Headlines – 2/14/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – February 14, 2006

  From the 2/14/06 issue of The Panolian       

If dam goes down, one hour to city limits, eight feet under in five
By Jason C. Mattox

City leaders in Batesville left last Tuesday’s meeting with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ready to design a new disaster plan.

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Blake Mendrop, representing the city’s engineering firm McBride Engineering, asked Corps representatives to tell the mayor and aldermen what would happen if the dam at Sardis Lake broke.

Robert Summerall, chief of the Hydaulic Branch of the Vicksburg office, said the dam was constructed in the late 1930s and receives a thorough inspection every four to five years.

"The emergency operation plan was updated in 2000, and it outlines procedures to follow in case of an earthquake or a terrorist attack," he said.

Frank Walker, Sardis Project Manager for the Corps, picked up there and discussed just what would happen in the event of an earthquake.

"We know that people all have questions about what would happen if the dam breaks, and we will discuss that, but you need to know that we have taken measures to strengthen the dam structure," Walker said.

The largest of those measures included the construction of berms to fortify the dam’s structure.

"We spent almost $21 million on measures against an earthquake," Walker said.

Walker, explained that the dam would sustain some damage in the event of a 7.5 measure earthquake, but it would not fully break.

A 7.5 represents the Richter scale reading. Richter scale readings are measured on a scale of one to 10.

"There would be some cracking and sluffing of materials, but the dam would be able to sustain that size of an earthquake," he said.

Walker explained that instrumentation at the dam monitors earthquake activity.

"The equipment has picked up several smaller earthquakes from nearby areas," he said. "But in order to break the dam, it would have to be a rather sizable earthquake."

Walker said a worst-case scenario would be the dam breaking at maximum capacity.

"It would take approximately one hour for the water to reach the Batesville area," he said. "The downtown area would be under about eight feet of water in four to five hours. But keep in mind that is at the dam’s highest level."

In the event of the worst case scenario, the water would be approximately four feet above the sea-level marker located on the right corner of the south side on the old brick school building beside Batesville Elementary, Assistant Civil Defense Director Daniel Cole said.

The notch is nearly four feet from the ground and represents the mark of 221 feet above sea level.

In the event of the dam breaking, Walker and Summerall explained the notification procedure.

"The first call would go to the district office," Walters said. "From there the chain would go to MEMA, the sheriffs in the three counties (Panola, Marshall and Lafayette) around the lake and then to the civil defense offices.

"The corps of engineers does not have a local evacuation plan," Summerall said.

Cole explained that he and Civil Defense Director Son Hudson are working on an updated evacuation plan.

"We are trying to get input from the sheriff’s department, Batesville Police Department and Batesville Fire Department, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol," he said. "We want everyone to have a say in the new plan."

North Delta School readies for Open House, pre-registration
North Delta School will be hosting Open House and Pre-Registration events on Thursday, March 9, for ND’s preschool programs. North Delta offers preschool programs for three, four, and five year olds.

The Open House/Orientation for the K5 program is set for 9 a.m. in the school’s elementary library. The K4 Open House/Orientation will be held at 10 a.m., followed by the Open House/Orientation for K3 at 11 a.m.

"The North Delta faculty and staff works hard to serve families of preschoolers by providing a safe and fun learning environment for our children," said Principal John Howell Jr. "Our goal is to train the children academically through a curriculum and loving attitude that reflects a Christian-based world view."

The school’s K5 program is under the direction of Jennifer Howell and Cindy Legge. The students learn language skills using the Sing, Spell, Read, Write program. The children use A Beka’s math curriculum. Special weekly activities include Bible, art, library and physical education.

The K4 program is led by Suzann Belk and Grace West, assisted by Kathy Bates. This half-day program also utilizes the Sing, Spell, Read, Write curriculum and math curriculum blended from Houghton Mifflin and A Beka.

Teachers for the K3 program include Ashley Lewis Drumheller and Deanna Devazier. Students enjoy a fun-but-productive format that helps children begin building an academic foundation.

North Delta’s highly-regarded art teacher, Sherry Crawford, provides weekly art lessons for K3, K4 and K5 classes.

Spaces are limited in each program. The pre-registration period for all grades for the 2006-2007 school year begins Thursday, March 9 and continues through Friday, April 7. During this period, families receive a discount on the ND application fee. Discounted rates are available to families with multiple children in grade school at North Delta.

"Families who are interested in placing their children in an atmosphere that is small and safe, academically successful, and grounded in Christian principles should look to North Delta to serve them by providing a quality education for their children," Howell said.

