Headlines – 4/4/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 4, 2006

  From the 4/4/06 issue of The Panolian       

County vehicle inspections
     Panola County sheriff’s deputy Clint Roberson looks over paperwork Friday as he completes his inspection of sheriff’s department vehicles at the Panola County Airport. Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright said Friday that he started the monthly inspection to encourage proper maintenance and care of the vehicles.
State court rejects Como Dems’ appeal
By Jason C. Mattox

Nearly one year after the 2005 Como Municipal elections, a court battle is still simmering over one alderman seat and the mayor’s office.

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The contested mayoral race was scheduled to go before Circuit Court Judge Sharion Aycock of Tupelo in January, but the case was continued.

A new date for the trial has not been set.

In the most recent development, the Mississippi Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, denied the Town of Como Democratic Executive Committee’s motion to Stay Proceedings and to Expedite and Advance the case on the Docket for Expedited Appeal Decision.

By filing its motion, the committee was asking for a quick solution to the long-unresolved court battles that began shortly after the June 2005 municipal election.

Neither of the Como election cases has gone to a judge. Both were assigned to Aycock, who handled the alderman-at-large contest in Como as well.

During those proceedings, 33 affidavit ballots, some or all of which could come into question in the two unresolved cases, were thrown out and a new election ordered – an election in which John Walton defeated Forster Ruhl.

That court-ordered special election is being appealed at this time.

Members of the Town of Como Democratic Executive Committee declined to comment on the continuing court battles when reached Monday by The Panolian.

The cases which the committee appealed to the Supreme Court were those of Judy Sumner vs. Town of Como Democratic Executive Committee and Josephine Cleveland vs. Town of Como Democratic Executive Committee.

According to the "Facts" section of Cleveland’s case, Cleveland faced off in a run off for the Ward 3 Seat in Como, where 33 absentee ballots were counted, and more than nine (the difference between Cleveland and incumbent Ruby Higgenbottom’s 89-80 race), were improperly counted.

"The election managers had refused to count nine additional absentee ballots with seven marked rejected and two marked challenged," court documents said. "The following day, the Democratic Executive Committee for the Town of Como improperly and illegally conducted a review of the seven rejected and two challenged absentee ballots, and allowed and counted an additional eight of these."

That made the certified final tally 97 votes for Higgenbottom and 80 for Cleveland.

In Sumner’s case, the facts section of the court documents claim she received more votes in both the Democratic Primary of May 3 and the run-off on May 17.

Sumner led the run-off 294-291 prior to the counting of affidavit ballots on May 18, according to an affidavit attached to her court petition.

"During the certification process, the Democratic Executive Committee for the Town of Como proceeded to open and count 19 ballots that had been rejected," the document said.

Supervisors hear pleas over late garbage fees, ‘flagged’ car tags
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors heard two pleas for help with overdue garbage bills during a brief but busy meeting Monday morning in Sardis.

County residents Randy Middleton and Barbara Thomas appealed fees owed to the county’s solid waste department for unpaid garbage bills.

Supervisors took no action on either appeal.

Both solid waste customers said they learned of the past-due bills when they tried to purchase vehicle tags.

The solid waste department is working with the tax collector’s office to "flag" the tags of customers who owe garbage bills. Many overdue bills are handed off to a collection agency.

Middleton, who owes $4,445 to the county, told supervisors he is not liable for the overdue fees, insisting that he has not lived at his mother’s home at 260 Greenbriar in several years.

"I’m 42 years old," Middleton said "I haven’t lived there since I was in school."

Thomas admitted that the solid waste account is in her name, also acknowledging that her sister was able to receive her car tag after paying one half of the overdue fee.

Thomas did not say how much she owes.

A judge who heard Middleton’s appeal ruled he owes for fees incurred since January, 2004, a record of his appearance shows.

Supervisors agreed, however, to delay responding to Middletons’ appeal until next week’s "second Monday" meeting when District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson returns.

The Greenbriar area is located in District 3. Benson was absent due to a death in the family.

In other county business:
Supervisors delayed action on a request from Preston Gleeton that the county reimburse his family for dirt that was removed from their property.
     Gleeton is requesting $5,000 for the dirt and $2,000 for damages that occurred at a county work site on Hudson Road.
     Supervisors asked Gleeton to produce a property deed at their "second Monday" meeting next week.
Supervisors voted to purchase a pickup truck for the solid waste department at the request of solid waste manager Dean Joiner.
     An older truck is no longer working despite repeated attempts to repair it, Joiner told supervisors.
     Joiner said a half-ton truck he has priced at Heafner Motors would cost $19,610, which is below the state contract price.
Civil defense director Son Hudson advised supervisors about two grants that have been received. One grant will pay to train community leaders to respond to disasters while a second will supply the civil defense office with handheld computer equipment.
Letha Wiley demanded that District 1 Supervisor James Birge deliver a driveway culvert at the home of her mother, who lives at 16325 Highway 315.
     Although the property lies in District 1, Birge said the "state highway department" (Miss. Department of Transportation) is responsible for putting a culvert on the property.
Supervisors opened bids for several pieces of equipment that included a chip spreader, asphalt distributor and an excavator. The bids were taken under advisement.
Supervisors approved travel requests for: county election commissioners Bonnie Land and Ronald McMinn, who are attending a training session in Senatobia; from Justice Court Judge James Appleton, who is attending a training seminar; and from Joiner, who will attend a seminar in Natchez on nabbing illegal dumpers.

