Headlines Cont. – 3/17/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 17, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – March 17, 2006


Avant lobbies for industry, fire truck
By Billy Davis

An industry’s interest in locating to Panola County was among the topics discussed in Washington, D.C. last week when District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant attended the annual meeting of the National Association of Counties (NACO).

Along with other delegations from around the state, Avant said he presented Panola County’s concerns to Mississippi’s U.S. representatives and U.S. senators, and their staff members.

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Avant said money requests he passed along included a fire truck for the coming Longtown Fire Department station, resurfacing of Sardis Lake Drive, and extension of a community water line east of Como.

Most discussions took place with congressional staffers, Avant said, but at one meeting Rep. Roger Wicker personally listened to Avant’s request for the Longtown fire truck.

"We now have a meeting set up to talk about grants," the supervisor said.

Regarding the industry, Avant said the unnamed company is interested in a location in north Panola County.

Avant said he attended as a board member of the North Delta Planning and Development District, which footed the bill a round-trip Northwest ticket of $244 and a hotel stay of $189 a night.

Panola County paid $200 for travel expenses such as cab fare and airport parking, the supervisor said.
"I paid $244 for my wife’s ticket and paid for her meals," he said.

(This story is part of The Panolian’s effort to follow up on official seminars, conferences and other trips taken by public officials and public employees)
Vocal city workers favor weekly paychecks
By Jason C. Mattox

Protests from some city workers have caused Batesville’s mayor and aldermen to reconsider their decision to alter the city’s pay periods from weekly to every two weeks.

City Clerk Laura Herron acknowledged she had received a petition from members of the street department who did not want to change from a weekly pay period.

The issue has been placed on the agenda for the March 21 meeting of the board of aldermen.

Lt. Col. Tony Jones of the Batesville Police Department warned that the city might lose some employees with the change.

"I know it has been discussed at the police department and it is going to cause some struggles," he said. "You have people that are living paycheck to paycheck and this change will really be hard on them."

Jones reminded the board that employees have become accustomed to this payroll structure over the years.

"When I first came on board, the city cut checks once a month," he said. "But they made a change to that years ago, and people have their bills set with their pay.

"What are people supposed to do, call the people they owe and tell them they are sorry, but the city changed the way it pays people?" he asked.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she realized there would some hardships, but the proposed changes would make things easier on the staff at city hall.

"There are some people that think the change is going to mean they will make more money, but there are some that think they won’t be making as much," she said. "But in the end, they will make the same amount at the end of the year."

Mayor Jerry Autrey said he was in favor of the payroll change when it was first mentioned, but wants to address the issue again.

"It sounds great because it would save so much work by putting everyone on the same payroll schedule, but I don’t think any of us want to cause problems for our people," he said. "They really work hard for us, and we don’t want that to change."

The board voted unanimously to discuss the matter at the next meeting.

"I still think it needs to go to every two weeks, but I will go along with it for the sake of discussion," Pounders said.

Volunteers needed to help with Answered Prayers Benefit plans
Anyone who is interested in helping with the Answered Prayers Benefit to be held April 29 may attend a planning meeting Monday night at the new National Guard Armory in Batesville at 6.

The benefit will raise funds for four local children with severe health problems. The all-day event will include musical entertainment, auctions, a flea market, and games for children.

"We need someone to head up the kids’ games," Judy Russell, a spokesman for the group, said. "We also need volunteers to help with the flea market. There are plenty of other things to help with."

Anyone interested may phone Russell at 934-0057 or just come to the meeting.

County buys updated phones for Batesville courthouse
By Billy Davis

Panola County government will make a telecommunications leap into the 21st century when its phone system undergoes an upgrade in coming days at the county courthouse in Batesville.

Panola County supervisors unanimously approved the phone system installation at their "second Monday" meeting this week, accepting the lowest bid of $10,070 from Talon Communications, Inc., of Jackson.

Talon Communications beat out bids that ranged as high as $19,000 for the right to upgrade the phone system.

Talon president Tom Allen did not return phone calls to The Panolian about the coming phone system.

Talon’s work should be completed in the coming weeks, County Administrator David Chandler told The Panolian.

The county courthouse in Sardis will receive an updated phone system later this year, Chandler said.

Currently courthouse employees can communicate from office to office without dialing an outside line, but the present phone system lacks now-common conveniences such as voice mail and a directory of county offices and employees.

Courthouse employees reached this week said current phone problems ranged from a lack of outside lines to an apparent glitch that allows "cross over" on separate lines.

In the chancery clerk’s office, four full-time employees of Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock share two phone lines.

"Once you pick up the phone, it automatically switches over to line one, which means you could be listening in on somebody else’s conversation," said chancery clerk employee Allison Bright. "When you’re talking on the phone, you can hear each other even on two separate lines."

The supervisors’ vote this week came after a second re-bid for the phone system. An earlier request for bids resulted in prices that climbed as high as $28,000, resulting in a more specific bid description on the second try.

"Talon was the lowest bid the first time and the lowest bid the second time, and it stayed at the same amount," Chandler told The Panolian.

In other county business:
Store owner Stan Holcombe asked supervisors to consider exempting his business from the county’s requirement that commercial property operate with a paved parking lot.
     "I’d like to leave it the way it’s looking," Holcombe told the board. "I’d appreciate if you would come out there and look, and rule on it."
     District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said the supervisors will "come look at it and send you something in writing."
     The unpaved lot at Stan’s Country Store, located at Highway 6 East, has been a sore issue for the Panola County Land Development Commission for a year and a half.
Supervisors approved a request from the Town of Como to resurface a street there but turned down a request to donate a tractor and a cutter.
     The city was requesting the road work even though it now keeps tax monies that once went to the county to offset the cost of such work. The county will provide the labor while Como will purchase the materials.
     The tractor donation was denied because donated items must be worth no more than $100. The tractor is worth about $3,900, said county road manager Lygunnah Bean.
Bean announced that the county won last week’s bid for an asphalt spreader at a cost of $45,000. The bid took place March 6 in Attala County.
     Bean also announced that he was chosen as a delegate for the National School Board Meeting scheduled April 6-13 in Chicago. A South Panola trustee, Bean was chosen by the state school board association to attend.
"I will take personal time to attend that meeting," he noted to supervisors.


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