Headlines – 4/25/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 25, 2006

  From the 4/25/06 issue of The Panolian       

Drug raid puts end to traffic, returns quiet to country road
By Billy Davis

When agents from the Panola Drug Task Force slipped through Bob Harper’s wooded yard and raided a suspected drug house next door, they were doing much more than busting down doors and arresting suspects.

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For Harper, whose family had endured sporadic gunfire and day-and-night traffic, the April 8 drug bust on Abe Chapel Road was revenge for more than two years of misery and frustration.

Abe Chapel Road is located north of Como, east of Highway 51.

Harper, who had contacted the task force, allowed the agents to park and assemble in his yard, then snip his fence to gain entry to the yard and one-story brick home next door.

The drug home was hidden by a wall of scrub trees, but the 65-year-old retiree stood in his yard anyway, delighted at the sounds of shouted commands and slamming doors.

"It made me feel good," Harper said of the raid, "because I’m still an old cop at heart."

Harper is indeed an "old cop," a retired sheriff’s deputy from Shelby County, Tenn. who said he figured out very quickly why the family next door was attracting traffic from Panola, Tate and Lafayette counties.

"It was like they moved I-55 and put it in front of my house," Harper told The Panolian last week.

The task force raided the home three months after Harper contacted them, the retired deputy said.

"I’ve seen some criticism of the task force, but I saw nothing but professional law officers," Harper said. "I don’t think people understand how long it takes to put a case together that will hold up in court. It takes time with drug cases."

Reached Monday about Harper’s story, Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright said the sheriff’s department is responding to any drug tips it receives.

"Everything is being logged down when people call in," said Bright, who acknowledged in recent months that the sheriff’s department has an obvious challenge fighting illegal drugs.

Bright did not speak about arrests from the April 8 raid, citing an ongoing investigation, but the sheriff’s department is seeking one of the home’s residents, Otis Porter, for sale of crack cocaine.

Porter escaped through a window during the drug bust, Chief Deputy Otis Griffin told The Panolian last week.

A mix of hardwoods, scrub trees and cedars line Harper’s 13 acres, shielding his home, and the homes of his two daughters, from view along Abe Chapel to the north and Old Panola Road to the west. A long, paved driveway leads from Abe Chapel and forks toward the homes.

After a peaceful existence with his neighbors, the Porter family, Harper said the trouble began seemingly overnight. The Harpers’ mobile home literally vibrated from the loud music, keeping them up at night, and he personally watched as his neighbors put on dog fights in their back yard.

Late one night Harper heard squealing tires as a vehicle backed out of the Porters’ driveway, then he heard a series of shots ring out from a pistol.

No one from the Porter home ever threatened Harper’s family, he said, but he believes the gunplay was meant to intimidate him and his family.

"It didn’t work," the retired deputy said.

After the drug bust, the traffic has stopped, the fighting dogs are gone, and the loud music has gone silent, Harper said.

"Now I got my home back," he said.

Chief was ‘stabilizer’ of BPD
By Rupert Howell

"He took a load off a mayor that didn’t know anything about law enforcement," former Batesville Mayor Bobby Baker said of Batesville’s Police Department’s former chief, Troy Carver, who died Sunday following a short hospitalization at Baptist East in Memphis.

Carver somewhat reluctantly accepted the position of Batesville police chief in 1980 just shortly after he had retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol where he had served since 1955.

"Troy was a stabilizing force, a tremendous asset with a world of common sense," Baker added and then stated, "His life will speak for itself."

In the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Carver had reached the rank of assistant inspector in 1980. He had served as a trooper since 1955 when he has stationed in Batesville.

Carver, 86, was born in Webster County to the late Eskerage and Annie Carver, and spent his younger years on the farm until World War II when he served in the Pacific Theater with campaigns in the Solomon Islands, Philippines and others with the 140th Field Artillery Battalion.

Returning from war he married his sweetheart, Doris Middleton, and they returned to Webster County before he joined the Mississippi Highway Patrol and was stationed in Batesville.

He was a charter member of Batesville Civitan Club, a Master Mason, and member of Batesville First Baptist Church.

In the later years he would revert to his youth by spending time with cattle and baling hay. Also, according to his family members, he could be found helping family and friends in the community that he loved.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Larry Carver and his wife Betsy of Conway, Ark. and Jimmy Carver of Pope; and one daughter, Carolyn Mills of Courtland; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. today at Wells Funeral Home who is in charge of arrangements. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Batesville First Baptist Church with interment at Batesville-Magnolia Cemetery.

The family asks that any memorials be sent to Farrow Manor (Baptist Childrens’ Village) in Independence, Miss.

Ski boat stolen from lake home
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information about the theft of a ski boat that was stolen from a Sardis Lake residence April 17 or April 18.

The model is a 2004 Correct Craft Air Nautique 216, which is valued at $33,000, sheriff’s investigator Barry Thompson said.

The boat is white, tan and black in color. The double-axle trailer is white.

