| Batesville businessman Ricky Swindle prepares a congratulatory message for Batesville’s Deshea Townsend after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory in the Superbowl on Sunday. The complete sign says, "Deshea Townsend, Batesville Superbowl MVP."
| BPD sharpens hot pursuit skills
| Oxford police officer Kevin Stark explains the how and when of a pursuit driving course to Batesville police officers Tuesday behind the Batesville Civic Center. BPD officers gathered at the center Tuesday and Thursday to hone their driving skills.
| By Billy Davis
Batesville police officers squealed tires and raced against the clock this week at the Batesville Civic Center, where a driving course had the sights, smells and sounds of a NASCAR race.
Behind the civic center, a snaking path of orange cones tested officers’ ability to drive defensively at high speeds, using the cones to simulate hair-pin curves and objects in their path.
As the officers maneuvered Impalas and Crown Vics through the course, the vehicles’ throbbing engines and wailing sirens announced each timed run, and a bone-chilling winter wind carried the smell of burnt rubber.
Oxford Police Department officers Kevin Stark and Tony Webb taught the course, leading BPD officers in two hours of classroom instruction as well as three outdoor driving courses.
The BPD split its force in half for the course, training one half Tuesday and the other half Thursday.
The driving courses included pursuit driving, defensive driving and a back-up course, which tested officers’ ability to maneuver backwards while being aware of their surroundings.
"Most wrecks occur while backing up in a rear-end situation, which made that course real important," explained BPD Major Don Province, who observed officers performing their feats and drove a cruiser himself.
During the defensive driving test, officers’ times were recorded but not announced to help prevent an all-out competition among officers for the fastest time.
The route of curving orange cones tested officers’ decision-making skills during a simulated pursuit of a suspect. While one officer acted as a "violator," such as a possible drunk driver, the second officer trailed behind, deciding whether the pursuit should continue.
The most challenging driving course was likely the pursuit, which required officers to draw from experience and department training in addition to their driving skills.
During pursuit training, Stark and Webb explained the scenario to both the pursued and the pursuer, leaving the suspect to act out the situation while the officer had to react to the event that was unfolding in real time.
Adding to the challenge was the ability of the "suspect" to veer off the marked course while the officer was required to stay within the cones.
During one course run, an officer’s cruiser came to a stop in a "school zone," allowing a suspected bank robber to leave behind his pursuer.
"During a pursuit, an officer has every right to cut off the pursuit when he feels like it’s endangering others or himself," Province explained as he watched the event unfold. "That’s what that officer just did.
| Sardis agrees 4-0 to tax exception
| By Jason C. Mattox
The Sardis Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution to allow a five year ad valorem tax exemption for Skipper Marina during Tuesday night’s meeting.
According to Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye, this is the second resolution the aldermen have adopted for the tax exemption.
"They asked for the tax exemption in 2003, but they have not received it yet," he said. "Skipper had 220 days to file the application for the exemption and somebody dropped the ball."
There was speculation among the mayor and board as to whether the exemption will be granted by the Mississippi State Tax Commission.
"Skipper is well behind," Dye said. "They just completed the application last week, but they are asking that we issue a resolution to support their exemption as they file it."
Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn said he didn’t believe the commission would grant the exemption at this late date.
"If it is something that will keep us in compliance with the contract, I think we need to go ahead and do it, but it seems unlikely the state tax commission will allow the exemption," he said.
City Attorney Tommy Shuler told the board that, under the terms of the contract, the board agreed to do whatever was within their legal power to get the exemption.
"If you do not do put forth your best effort, the contract says you will cut the impact fees to offset the taxes," he said.
The city receives $1,880 per month in impact fees from the marina. Once loan payments and other items are paid the city clears approximately $300 per month from the marina.
"It was their job to submit the application," Shuler added. "But I suggest you submit the resolution. If the tax commission accepts it, they accept it."
Dye said he believed the city needed to adopt the resolution so not to "upset the waterflow."
"There could be some major interest in the other phases of the project, and that would generate more tax dollars," the mayor said.
