Headlines Cont. – 1/20/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – January 20, 2006


Library needs handicap-accessible doors
By Jason C. Mattox

Once bids are examined, it is expected city leaders will allow the Batesville Public Library to purchase new handicap-accessible doors.

Carolyn Head of First Regional Library System told board members there is a need for the automatic doors on the south side of the library.

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"We need to have a way for those who might be physically challenged to gain entrance to the library," she said. "The automatic doors will give them the freedom to come in on their own with very little or no assistance."

Head presented the board with a pair of quotes for the automatic doors, one from Tri-State Automatic Door for $3,144 and another from Mid-South Automatic Door for $3,050.

"The doors will be paid for with grant funds the library still has available," she said.

Aldermen took the bids under advisement.

In other board business:
Mayor Jerry Autrey told aldermen he was interested in looking into direct deposit of the city’s payroll checks.
Aldermen unanimously voted to allow gas department superintendent William Wilson to attend training sessions.
A previous adjudication of cleaning costs and penalties for the Clifton Roberson Estate at 106 Queen Street was amended to include a $673.95 fee from Allied Waste Services for an additional dumpster used in the clean-up.
A salary adjustment for utility department employee Bridget Pittman was unanimously passed.
Autrey was authorized to sign a proposal giving the law firm of Butler and Snow the authority to prepare the city’s Annual Disclosure Statement.
City leaders voted to allow the Evangelistic Outreach Ministry to hold its annual outdoor festival at the old pavilion on the Downtown Square on June 17 from 1-8 p.m.
Payments were made to federal/state grant consultant Jimmy Gouras for close-out procedures in connection the construction of Randy Hendrix Drive to the Robert F. Maddux mental health facility in the amount of $2,500 and to Jones-Zander Ltd. in the amount of $1,060 regarding the roof replacement on the old Panola Mills building owned by the city.
Approval was given for Batesville fire fighter David Tarver to attend the Fire Ground Leadership training at the Mississippi Fire Academy Jan. 30-Feb. 3, with expenses paid by the city.
Aldermen voted to allow the Batesville Fire Department to purchase three sets of replacement bunker pants and coats.
At the suggestion of Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders, the board unanimously voted to purchase a book listing grants available to municipalities at a cost of $187.
Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell updated the board on Hunter’s Trace Phase 2, a residential neighborhood development in east Batesville. Aldermen agreed not to maintain the right of way unless they began receiving complaints.
McBride Engineering representative Blake Mendrop told the board he would have representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers present at a February meeting to discuss improvements at nearby dams and a disaster plan.
Autrey was authorized to sign a resolution presented by Trey Hamby of North Delta Planning and Development District allowing the city to proceed with steps necessary for grant applications. Hamby was instructed to search for grants appropriate for city projects.
Changes in South Panola trustee districts meet approval of Justice Department
Proposed changes in trustee districts for South Panola Schools have tentatively been approved as the Justice Department found no objections to the changes, according to school attorney Colmon Mitchell.

Proposed changes have been in the works for more than a year as redistricting is required after every 10-year census if population changes occur that effect voting numbers beyond the one-man, one vote regulations of the Voting Rights Act.

An initial attempt to draw acceptable district line maps was unsuccessful and Mitchell had to restart the process using new personnel.

Mitchell asked trustees during the January meeting for permission to publish changes of the trustee boundaries in legal advertisements in the newspaper for three consecutive weeks as required by law.

Potential population changes reflected in the 2010 census could mean the school’s trustee districts, as well as other political districts, would need to be redrawn after then.

Broome installed as SP school trustee
By Rupert Howell

Dr. Carlock Broome took the oath of office from Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson for the third straight year as the newest member of the South Panola School Board.

Carlson, who earlier in his career carefully read the oath, told of the honor of giving the oath to elected officials before leading Broome in the oath recitation from memory.

Carlson served as that board’s attorney prior to becoming a circuit judge. His Batesville residence is located just a couple of blocks down College Street where the school board meets monthly.

Broome was appointed to fill a vacancy when former school board member James H. Moore resigned in 2004. In 2005 he was sworn in as the winner on an uncontested special election to fill the unexpired term for that seat on the board. Last Tuesday night he was sworn in to fill the regular five year term in another uncontested election for that same seat.

Board members then re-elected all officers of the school board of trustees.

Trustee Lygunnah Bean was again elected board president, Joe Gardner continues to serve as vice president and Sarah Dell Gray is board secretary. Other members are Kim Renfroe and Broome.

Board members met prior to the monthly meeting in executive session to discuss and evaluate School Superintendent Keith Shaffer.

Board president Lygunnah Bean reported that Shaffer scored "high" on the evaluation and that "good conversation" surrounded the evaluation.

