| Car crashes, ‘disappears’ into Accu-Tech building on Hwy. 6
| By the time this car crashed and almost disappeared into the Accu-Tech building on Highway 6 West, it had threaded its way through a ditch, between a utility pole and its guy wire and between the mailbox post and and magnolia tree above. Wrecker operator Chad Tidwell found that it took much longer to reverse the process.
| By John Howell Sr.
A radio dispatch Saturday afternoon directing Batesville firefighters to an auto accident site on Highway 6 West triggered a brief cacophony of vehicular traffic that included a long eastbound funeral procession and respectful westbound motorists who, in deference to the passing funeral, pulled partially off the highway and stopped.
The stoppage briefly blocked westbound traffic as Batesville firefighters in a large engine truck and individual vehicles attempted to make their way to the accident scene at Accu-Tech Plastics, 11558 Highway 6 West.
The accident victim, Patricia D. Jones, 4316 Highway 6 West, Batesville, apparently escaped with only minor injuries after her eastbound vehicle left the highway, crossed a deep ditch and passed between a utility pole and its guy wire, and crashed into Accu-Tech’s metal building.
"That was just threading the needle," Accu-Tech’s James Glascow said after he was summoned to the building to inspect the damage.
"We just saw her go into the ditch; then I saw her disappear into the building," one witness said.
The impact into the front of the metal building broke two panels loose at the building’s base. Once the car fully entered the building, the panels returned to near their original position, leaving a gap that appeared too small for a car to have passed through.
"I went there to see about her. I crawled over to get to the car and got close enough to tell her to cut the motor off," said Charles Locke, who had also been eastbound some distance behind Jones’ car.
A large magnolia tree at the front of the building also hid the point of impact from passersby.
Batesville Fire Department Captain Banks Brasell, whose home is located directly across from the crash scene, said he thought the emergency dispatcher had broadcast incorrect directions when he drove to the front of his driveway and first looked across to Accu-Tech.
Yet Brasell found Jones still inside the vehicle when he arrived, but not for long.
"As soon as she saw the medics, she came out of there like a squirrel," Brasell said.
The medics quickly placed Jones in the ambulance for evaluation before transporting her to Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
"Let’s unhook that battery and cut the power to the building," Fire Chief Tim Taylor said after he walked inside and inspected the damage.
Other firefighters used a power saw to cut the panels to allow the car to be pulled from the wreckage.
State trooper Dennis Darby interviewed witnesses and the victim while the saw quickly cut through the metal.
When wrecker operator Chad Tidwell arrived, he said that it was not the first time he had pulled a vehicle from inside a building.
"I got one out of a living room once," Tidwell said.
Repair to the building will include replacement of paneling and partitions in an office, a computer and related paraphernalia, Accu-Tech owner Bill Byer said.
| Pair gets prison after meth plea
| By Billy Davis
Two Batesville men will serve a year in prison on meth-related charges, escaping a sentence that could have put them behind bars for more than three decades.
Lloyd Turner, 46, and Ross Tittle, 43, asked for a suspended sentence with probation from Circuit Judge Ann Lamar, saying they regretted their actions and were now drug free.
The defendants had pleaded guilty January 5 to possession of meth precursors and possession of crystal meth.
Lamar handed down a maximum sentence on both counts, giving a 30-year sentence for possession of precursors and a maximum sentence of eight years for possession of the drug. She also imposed a maximum $5,000 fine.
The judge then suspended all but one year of the 38 years, putting the defendants on five years of supervised probation and random drug tests.
Turner was represented by public defender David Walker. Tittle was represented by public defender Clay Vanderburg.
A court case against Turner and Tittle began in February when they were arrested near the Wal-Mart in Batesville and charged with possession of precursors.
The sentence Friday came after both defendants testified on their own behalf, telling the court that they were attending church as well as a narcotics anonymous meeting in Kennett, Mo., where they have since relocated.
"I’m extremely sorry for this embarrassment," Turner told Lamar from the witness stand.
Tittle testified about the July explosion that left him severely burned. He also said he is HIV positive and receives treatments every two weeks in St. Louis, Mo.
