January;
||Approve a request by City Clerk Laura Herron that an employee attend a "Payroll Management" training session also in January;
||And to approve a request by Fire Chief Tim Taylor for two firefighters to attend the National Incident Management System (NIMS) training in Senatobia.