Aldermen voted 4-0 to allow the resolution. Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson was absent from the meeting.
| House 0-2 on dismantling tainted
| By Billy Davis
Despite any momentum stemming from Richard Hall’s guilty plea in the beef plant debacle, legislation that would have disbanded the state board that helped fund his project is dead in the state House of Representatives.
House Bill 966, which would have disbanded the Land, Water and Timber Resources Board, likely died in an appropriations sub-committee, Rep. Warner McBride reported Thursday.
"I’m on the committee, and it never came before the full committee," said McBride, who introduced the legislation for the second year in a row.
Considering the attention Hall’s plea has garnered, McBride said he was hopeful that House leaders would support the proposed legislation.
Hall pleaded guilty in recent weeks to federal and state charges, including mail fraud and money laundering, stemming from the failed Oakland plant, Mississippi Beef Processors.
"I didn’t get any feedback from the leadership, but I know a number of members think like I do," McBride said. "They think (the board) should be repealed."
In the state Senate, similar legislation to disband the Timber board passed in recent days and will now go to the House, McBride said.
"The Senate bill might not got to the same committee, but it probably will," McBride said. That means the Senate version will likely face the same fate as House Bill 966, he said.
The Clarion-Ledger is asking state legislators to abolish the board, suggesting that the board’s duties should be turned over to the Mississippi Development Authority.
The Timber board gave Hall $5 million in start-up money but "did not do even the basic investigation of the viability of the plant or proper checks of Hall," the newspaper stated in an editorial this week.
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| Commission: no ‘spinning wheels’
| By Jason C. Mattox
Members of the Batesville Planning Commission will soon hear all requests for variances to the city’s construction codes and ordinances.
Aldermen approved the request from planning commission spokesman Brad Clark on Tuesday. Variance requests have previously been addressed to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
"We were recently asked to re-address our sign regulations," Clark said. "To tell the truth, we felt like we would be spinning our wheels by doing the work if we didn’t see exactly what you wanted.
"The Planning Commission can re-write the ordinances, but if it isn’t adhered to then it is a real waste of time," Clark added.
Clark said the commission wanted to initially hear all variance requests.
"We have checked with other cities and their planning commissions are the ones who hear the variance requests," he said. "If we are allowed to do so, it would essentially make us a buffer zone for the board."
Code enforcement office administrator Pam Comer said the idea was good because Planning Commission members work with the ordinances on a regular basis.
"They just want permission to be the ones to hear the variance requests," she said. "If someone has a problem with the Planning Commission’s ruling, you (the city board) would still have the final say in the appeal process," she said.
Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said raising the rates for variances has slowed the number of requests, but added allowing the Planning Commission’s request was a good idea.
"It would make a lot of sense," Dugger said. "That would really take a lot off of our plate."
Clark said the Planning Commission wants to improve the city’s ordinances so there would be less need for variances.
Ward 4 Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders voiced her concerns about the proposed electronic message center at the Batesville Civic Center.
"I like the idea, but it cannot effect our marquee," she said. "If it does, we will override it."
Clark again pointed out that the final say would rest with the aldermen.
"All I am saying is that we want to see Batesville grow, and we don’t want a sign to keep people from wanting to come here," Pounders said.
"We are going to have to approve whatever changes the Planning Commission makes to the ordinances. It’s not like we are going to be flying blind here," Dugger responded.
| Sardis tackles sight of unsightly trash
| By Jason C. Mattox
Overflowing dumpsters on East Lee Street in Sardis may cause additional costs for city businesses in the near future following a discussion by city officials Tuesday night.
"We have been having problems with a few businesses that have trash running out of the dumpsters," Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said. "Not only does it look bad, but the health department is starting to fuss about it, too."
Ward 1 Alderman Joseph "JoJo" Still suggested the city require the enclosure of all dumpsters around the city.
"I know Batesville has an ordinance that requires the dumpsters to be enclosed, and I don’t see why that isn’t something we can look into," he said.
Police Chief Mike Davis said he has spoken to some of the owners of the problem dumpsters and has received the same story.
"They keep telling me they can’t get anyone to come dump it," he said. "From what I have been told, the man responsible for the dumpsters is just not coming around."
Davis said he was told by one competitor that an effort had been made to purchase the dumpsters, but the owner cannot be found.