The boat’s owner is offering a reward for the capture and prosecution of the thief or thieves, Thompson said.

The boat was stolen from No. 79 Kay’s Road, located on the Sardis Lower Lake, between the hours of 6 p.m on April 17 and 6 p.m. on April 18.
Anyone with information should contact Thompson at the sheriff’s department at (662) 563-6230.

Batesville’s Miss Hospitality
     Ginnie Monteith (left) was crowned Panola County’s new Miss Hospitality by 2005 title holder Meredith McCurdy. The announcement was made Thursday night at the Panola Partnership’s annual banquet held in Como.
County now among finalists for industry
By Billy Davis

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons informed a yearly gathering of Partnership members last week that Panola County is in a three-way running to land a large distribution plant.

Simmons made the announcement as part of his annual report, speaking in downtown Como at the organization’s 10th annual dinner.

The Partnership CEO said the unnamed company plans to build a half-million-square-feet facility that would employ about 400 workers.

"It could be doubled in 10 years to a million square feet and 800 employees," Simmons told the crowd.
A 400-employee workforce at the distribution plant would put the company among the largest industrial employers in the county.

The distribution company had narrowed its search from 10 to three possible sites in recent weeks, he said.

Simmons delivered the news before introducing guest speaker Gray Swoope, deputy director of the state’s industrial recruitment agency, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

Swoope (pronounced Swoope) plugged away at a theme of "preparing for the hunt," using an illustration he hears at times from MDA president Leland Speed that industrial recruitment is akin to hunting game.

The preparation is often more important than the "hunt," Swoope suggested Thursday night, illustrating his point by suggesting that communities continually improve and re-evaluate their "curb appeal," and also look beyond their city and county lines to "look bigger than you appear."

By looking beyond its borders, Swoope said, Panola County should be touting its close proximity to Memphis, "the distribution center of the United States," its proximity to Oxford and Ole Miss, and the tourist draw of Sardis and Enid lakes.

Aware of Panola County’s labor statistics, which show a quarter of workers are employed in manufacturing, Swoope said the county is doing well considering the overall rate in Mississippi is 14 percent, down from a record high of 21 percent in 1994.

"But the economy is changing," Swoope said. "Your challenge is how to diversify the economy."

As part of his report, Simmons noted some of the current work by the Partnership to improve the county’s industrial recruitment. That work includes:

The securing of a 1,700-acre site near Como on I-55 that can be developed quickly for a major industrial site. A certification process is currently under way to tout the site’s readiness, Simmons said.
The passing of a local/private bill in the state legislature, allowing for a county utility district. The legislation was signed by the governor during the previous session.
Ongoing work to create a Panola Partnership Web site, which would allow industrial prospects to view available buildings and acreage, and various demographics. An updated labor study, which will be completed by June, would be part of the site.

Regarding commercial activity in the county, Simmons noted the Covenant Crossing development east of Interstate 55 in Batesville and the new Tractor Supply store that will be built in the same vicinity.

"The Tractor Supply store was originally voted down by the company’s board of directors in January," Simmons said, but Partnership and city leaders responded by lobbying the company to reconsider its decision.

"In February, they voted again, this time to build a store in Batesville," he added.

Road manager requests direction for next hire
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors are searching for a new assistant road manager following the resignation April 17 of Buddy Holland.

County road manager Lygunnah Bean broached the subject of the job opening last Friday, asking supervisors for direction on how to proceed with filling the now-empty position.

Supervisors had met at the county courthouse in Batesville for a brief end-of-the-month, wrap-up meeting.

Bean asked supervisors Friday if the county should advertise the job opening and a deadline for applications, asked if a rating system for applications is necessary, and asked who will serve on an "interview team."

"We need a way to separate the serious applications from the rest," Bean said, referring to the rating system.

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, who serves as board president, suggested that the board respond to Bean’s suggestions at their "first Monday" meeting next week.

Reached after the meeting, Bean said Holland had left "on good terms" to pursue an excavation business he had started on the side.

"He was a good worker, and we hate to see him go," Bean said of Holland.

In other county business:
Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of communications equipment per a request from the county civil defense office.
     Deputy civil defense director Daniel Cole made the request, saying a civil defense trailer will be retrofitted to accept the equipment.
     The total cost of the equipment and materials is about $9,500.
     The tornado that touched down in Sardis was a "wake-up call" for better communication among law enforcement and other emergency responders, Cole told supervisors.
     County Administrator David Chandler told supervisors the money for the renovation was available through the county’s E-911 budget.
Supervisors approved rotating the work shifts of two jail nurses and moving sheriff’s deputy Bill McGee onto the drug task force at the request of Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright.
Supervisors approved applying for a federal grant that will go toward purchasing a fire truck for the Longtown Volunteer Fire Department.
     The federal grant covers 55 percent of the cost of a fire truck and would be coupled with $70,000 from the state’s rural fire truck acquisition fund, Avant told The Panolian.
     A new fire truck and equipment will cost about $215,000, he said.



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