"Dr. Shaffer did well on the evaluation," Bean reported.

"We will all agree that we have a ways to go, but we’re headed in the right direction.

Shaffer, who is in the first year of a four year contract, was given an additional year after six months on the job. He will be evaluated again next year, according to Bean.

Loden to meet with parents to explain
     PSAT significance
By Billy Davis

South Panola High School principal Dr. Gearl Loden will meet with parents and students next week to release the students’ PSAT test scores.

The PSAT is a preliminary exam for the SAT college entrance test and also selects semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarships.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 Tuesday evening at the high school, where about 80 students have been invited to learn how well they scored on the challenging exam.

The meeting will last fewer than 30 minutes, the principal said, and will include a brief statement from Loden and an overview of the test scores by school counselor Shauna Myers.

The PSAT test involves math problem-solving skills, writing and critical reading skills. The minimum score for a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist slot is 204.

A South Panola junior scored the highest points, 187, in the November testing, the principal said.

Loden said the score results showed promise among more than 30 sophomores and several freshmen.

"We had two ninth graders who are only 25 and 32 points from being a National Merit Semi-Finalist," Loden said. "So they have a very good chance of becoming a semi-finalist."

South Panola’s entire classes of freshmen, sophomores and juniors took the PSAT in November.

The state of Mississippi has 145 slots for National Merit Semi-Finalists, the principal said, but no one from the South Panola School District has earned that honor in several years.

The high school’s search for a National Merit student is part of the Loden’s long-range plan to bolster the school’s academic level.

Board orders study on water use to curtail department’s losses
By Jason C. Mattox

An engineering study authorized by Batesville aldermen Tuesday will gather data on the city’s water usage in an attempt to stem a $250,000 annual loss.

Blake Mendrop, the city’s engineer, was instructed to gather data to help determine if a rate adjustment is needed.

"We want to look at who the big water user is," Mendrop said. "Whether it is residential or industrial."

"There might be some adjustments you can make that will help you recoup some of the money you lose on water," he said.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said the city loses approximately $250,000 annually on water.

The cost of the study is $5,800.

"That’s not that much if it can keep us from losing what we do on water every year," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.

Mendrop also informed aldermen that removable posts for the ends of the recently closed zip lanes would cost the city approximately $3,000.

"This isn’t something you have to do right now, it is just something that I wanted you all to be aware of," he said.

Autrey said he is also investigating the possibility of using iron gates to close off the lanes.

"From what I have been told, that would only cost us about $1,200," he said.

Aldermen asked Autrey to bring them a drawing of the gates in the near future.

Increases reported in sales tax returns to most of Panola’s towns
By Rupert Howell

Sales in Batesville and the State of Mississippi continue to increase judging from the amount of sales tax refunded to municipalities during the month of December from the State Tax Commission.

Batesville’s collections were up two percent over the previous December with the city receiving $282,429.32 compared to $276,381.47 received during December of 2004.

The tax commission refunds approximately 20 percent of the sales taxes collected within the municipalities which is used by cities in their general fund.

For the state’s fiscal year beginning July 1, the City of Batesville’s sales tax collections were up 2.5 percent with Batesville receiving $1,696,077 compared to $1,654,580 received during the same period last fiscal year.

Returns made to Batesville during the month of November were up eight percent over the previous year and statewide figures showed a 20 percent increase in sales over the same period compared to the previous fiscal year. (The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath may tend to make some figures difficult to compare.)

The state showed an 18.5 percent increase in overall collections returned to municipalities in December and approximately 10 percent increase during the fiscal year.

Batesville’s Tourism and Economic Development tax showed a decrease for the month, slipping to $58,991 from $66,192 during the previous December but it remains approximately one percent above last fiscal year’s total for the same time period.

The city has received $382,263 since July from the Tourism and Economic Development tax, a three percent tax on motels and restaurants which is used to fund infrastructure and to pay notes of the Batesville Civic Center.

Other Panola County municipalities received disbursements of sales tax revenue in the month of December for 2005 and 2004, respectively:

     Como, $14,871 and $11,112;
     Courtland, $1,419 and $1,230;
     Crenshaw, $2,755 and $3,428;
     Crowder, $873 and $1,234;
     Pope, $1,866 and $1,833 and
     Sardis, $20,619 and $19,042.

Other nearby municipalities received returns in December 2005 and 2004, respectively:

     Charleston, $24,480 and $23,723;
     Clarksdale, $220,601 and $196,997;
     Grenada, $325,987 and $298,504;
     Lambert, $3,o65 and $4,920;
     Marks, $21,361 and $24,532;
     Oakland, $3,232 and $2,176;
     Oxford, $448,719 and $401,204;
     Senatobia, $154,061 and $162,397;
     Water Valley, $35,479 and $32,890.



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