Headlines Cont. – 1/13/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 13, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – January 13, 2006


New subdivision, golf cart shop get land commission’s approval
By Billy Davis

A subdivision north of Sardis and commercial construction east of Batesville gained approval Monday evening from the Panola County Land Development Commission.

Commission members unanimously approved reclassification of the Sardis Heights subdivision, where Nolan West said he plans to sell half-acre lots for homes and double-wide mobile homes on a 38-acre site.

A senior living facility is already under construction on part of the site, which was reclassified from an agricultural zone to a R-1 residential zone through the commission’s action.

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Near the Crossroads store east of Batesville, a plan to build a golf cart shop and an office on a one-acre lot was also approved by the commission.

The approved requests go to the Panola County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

The land development commission met Monday, January 9, at the county courthouse in Batesville.

During West’s appearance, commission members requested that he add a second entrance to the subdivision, which would have used Highway 51 North as a single entry.

"We’ve asked other developers to do that, so we’re asking you to do that as well," commission chairman Danny Walker told West.

"I probably would have put that in anyway," West replied.

Panola County permit clerk Diane Stewart told West she understood the development would be for home construction and later heard "street talk" that mobile homes would be allowed into the development.

West responded that he planned to allow both brick homes and "nice double wides" with proper underpinning and pitched roofs.

West was also instructed by the commission to pave the subdivision’s streets before he sells the lots.

Regarding the Crossroads action, Oxford engineer John Tatum appeared before the commission on behalf of Oxford developer Sun South.

Tatum explained that he knew few specifics about the project other than Sun South plans to build two 3,000-square-foot buildings, one of which will be a golf cart repair shop.

The lot in question is already used for commercial use, commission members agreed, asking Tatum only that the developers provide adequate parking spaces and construct attractive looking buildings.

In other business, commission members voted to reappoint Walker as chairman and Sledge Taylor to serve as vice-chairman for 2006.

The commission also voted to appoint Robert Carter to serve as secretary after Ann Cobb told the commission she was stepping down from the volunteer appointment.

"I’ve got a lot of conflicts on Monday nights and too many irons in the fire," Cobb told the commission.

"I bet they don’t pay as good," Walker responded, joking about the commission’s volunteer work.

At Walker’s request, Cobb said she will remain on the commission until her replacement is named in coming weeks by the county supervisors.

Cobb’s departure will create two openings on the 10-member commission after the departure of Norma Riser in 2004.

County supervisors have yet to name a replacement for Riser, commission members noted Monday.

Library hours cut in Sardis, Crenshaw
By Jason C. Mattox

For the past three months, two public libraries in Panola County have been operating for fewer hours than they did in 2004 and the first three quarters of 2005.

According to Catherine Nathan of First Regional Library, the reduction in hours at the Sardis Public Library and the Sam Lapidus Memorial Public Library in Crenshaw was caused by a lack of funding from the library system and local support.

Library hours in Como and Batesville remain unchanged.

"The decision to reduce open hours in these two locations was not made lightly," she said. "Numbers never tell the whole picture  – they never really tell you just how important the public library is to the life of the community."

The numbers of people banging on the doors between 10 a.m. and noon in both Crenshaw and Sardis could probably tell you about this better than I can," Nathan added.

The Crenshaw library is operating 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Mondays, noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Until October, the library had been operating Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The statistical picture for the Crenshaw Library in Fiscal Year 2005 was:

Checked out 9,144 library materials or 176 books per week. This number is down from 192 books per week in 2004.
Helped an estimated weekly 195 people who came into the branch down from 204 in 2004.
Held 59 programs for children, teens and adults which attracted 3,536 people. This was up from 48 programs for 2004.
Issued 94 new library cards, or three fewer than 2004.
Helped 6,773 people use the computers in the branch, or 265 fewer than in 2004.

"The books per week has decreased to 42 during our new fiscal year which began in October," she said. "It is hard to make a fair comparison, but it is easy to see there is less use of the library to correspond with the lower hours."

Nathan said the numbers in Sardis had also taken a hit due to a three hour operation cut per week that began in October.

The Sardis Public Library is now open (as of October 1, 2005) on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from noon until 6 p.m. and from noon until 3 p.m. on Saturdays. This is a total of 37 hours per week.

The statistical picture for the Sardis Library in FY 2005 was:

Checked out 26,254 library materials or 505 books per week. That is an increase of four books over 2004.
Helped an estimated weekly 739 people who came into branch – six fewer per week than in 2004.
Held 289 programs for children, teens and adults which attracted 7,971 people. In 2004, the library only held 265 programs.
Issued 280 new library cards – 37 fewer than in 2004.
Helped 11,472 people use computers in the branch (38.33 percent increase over FY 2004).

As for the first quarter of fiscal year 2006, the library has seen an increase in traffic, but a decrease in book circulation.

"We still have a good many people who come in to take advantage of our services, but there aren’t as many materials being checked out," Nathan said.

"In my view, the local public library is every community’s treasure chest filled with ideas, history, and possibilities," she added. "I can assure you that as the library director, I want to make sure it is open as widely as possible. Unfortunately, as the director, I must also find a way to live within the means that I am given with which to operate the system."


Three deaths reported in separate accidents this week
By John Howell Sr.

A 46-year-old man was killed Thursday in a two-vehicle accident near Como at the intersection of Highway 51 and Lucious Taylor Road.

Panola County Coroner Grace Grant Gulledge said that Roosevelt Rodgers, 46, was a passenger in a sport utility vehicle. He was dead on arrival at the Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Rodgers’ death was the second from an auto accident this week. On Monday, Sharon Cardwell of the Riverview area at the Sardis Lower Lake died from injuries received in a one-car accident on Highway 315 as it passes through the reservoir. Gulledge said that Cardwell was traveling with her young grandchild in the car, which ran off the road into a concrete-lined ditch which provides drainage for the levee area.

