| Toxic Cleanup
| An environmental clean-up specialist (left) looks on as a trackhoe with the Panola County road department builds a berm to divert water from the litter of paint cans and solvent material in front of him. More than 400 five-gallon paint cans were recovered March 31 in a creek on private land, located on Smart Road in northeast Panola County. A state and federal investigation is under way by environmental agencies to determine who dumped the materials.
| Jury receives murder case
| By Billy Davis
A Panola County circuit jury was expected to receive a murder case this morning following a three-day trial in Batesville.
The jury will decide if Marece Milton is guilty in the shooting death last year of Roland Means, his co-defendant in a Texas drug trial.
In opening statements Tuesday, the jury heard from Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly that Milton killed Roland Means on April 13, 2005, outside a home on Curtis Road.
Panola County sheriff’s investigators said last year that Milton, Means and Dewayne Pollard faced a money laundering charge after police in Sulfur Springs, Texas found $270,291 in the trunk of their rental car.
Sulfur Springs is located about 75 miles northeast of Dallas.
At the Texas trial, Milton testified against Means for the prosecution, telling jurors the money was meant for the purchase of 20 kilograms of cocaine, a Sulfur Springs newspaper reported during the trial.
Means, who is from Milwaukee, Wis., was acquitted of the money laundering charge on April 12, the day before he was gunned down in the front yard of Vera and Eddie Poindexter’s trailer home.
Panola law enforcement officers testified this week that three shots were fired at the scene from a 9mm pistol.
Kelly told jurors that Milton sneaked up to the home on foot, surprising Means and Eddie Poindexter on the front porch.
"One shot hit a car door, one (shot) hit Mr. Means in his elbow, and the third shot hit his fourth vertebrae, which went through his head and lodged in his chin," Kelly said.
Milton is represented by attorneys Kevin Horan and Brennan Horan of Grenada, who are brothers.
The defense attorneys, who did not give an opening statement, nonetheless built a self-defense case for Milton stemming from his testimony against Means in the Texas trial.
Witnesses for the defense, including Milton himself, testified that Means had travelled from Wisconsin to Panola County to kill Milton.
Judge Ann Lamar, who is presiding over the trial, let jurors adjourn for the day Thursday afternoon after the defense rested its case at 3 p.m.
The trial was expected to continue Friday morning at 9 a.m. with closing arguments from Kelly and Kevin Horan and jury instructions from Lamar.
| Aldermen hear outcry over pay periods, ‘against any change’
| By John Howell Sr.
Batesville aldermen voted three to one Tuesday to rescind an earlier ordinance changing pay periods for city workers.
The action at April’s first meeting of the board of mayor and aldermen undid part of an ordinance they had adopted in March.
The March action would have converted all pay periods to bi-weekly, effective in June.
The March ordinance also included conversion from printed paychecks to optional direct payroll deposit for city employees.
Apparently a sufficient outcry arose from affected city employees to cause three aldermen to rethink their positions.
"I’m against any change," Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said, making a motion to rescind the March ordinance.
Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger made the second to Manley’s motion.
There are 62 workers who receive paychecks weekly, 82 workers who receive checks bi-monthly and 37 who receive monthly paychecks, city clerk Laura Herron said.
Most of the complaints had come from workers who are paid weekly and who would have a hard time adjusting to less frequent pay periods, Dugger said.
The city’s lowest paid workers are paid weekly, he added.
"I voted for two weeks," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said after she stuck with her March vote for the bi-weekly pay periods for all employees.
"How’s the direct deposit?" Manley asked.
"They’re liking it," Batesville City Clerk Laura Herron replied.
| Attorney charged with DUI
| By Billy Davis
Batesville attorney and city court judge pro tem Jay Westfaul acknowledged this week that he is facing a DUI charge in the City of Oxford.
Reached by The Panolian Thursday, Westfaul said he was arrested and booked Saturday, April 1, by Oxford police officers on a charge of DUI-first offense and failure to use a turn signal.
Both charges are misdemeanors.
Westfaul’s Oxford court date is set for Wednesday, April 12.
Asked about the incident, a spokesman with the Oxford Police Department said the department doesn’t comment on misdemeanor charges.
Westfaul is a fill-in judge for Batesville Municipal Court and also hears cases for the municipalities of Courtland and Pope. He is a former youth court judge for Panola County.
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, which oversees judges’ behavior, could reprimand Westfaul for the misdemeanor crime if he is found guilty of the DUI charge.