To request more information or to schedule a visit to the North Delta campus, call 563-9994.

     Taking a spin on the dance floor Saturday night were the first husband-and-wife duo to be honored as king and queen of the charity ball sponsored annually for nearly 30 years by the Junior Auxiliary of Batesville. Barney and Elizabeth Pickett of Pope were crowned during festivities at The Eureka.
     The steeple at the Batesville First Baptist Church saw several snowflakes during a spell of wintry weather that hit Panola County Friday afternoon through Saturday leaving measurable precipitation in the north part of the county and a wet dusting in the south.
Utility district could hasten development
By Billy Davis

Panola County’s ongoing plans to enhance economic development could take a giant leap if plans for a county-wide utility district move forward, county supervisors agreed Monday.

Rep. Warner McBride formally presented the idea at the supervisors’ "second Monday" meeting, saying such progress would score points with industrial prospects who might scout locations in Panola County.

The Como area at Interstate 55 includes several industrial sites, most notably a potential mega-site that was one of four finalists for a Toyota plant that eventually went to Texas.

An automotive plant would presumably need massive utilities to operate, meaning a large utility district would best serve that purpose.

After McBride told supervisors that local/private legislation would be needed to allow the utility district, a resolution passed unanimously by the board, setting the legislation in motion.

Before supervisors voted, however, one point of contention was reassurance that the county’s multiple water associations would operate independently of the utility district.

McBride said the district will "weave in and out" of water associations’ boundaries, though those associations can tie into the main line.

"If the utility district doesn’t interfere with the water associations, doesn’t it also keep them out?" asked District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins.

"No," McBride replied, "they can come in if they want to."

McBride said the utility district would be operated by the county and overseen by a five-person board appointed by the supervisors.

After the meeting, McBride said the local/private legislation could be introduced as early as next week in the House of Representatives.

A utility district could operate either as a separate site near Como or tap into Batesville’s water system, the largest in the county, and pump water and gas north up I-55, he said.

"If we ran it from Batesville, it would open up economic opportunities all along the interstate," McBride told The Panolian.

The Panola County legislator appeared at the meeting with Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons as well as engineer Chad Wages and attorney Randy Wall.

Wages told supervisors that he worked on the Nissan plant project at Canton and saw first hand the importance of a utility district.

"If you form this district now, should a project happen you will have a centralized organization to plan and implement a major project," Wages told supervisors.

New trucks purchased for county supervisor, sheriff
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors approved the purchase of a county truck for District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson and Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright at a special meeting in January.

Benson will receive an ’06 model truck per state contract, Chandler said. The price of the vehicle is unknown since Benson has yet to choose its features, the county administrator said.

"He hasn’t come in and gone over what he wants," Chandler said. "There is a base price, and then you can add whatever you want like air conditioning and power windows."

Chandler did not state the base price of the truck.

Bright is set to receive an ’06 four-wheel drive Z-71 to perform the duties of Panola County sheriff. He was sworn into office in November.

Bright’s GMC vehicle will cost about $27,000 via the state’s bid price, County Administrator David Chandler said after the supervisors’ "second Monday" meeting.

Bright told The Panolian Monday he has been driving a drug-seized Lexus that was formerly driven by interim Sheriff Ida Bryan.

Benson had been asking for a new truck for several months, supervisors said, since the truck he owns has piled up more than 200,000 miles.

"I think Mack’s got about 230,000 miles on that truck and it’s constantly being repaired," District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant told The Panolian.

The vote for the truck purchases was 4-0, Avant said. Supervisor James Birge was absent from the January meeting due to illness.

Panola County operates under the unit system of county road work, which means routine road work is overseen by a county road manager instead of the supervisors.

Supervisors using county-owned trucks was a non-issue under the former beat system but can be a hot topic among county residents, agreed District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins.

"I understand that some people have taken county government to court over the issue," Perkins said. "I don’t think people understand that the supervisors have a responsibility of the roads."

Perkins said the supervisors’ truck purchase vote occurred in mid-January when the board met at the county courthouse in Batesville to conduct an annual road inspection.

Bright attended the January meeting, Perkins said, and asked the board to purchase him a vehicle.

"After we voted to give Shot a vehicle, we voted to give Mack one, too," Perkins said.

The supervisors’ January vote was held before an annual recess meeting for the road inspection. A representative of The Panolian did not attend the inspection.

The vote was among the listing of board orders for January, which The Panolian received at the "second Monday" meeting yesterday.



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