The child was airlifted by HospitalWing to LeBonheur Hospital in Memphis, Gulledge said.

An autopsy indicated Cardwell died from a "massive trauma to the chest," Gulledge said.

An 87-year-old man who choked on food Monday died early the following morning because of the oxygen denied his brain, Gulledge said.

Fritzhugh Jones Jr., 87, of Oakland was stricken at Dale’s Smokehouse Cafe and transported to the Tri-Lakes Medical Center where he died early Tuesday.

Gulledge said that Jones suffered from medical conditions which "assisted in his choking."

Latham Funeral Home in Water Valley handled his arrangements, the coroner said.

Transportation for kidney patients
     on Morris’ agenda in legislature
By Billy Davis

Seeking help for Medicaid recipients and pursuing an economic development package are among bills being pursued by Rep. Leonard Morris.

Morris, of Batesville, said Thursday that a top priority in coming days is a bill that would provide state transportation for kidney dialysis patients who lost that help when new Medicare benefits kicked in January 1.

Morris co-authored the bill to provide the public transportation.

"There are 20 people in Panola County on kidney dialysis and they depend on transportation for help," said Morris, speaking from the Capitol in Jackson.

Regarding the economic development package, Morris said a bill coming later in the spring will request that the Miss. Development Authority (MDA) create an account in which communities apply for funds to make improvements to industrial sites.

Morris acknowledged the future bill is a response to the Wellspring bill passed by the state House, which set aside $14.5 million for a future automotive plant in the Tupelo area.

While Morris voted for Wellspring, realizing that support for that project could help Panola County in its similar pursuit, the bill he proposes would make state dollars evenly available.

The legislator acknowledged that political arm-twisting helped push Wellspring through the House. His proposal would lessen the political deal-making involved in Wellspring.

Even with the politics involved, Morris said, northeast Mississippi is hurting for an economic boost that an automotive plant would bring.

"The furniture factories are leaving northeast Mississippi for China, which is a similar situation to what we’re dealing with (in Panola County)," the legislator said.

Crenshaw’s mayor keeps knocking,
     seeking, finding
By John Howell Sr.

Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed brought what he calls a "pastoral" approach to the office when he was sworn in last July.

"There’s a lot of things that can come about if you just open up some doors and knock; if you go out seeking, you will find it," said the mayor, who has also been a pastor since 1978, currently serving New Morning Star Church in Clarksdale.

Knocking has brought him to the door of a casino supplier which Reed hopes will soon make an announcement of a new industry in his job-starved town.

His seeking helped to give Crenshaw a new look during the holidays.

Announcement of an industry is yet premature, but Reed said that with the help of Board of Supervisors’ President Robert Avant and County Administrator David Chandler, Crenshaw is seriously courting the casino supplier which could employ up to 150 people.

"It would help bring life back in Crenshaw," the mayor said of the economic engine that the number of employed could become.

During November, the mayor said, he sent a letter to the mayor in Batesville seeking the loan of one of the stars used in its Christmas decorations.

That star became the model for a dozen such stars mounted on Crenshaw’s Main Street. Under them passed Crenshaw’s largest Christmas parade in years, Reed said.

"We were blessed to have the Quitman County High’s Vo-Tech department; they made our new Christmas lights," Reed said.

Cost to Crenshaw: About $800, the mayor said.

Economizing on Christmas decorations seems to be good policy under the circumstances. Reed said the town was in arrears when he took office, up to $90,000 and two years behind on some payments.

"Everybody was trying to close us down; at times my main job was to give Peter and Paul a little bit each," he said, "so we managed it and got it down."

In addition to his jobs as mayor and pastor, Reed teaches special education at Crenshaw Elementary, his 24th year in the profession.

Sitting behind the desk in his office in the Crenshaw Town Hall, Mayor Reed’s salt-and-pepper gray hair and eyebrows contrast slightly with his whiter, "Foo-Manchu"-style mustache and goatee, creating a distinguished visage, implying wisdom. The twinkle in his moist, brown eyes seems to project good will.

It is only the walker placed nearby that suggests Mayor Reed’s life has recently included additional complications beyond those that arise from serving as a public official, teacher and minister.

Mayor Reed’s left leg was amputated in November after a long struggle that started with a small sore on his foot. He is diabetic.

"It’s the worst disease there is," the mayor declared. "It’s a slow killer; it attacks everything there is."

Reed said that his struggle with the disease was not unexpected. It runs in his family.

Prior to the surgery that took his leg, Reed underwent two less drastic surgeries to remove toes in an attempt to stop the diabetes-enhanced infection’s spread.

During his hospitalization, first in Batesville and later in Greenwood, Reed, who said he had previously "never been in the hospital other than as a pastor in visits," made a discovery:

"As a pastor, it’s easy to tell someone that everything’s going to be okay if you’re not the one who is sick."

The subsequent soul-searching from his hospital bed led him to realize that "on your healthiest day, you’re still sick enough to die," he said.

During his absence from Crenshaw, City Clerk Renee Ward and Water Department Clerk Pearlie Armstead would call every day.

"Every two or three days, they would get everything together that needed to be done" and bring it to the hospital, the mayor said.

"We have come together in so many ways to go after growth, grants and any way that will make Crenshaw a better community," Reed added.

The community also came together and pulled for him, Reed said, expressing appreciation for the cards, prayers and visits during and after his illness.

The Crenshaw mayor now waits for a prosthesis to be fitted which will aid his mobility.

And he’s still adjusting.

"The other day I woke up and threw one foot out of bed and got ready to get up and realized the other foot wasn’t there."



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