The executive director of the judicial performance commission, Brant Brantley, said the commission doesn’t comment on possible cases.
Westfaul said Thursday he is "cooperating fully" with the commission and is "seeking a resolution."
Westfaul said he has hired Oxford attorney Rhea Tannehill to represent him in Oxford Municipal Court.
The incident occurred on Price Street about 5 p.m. Saturday, Westfaul said.
| Easter Egg hunts set for school yard, park
| By Emily Williams
and Lynn Jones McCullar
Peter Cottontail will come hoppin’ down the bunny trail for two Easter Egg hunts in the downtown Batesville area on Saturday.
The first stop will be the front lawn of Batesville Intermediate School, where the Batesville Junior Women’s League will sponsor a hunt for children ages 0-6 beginning at 10 a.m.
Then from 10:30 to noon children 0-6 are invited to the Downtown Memorial Park on the Square for a hunt sponsored by Batesville Main Street.
Eggs will be filled with treats and coupons to be redeemed at downtown businesses.
Prizes will be awarded to the boy and girl who finds the most eggs. Pictures made with the Easter Bunny will be available for $2 each, and refreshments will be served, said Kim Carver, chairman of the Promotions Committee of Batesville Main Street.
By promoting downtown businesses and activities, Batesville’s Main Street downtown revitalization program encourages visitors to enjoy the Southern hospitality of hometown merchants, Carver said.
Hunters at the Junior Women’s League event will be divided by age groups: 0-2 years old, 3-4 years old, and 5-6 years old. Prizes will be awarded for the most and least found eggs for each age group.
The Easter Bunny will also be there to talk to the kids and help them hunt eggs. Children are asked to bring their baskets.
Additional downtown activities are planned for the coming months, and Batesville Main Street is seeking suggestions for other activities that might be held throughout the year.
Call the Panola Partnership/Batesville Main Street office at 563-3126 with suggestions.
| Engineer once again on payroll in Sardis
| By Jason C. Mattox
After years without a designated city engineer, the Sardis Board of Aldermen hired David Evans of Evans Engineering during its Tuesday night meeting.
Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye suggested the hire to aldermen because of Evans’ assistance to the city on several recent projects.
"David has really helped this city a lot," Dye said. "He has come up and helped us apply for the grant we just got to repair Wild Dog Ditch, and he has put all of the city’s water, sewer and gas lines on computer mapping.
"A lot of this has been done at no cost to the city whatsoever," he added.
Evans will not receive a retainer fee and will be paid on an as-needed basis.
"We have so many projects in the works here, this city really needs to have a city engineer," Dye said.
Evans’ first request to get on the ranking list for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality?s (MDEQ) revolving loan account was granted.
"There is a large part of your sewer that was installed back in the 1960s and it needs to be TV’d and cleaned out," he said. "If we get the money from MDEQ, you would also be able to rehab the most problematic areas of the sewer."
Alderman Mike Wilson said he believed a sewer rehab would see little opposition.
"I don’t think you will find anyone who will fight you on updating our sewer system, even if it does mean we have to take out a loan," he said.
| Mayor, aldermen get upbeat report on busy civic center
| By Jason C. Mattox
Batesville Civic Center Director Roy Hyde brought good news to city leaders at their April 4 meeting: the event schedule for the spring is beginning to fill up.
"There are still a lot of tentative events that we don’t have contracts back on, but if you look at us this time last year, we are getting more events," Hyde told the city mayor and board of aldermen.
In addition to the new events coming to the BCC, Hyde said the BCC is enjoying repeat customers from previous events.
"I am proud to say that everyone who has come through so far this year has already committed to a date next year," he said. "Some of them have added more than one date.
"That’s a sign that things are really going well for us," he said. "Repeat business is always a good thing considering how many other facilities there are out there."
After Hyde completed his update, Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders and Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger asked about the center’s proposed marquee sign.
"I know we have talked about this in the past, but how close are we to it becoming a reality?" she asked.
Hyde said he had given the sign specifications to Blake Mendrop, of McBride Engineering, for approval.
"How much are we budgeting for this marquee," Pounders asked.
"If I am not mistaken, we were estimating approximately $143,000," Hyde replied.
Pounders also suggested the city could use part of the money the city received from the sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center to pay for the signage.
The city should go out and look for someone who might be willing to sponsor the sign, Mayor Jerry Autrey suggested.
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