Lamar, however, reminded the defendants that they were first arrested in February, 2005, for possession of precursors and, five months later, were manufacturing the drug in their home when the lab exploded on July 6.
"You two received a wake-up call when you were arrested, and you had to be aware that you were under suspicion," Lamar said. "Apparently that didn’t wake you up."
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly requested a 10-year sentence with five years suspended after consulting with the Batesville Police Department and Panola Drug Task Force.
| Cole Robertson, 3, hides from a camera behind big sister Laura, 6, at the Panola County Livestock Show Saturday at the Batesville Civic Center. Cole and Laura joined sister Taylor, 9, and parents Matt and Jennifer Robertson, at the annual event. Look for results of the livestock show in the Friday, January 27 issue of The Panolian.
| December weather, differing bill dates blamed for high gas
| By John Howell Sr.
Batesville natural gas customers have been hit with bills reflecting more gas use and higher gas prices, Gas and Water Department utility supervisor Lisa Hamilton said.
"We’ve been getting a lot of calls," Hamilton said.
Some bills doubled and some bills tripled for city gas customers on the east side of Batesville.
Gas customers in east Batesville received in mid-January bills that reflected usage between November 25 and December 25, which included cold weather in December, Hamilton said.
Gas customers in west Batesville received their bills at the first of the month.
Those bills reflected usage between November 10 and December 10 and probably did not include the cold weather. However, their bills at the first of February will include the December cold snap, Hamilton said.
The city’s utility department is accepting payment of half the amount due, with the other half payable before the next bill, Hamilton said.
Utility assistance for low income families is also available through Mid-State Opportunity Corporation. (See related story, page A3)
| Crackdown on garbage bills puts county in black
| By Billy Davis
Panola County’s solid waste department began 2006 with an increased cash flow thanks in part to a crackdown on past-due bills.
Collection agencies hired by solid waste have raked in more than $108,500 from 1,408 accounts since the agencies went to work last February, figures provided by County Administrator David Chandler show.
Chandler supplied The Panolian with figures last week to recap the department’s finances in 2005.
The county’s calculations show the cash flow from December, 2003, to December, 2004, at $841,226, and $1,202,131 from December, 2004, to December, 2005, a $360,905 increase.
"The main way we’ve increased the cash flow is by flagging tags and the collection agency," said solid waste employee Jennifer Jackson.
To get the attention of customers with past-due bills, the solid waste department flags their vehicle tags via the county tax collector’s office.
The county’s garbage fee is $11 a month for a weekly garbage pickup.
A customer who is past due on a payment receives a warning letter when the account hits $44. The customer has 10 days to pay the fee or contend with a collection agency.
Customers’ accounts over the past year ranged from $44 to several thousand dollars in overdue bills.
The solid waste department is taking customers to justice court when the collection agency fails to make a dent, Jackson said.
The department has taken 46 accounts to justice court since the first of the year, said Jackson, who is personally appearing in court.
To date, 12 of the 46 accounts paid in full before the court date and four have made partial payments.
"And we’ve filed judgments against 30 more since mid-January," Jackson said.
The department has collected $2,429 from its customers this month after pursuing them in justice court.
| Help available for some with high bills
| By John Howell Sr.
Residents who can’t pay high winter utility bills might find help with the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offered through Mid-State Opportunity Inc.
Mid-State program director Lynda Bradford said that assistance is income-based and offered to residents whose income is at or below 150 percent of the poverty level.
Panola residents who want to apply for Mid-State’s LIHEAP should call the Sardis office at 487-2087.
If the caller reaches the office’s answering machine, he or she needs to leave his or her name, address and phone number, Bradford said.
"We’re working the list as fast as we possibly can," the program director said.
An interview will be scheduled to determine eligibility for LIHEAP assistance, Bradford said.
Needed at the interview is current proof of income. This can be the annual Social Security award letter, a current bank state showing direct Social Security deposit or other proof. Also needed is a current gas or electric bill and a Social Security card.
"It really helps if people come in with what they need," Bradford.
Once an applicant is approved through LIHEAP, the utility vendor is notified that the applicant has been approved for assistance.
"We have good relationships with the vendors," Bradford said.
LIHEAP is funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services/Division of Community Services, and administered through Mid State.