Headlines Cont. – 3/24/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 24, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – March 24, 2006


Mi Pueblo will jump to new site
By Billy Davis

The Mi Pueblo restaurant chain has purchased an acre and a half of property at the coming Covenant Crossing development in east Batesville.

Rafael Angel, Mi Pueblo owner and president, acknowledged the purchase this week, saying his family plans to build a 6,000-square-foot building on the site in the next two years.

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The Mexican restaurant will move from its current leased location at 105 John R. Lovelace Dr. to the new locale.

Mi Pueblo is the first tenant for Covenant, a retail and residential development located west of Lowe’s at Highway 6 East and Interstate 55.

DeSoto County developer Alvan Kelly unveiled his plans at the February 14 luncheon of the Batesville Rotary Club, where he announced the purchase of 134 total acres from Memphis developer John Hyneman.

Kelly’s total purchase from Hyneman includes 49 acres west of and north of Lowe’s, and 47 acres surrounding Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Residential property that includes upscale homes and apartments is planned for acreage behind the Lowe’s store, Kelly said in recent weeks.

Dirt work on the site near Lowe’s should begin in the next few weeks, David Evans of Evans Engineering said Thursday.

The engineering company is awaiting approval of its erosion control plan by the Miss. Department of Environmental Quality, Evans said. A Southaven company has been hired for the project, he said.

Regarding the Mi Pueblo restaurant, Angel said the free-standing building will include an 1,100-square-foot patio, a full-service bar, and about 85 parking spaces.

"We will make a bigger place with seating that’s close to double (of the current restaurant)," Angel said.

The Batesville restaurant is operating under a lease agreement, he said, with three years and eight months left on a five-year contract.

Glendora Dugger named NP School District superintendent
By John Howell Sr.

Teams from the North Panola Future Farmers of America Chapter won three first place awards at Northwest Federation competition and will compete again Saturday in the district contest, sponsor Charles Norwood told school trustees, administrators and patrons at Monday’s monthly meeting of the North Panola School District trustees.

Norwood’s announcement was followed by other announcements of district students’ accomplishments including those of Beta Club sponsor Loraine Shepherd-Davis, science instructor Yolanda Underwood-Cox and band director Scott Warner and set an upbeat mood among those in attendance at the meeting.

The upbeat mood was tested when an executive session mid-way during the meeting lasted over an hour. Once during the session, school board attorney Alix Sanders stepped into the hall of the high school building and said: "It won’t be much longer; they (school trustees) are talking to each other now instead of at each other."

The end of the executive session brought an announcement that interim superintendent Glendora Dugger had been named district superintendent at the same salary through June, 2007. (See separate story.)

Following the announcement, trustees accepted Dugger’s recommendation of ten people to serve as administrators and one to serve as assistant superintendent. The ten, all of whom are currently employed by the district, are George Knox, Rodney Flowers, Gilda Thomas, LaKeldra Pride, Mary Grady, Verda Taylor, Jennifer Mock, Michael Britt, Dorothy Jones and Clarence Walker.

Lucinda Carter was named assistant superintendent. Carter had previously been appointed to the position in January, but that action was vacated in the minutes on the recommendation of attorney Sanders who found that Carter could not serve in dual positions as both assistant superintendent and high school principal.

In other business, trustees approved:
The sale of school day pictures by C. E. Robison and the sale of eighth grade class rings as fund-raisers for Como Middle School;
The purchase of "Passport Teacher Resource Kits" from Voyager Expanded Learning for $9,931. Trustee Pearl Lean McGlothian asked Superintendent Dugger for more information about the purchase from the "sole source" provider.
     "For struggling students, we are giving them a research-based program," Dugger said. The purchase includes teacher training.
     "It’s scripted; it tells teachers exactly what to say," she added.
The $20,103 quote from Marchbanks Specialty Company for roof repair at the band hall and adjacent classrooms at North Panola High School. The cost of repair of damage from a recent tornado and accompanying high winds will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
     "When will we see the money?" board president Cecil Dowden asked.
     District financial officer Yvette Upshaw said she expected the money "in the next couple of weeks."

Trustees also agreed with a proposal from Verda Taylor which will allow school officials to offer provisional contracts to prospective teachers at education job fairs.

"That would help us in getting more qualified people in the district," Taylor said. She explained prospective teachers are drawn to teach at North Panola as a "critical needs district" but then accept other offers during the long time lag between the initial interview and a job offer.

"This (provisional contract) is contingent on a background check?" Dowden asked.

Taylor replied affirmatively and added that the district would have the right to rescind the provisional contract for any reason before hiring is finalized.