"Every time an appointment gets scheduled something always happens and the owner is either in Tunica or Greenville or somewhere else," he said.
Still asked why the businesses couldn’t change their dumpster service.
"Most of the businesses that used this company have changed over," Davis explained. "The problem is they won’t touch the old dumpster because they are afraid of a lawsuit."
Dye pointed out that the cleanup is still the responsibility of the businesses.
"They can pay someone to get out there with a shovel and get the trash out of one dumpster and into the other," he said. "If not we can start ticketing them, and $150 a day will get something done."
Dye said he didn’t have a problem with enclosing the dumpsters, but they need to be big enough to handle the businesses’ cardboard trash as well.
"The fact is, they need to have the enclosure big enough to handle all of the cardboard," he said.
City attorney Tommy Shuler said he would draft an ordinance, but aldermen needed to have some specifications in mind for the fences.
The issue was tabled and will be discussed again in the near future.
| Supervisors mull multiple bids
| By Billy Davis
Voting to spend the taxpayers’ money on everything from gravel hauling to a new telephone system, Panola County supervisors accepted various bids and rejected others at their "first Monday" meeting in Sardis earlier this week.
Panola County Administrator David Chandler led supervisors through the annual county government ritual, using a three-page list of bidders and their totals.
A majority of the bids involved the county’s ongoing and expensive road work. Bids for the year included suppliers of plastic and metal culverts, and cold mix/hot mix for road maintenance, and truck hauling of clay gravel, dirt and rock.
Evans Sand and Gravel, of Sardis, won the bid to load and haul gravel at $1.50 a 15-yard load, though supervisors also accepted bids from Mississippi Limestone and Smith Bros.
Mississippi Limestone had bid $9.50 per load compared to Evans’ $1.50 bid. Smith Bros. bid $3.
Evans was the solo bidder of hauling dirt ($1.25) and rock ($7).
Also at the meeting, Chandler announced supervisors would readvertise for bids for hauling rip rap, saying bidders complained they were confused by the bid specifications.
The rip rap bidders, F.W. McCurdy and Vulcan, bid on various sizes of the rock, leaving Vulcan as the winner over McCurdy on two sizes.
Welch Trucking bid on hauling white rock to the county’s road department shops in Courtland ($9) and Sardis ($8.50). That bid was also rejected and the county will readvertise, Chandler explained after the meeting.
Supervisors did vote to allow R.L. Cosby to haul clay gravel for the county, Chandler also said.
According to the bid sheet, Cosby beat out Welch on hauling from zero to nine miles ($2) and was the solo bidder on hauling from 19-plus, 24-plus, and 25-plus miles. The highest cost to the county was $4 for 25-plus miles.
Welch tied Cosby’s $2.50 bid for hauling gravel 14-plus miles for the county, the bid sheet also shows.
Reached after the meeting, District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins said supervisors were advised by board attorney Bill McKenzie to readvertise the bids after McCurdy and Welch protested.
In other bids, G&O Supply won the bid to supply plastic culverts at a starting cost of $3.19 a linear foot.
Como-based Hanson Pipe and Products won the bid to supply metal culverts, beginning at $5 a linear foot for a 12-foot culvert.
Hanson was the sole bidder for precast concrete bridges and box culverts, and concrete pipe.
Depositories for the county’s bank account were State Bank, First Security, BancorpSouth and Renasant Bank.
Solo bidders who were accepted included Dunlap and Kyle Co. for tires, G&O Supply for grader blades, and Traffic Control for road signs. None of their bid totals were published on the bid sheet.
After the meeting, Chandler said some bidders aren’t included because the various specifications are too numerous to list. The Dunlap and Kyle bid, for example, covered a variety of tire sizes.
"It was an inch thick," he said.
Supervisors rejected River City’s $51.25 bid for garbage cans, a bid from UAP Chemicals to supply weed killer, and various bids for the new phone system. All will be readvertised.
"The bids on the phone system weren’t specific enough. They ran from $9,000 to $24,000," Chandler told The Panolian.
Reed Buntin again won the yearly bid to feed prisoners at the Panola County jail. His bid of $3.75 beat out his nearest competitor, ABL, which bid $3.93.