B’ville firefighters go east to inspect alarms
By Rip Copeland,
Batesville Fire Department

Batesville firefighters are targeting east Batesville this month as they continue to ensure at least one operable fire alarm is located at each level of every city residence in the city.

This month’s installations will complete an alarm program that began in April, 2004. To ensure that the city’s highest incident areas were saturated first, department members went back five years on "run reports" to find where the most residential alarms were answered and what type of fires they were.

The department’s highest area of residential fire runs were in the area west of the railroad tracks, north and south to the city limits.

The most common cause of these fires throughout the city was unattended cooking.

With this information the city was divided into three zones, with one zone per year to be visited. The first year the area west of the railroad tracks was designated as the department’s hot zone. Firefighters went street by street, door to door offering to test smoke alarms in residences. If a residence did not have an alarm or if the alarm was ten or more years old, the fire fighters offered to install a new alarm at no cost.

If there was an alarm already in the residence and the battery was missing or dead they offered to replace them at no charge. While visiting the citizens the firefighters had a chance to discuss the number one cause of residential fires in the city, leaving them with information on smoke alarms and kitchen fires

The first year of the program, 1813 residences were visited, with 319 alarms installed and 192 batteries replaced.

In 2005 firefighters saturated area two. This area is located east of the railroad tracks, west of Highway 51, and north and south of the city limits. In this area firefighters visited 750 residences, installing 60 alarms and replacing 35 batteries.

This month firefighters will visit area three, which lies in the boundaries east of Highway 51, north, south and east to the city limits will be the department’s target area.

Firefighters in department uniform, and riding on department apparatus will once again be on the streets offering to test residence smoke alarms.

Fire department personnel are visiting homes from 6 p.m. until sunset every Monday through Thursday during the months of April, May and June. If you happen to be away during a visit, door hangers are being left to schedule follow-up visits.

This program has been made possible by donations from State Farm Insurance, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Energizer batteries.

For more information contact Rip Copeland with the Batesville Fire Department at 563-6690 or 563-6610.

(Editor’s note: Rip Copeland is the Batesville Fire Department’s Fire and Life Safety Officer.)

Graves and Carlson will speak Thursday
By Billy Davis
and Lynn Jones McCullar

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves, a former Harvard Law School educator, adjunct professor and circuit court judge, will be the keynote speaker Thursday night at the annual Boys and Girls Club Steak and Steak fund-raiser dinner.

Graves will be introduced by Supreme Court Justice George Carlson, who is from Batesville.

The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Batesville Civic Center. The event theme is "Shaping our Future."

Graves, who is from Clinton, began his term as supreme court justice November 1, 2001 through an appointment by Gov. Haley Barbour. He was elected to the post in November, 2004.

Graves’ background and his speech at the event are meant to inspire the youths who attend, said executive director Belinda Morris.

"We always like for our speaker to offer inspiration to the children, to show that you can make it and make something of yourself," Morris said.

A graduate of Millsaps College and the Syracuse University College of Law, he was earlier valedictorian at Sumner High School, where he was a STAR student with the highest GPA and ACT score. His extensive background includes teaching positions at Harvard Law School and Syracuse University School of Law.

The Steak and Steak is the largest fund-raiser for the club, which raised $25,000 last year. Sponsorship levels at the dinner range from $350 to $4,000, and tickets to the dinner are $50 each.

The Boys and Girls Club serves 120 kids at the Batesville club and 60 at the Sardis location through its Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi branch.

Daily activities for youths include computer technology, arts and crafts, health and life skills, and sports and recreation.

Steak and Steak will cap a week of activities and events as the club celebrates Boys and Girls Club week April 3-9.

County adds road department clerk, will oversee office operations
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors approved the hiring Monday of a clerk for the county road department who will oversee daily office operations.

County road manager Lygunnah Bean requested and received permission from supervisors to hire Bobby Jones as road department clerk, a newly created position. He will start April 17.

Jones, who works for a Batesville industry, gave his two-week notice Monday after the board’s unanimous vote, Bean later told The Panolian.

Jones once worked as plant superintendent at Batesville American, the now-closed industry south of Batesville where Bean worked as president before its closing.

"Bobby has a lot of experience in quality control," Bean told supervisors. "He is people friendly and has good customer relations."

Per Bean’s request, Jones’ county salary will be $3,100 monthly, or $19.37 an hour at 40 hours a week. That salary is below the paychecks earned by the two assistant road managers, Bean later told The Panolian.

Bean agreed that Jones’ job with the county is similar to an office manager.

While Jones will answer phones and take work requests, Bean said his most important responsibility will be overseeing the county’s compliance with GASB 34, the government accounting system for counties.

Implementing the GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) system will upgrade the record keeping and reporting standards for counties, municipalities, school districts and other public bodies.

The neighboring counties of Tunica, Coahoma, Tallahatchie and Marshall have hired an employee to oversee GASB, Bean told The Panolian.

The "drop-dead deadline" for implementing GASB is September, Bean reminded supervisors Monday.

Additional assignments for Jones highlighted by Bean include assisting the road manager in planning and monitoring road department activities, overseeing the county’s growing safety program, and ordering and tracking materials and vehicle parts.

Bean suggested creating the clerk position at the supervisors’ meeting last month, suggesting the employee would work at the county courthouse in Batesville.

However, Jones’ job is best suited for the county shop in Sardis, the road manager told supervisors Monday.



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