The school board also took action to advertise for grass cutting on school property and hired Melvin Sykes as a substitute handicap bus rider and Georgia Wilson as a part-time custodian.

A rider on buses transporting handicapped students is required in addition to the driver, the superintendent explained. During consideration of the hiring of Sykes and Wilson, trustees Tracy Thompson and Rosa Wilson, respectively, excused themselves from the room because of their kinship with the prospective employees.

The next regular meeting of the North Panola School District Board of Trustees will be Monday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Air ambulance base opens near medical center in Batesville
Air Evac Lifeteam has expanded its service area to residents of northwestern Mississippi with the opening of an air ambulance base in Batesville.

The base, located on the campus of Tri-Lakes Medical Center, went into operation last week and serves hospitals and communities within a 70-mile radius. It is one of 62 bases operated by the company and the second base in Mississippi, with the opening of a base in Corinth in September of 2005.

Air Evac Lifeteam, the largest independently owned air ambulance company in the United States, provides emergency medical care and rapid medical transport through the use of Bell 206 Longranger helicopters. Each crew includes a pilot, registered nurse and paramedic. They are on duty 24 hours a day and can fly to the scenes of medical emergencies, bringing medical care directly to the patient, or make inter-facility critical care transports.

The company’s business philosophy is based upon the belief that air ambulances should be placed in areas of greatest need – rural communities that are often far from lifesaving trauma care.

"The opening of this base is part of an ongoing effort by Air Evac Lifeteam to expand our coverage area to better serve the medical needs of people in rural America," said Air Evac Lifeteam Area Manager Laura Guthrie. "Although we had already been making flights into this part of the state with aircraft from our Marianna, Ark., base, having an aircraft based right here in northwestern Mississippi will allow us to speed response times to this region and dispatch multiple aircraft to medical emergencies involving more than one patient.

"The speed at which a patient can reach definitive medical care can have a direct impact on the patient’s chances of survival and degree of recovery. In rural areas, good pre-hospital care and quick medical transport is even more critical," Guthrie added.

Guthrie said the opening of the base would not be possible without the support of Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

"We commend them for recognizing the importance of having this service available for their patients," she said. "They are very committed to providing their patients with the best in medical care. We’re looking forward to becoming a part of that health care team."

"We are ecstatic about the recent arrival of the air evacuation to the Tri-Lakes Medical Center region," said Tri-Lakes Medical Center CEO Ray Shoemaker. "On staff air evacuation provides around the clock coverage. This team can respond to an emergency, stabilize a patient and take off for another hospital, all within minutes. This will be a tremendous asset to our facility, our health care providers and the community at large."

Guthrie said the Batesville community has welcomed Air Evac and the crew with open arms.

"We’ve been amazed at the support we’ve received. We’ve felt like a member of the community since the first day we arrived and started talking with folks about placing a base here," she said. "We’re looking forward to building strong and lasting relationships with other members of the emergency response community. Good patient care requires the efforts of all of us."

Air Evac Lifeteam offers a membership program and for more about Air Evac Lifeteam services, call 1-800-793-0010 or visit

City applies for housing rehab grant funds
By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Batesville is going ahead with preliminary plans for a housing rehabilitation project despite the fact that the city might not get the grant to fund the project.

A public hearing will be held on March 31 at 11 a.m. to inform citizens about the potential project that would remove substandard housing and replace it with new homes for an unspecified number of low income Batesville families who qualify.

Confusion with an existing home grant may keep the city from receiving the grant, according to Trey Hamby of North Delta Planning and Development.

Hamby explained that the potential problem stems from a home grant the city applied for several years ago. That project was then transferred to the Panola County Board of Supervisors.

"I know it was about three years ago that the county took over a project from the city," he said.

The project in question was a development by Ted Stewart. The project was outside of the city, so it was transferred to the county.

That incomplete project may put a roadblock in the city’s plans to apply for the new grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.

Hamby said if the money used for the incomplete project came from the Mississippi Development Authority, the city might not qualify for another grant at this time.

"Depending on who the money came from, the city might not be able to apply for the rehab grant," he said.

"In order for someone to qualify, the families have to be low or very low income," he said. "Then they will basically receive a new home, as long as they own the property."

Hamby said the city needed to move forward because applications for the grants are due by April 7.

"If we discover that the other money in question came from the MDA, we will simply stop where we are," Hamby said.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley asked what would keep the homeowner from getting the new house and selling it.

"The owner of the new home must stay in it for at least one year," Hamby said.

The public hearing for the home grant will take place in the board room at City Hall.



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