| Grammy nominee makes stop at BCC
| By Billy Davis
Parents and chaperones may be looking at their watches, but teenagers from North Mississippi could be screaming for more when four hours of eardrum-rattling music comes to an end some time after 10 p.m. Saturday night at the Batesville Civic Center.
Grace Jam 2006, a five-band music festival, will kick off at 6 p.m. with alternative pop/rock band RedFlecks. Headline band Skillet will close Grace Jam when it takes the stage around 9:30 and plays a 75-minute set.
The music festival also includes Day of Fire, Decyfer Down and Seven Days Waiting, the Batesville band that is planning and financing the event.
Seven Days Waiting nabbed Skillet early on as the headliner, hoping the band’s respectable name power will draw a youth-heavy crowd to the BCC.
"In the Christian rock world, Skillet is more established now than they’ve ever been. Everybody knows Skillet," said Mark Davis, lead singer of Seven Days Waiting.
Skillet is also a favorite band of Seven Days, which also includes band members Brian Flint, Tim Christ and Michael Reynolds.
Skillet lead singer John Cooper, who has roots in Memphis, fronts a rock band that includes his guitarist-keyboardist wife Korey Cooper, guitarist Ben Kasica, and drummer Lori Peters.
Skillet’s "Collide" album received a Grammy nomination last year, and more than 3,000 voters named the group "Best Band" in a 2005 reader’s survey in Christianity Today magazine.
Davis said Skillet is finishing up a new album, still untitled, this week in a Chicago studio.
Still another expected crowd pleaser is Day of Fire, nominated last year for three Gospel Music Association Dove awards including New Artist of the Year, Rock Album of the Year, and Rock Recorded Song of the Year for their single, "Cornerstone."
Day of Fire came in No. 2 under "Best New Artist" in that same Christianity Today survey.
Day of Fire also brings more than music to Grace Jam – it brings a first-person story of grace and redemption.
Day of Fire frontman Joshua Brown, who once led a hard rock band called Full Devil Jacket, brings a story that seems to symbolize the music festival’s name.
For Brown, the hard partying rock and roll lifestyle had spiralled down to a heroin overdose in 2000. After the near-death experience, he began searching for answers.
"I don’t feel like God did that to me, but I feel like God let me do it to myself," Brown told in an interview last year. "It says in the Word, God turns all things to good for those who love the Lord. And God took that horrible situation and he brought good out of it."
That good is coming to Batesville Saturday night.
Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
| Community leaders grasp, then grapple, with ‘bird flu’ scenario
| By Billy Davis
and John Howell Sr.
A flu epidemic which could potentially kill one in six Panola residents was the focus of a strategy session held Wednesday in Batesville.
About 40 people from Panola’s first responder community joined public health and state emergency management officials to work through a doomsday scenario at the new National Guard Armory, where participants attempted to map out the county’s response to a spread of the so-called "bird flu."
Known formally as Avian H5N1 influenza, the bird flu has spread to Asia and Europe, to date killing 108 of 189 victims who contracted the virus – a 57 percent death rate.
One health department official said that if an avian flu epidemic swept the nation with a moderate-to-severe rate of infection similar to the epidemics of 1958 and 1968 and of 1918, respectively, almost 10,600 people in Panola County would be sick. Of those – using the projected 57 percent death rate – over 6,000 might die.
Just how Panola County’s law enforcement officials, medical community and government officials would respond to such a plague was the purpose of the meeting, which was held from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
Panola County’s emergency management office scheduled the exercise and invited participants.
During the training program, participants broke into three groups that worked through a a list of questions and followed this timeline: an outbreak in China in September, 2005, had made its way to major U.S. cities by late December.
Faced with one-third of a workforce that’s either sick or caring for sick loved ones and who operates police and fire services, and staffs emergency rooms, participants also grappled with who receives initial flu vaccines as they start trickling in once the type of flu is determined so vaccine can begin production.
Planners determined that those involved in the direct contact of caring for flu patients and police and fire officials should receive the first vaccine available to the community.
Workers who maintain public services such as electricity, sewer and water will also receive priority.
Kent Buckley, EMA director of Bolivar County, led the scenario.
"This is how we see where we are, our strengths and our weaknesses, and where we’ll be if this happens here in your county," Buckley told the gathered participants.
In one group, South Panola Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer suggested that the school district would be an important form of communication across the county.
"We can get information from the children to their families very quickly," Shaffer said. "That would be our main asset."
In that same group, Batesville Police Chief Gerald Legge wrestled with maintaining law and order with a half-staffed police force due to illnesses.
"I thought it was real eye opener for me," Legge said afterward. "It got me to thinking about the responsibilities of law enforcement that are outside the normal scope, such as guarding clinics where medicine would be kept and crowd control."
Participants included the City of Batesville and the Batesville Police Department; Panola County government, including the sheriff’s department and the Panola County Board of Supervisors; South Panola schools; the Panola County Extension service; personnel from Tri-Lakes Medical Center; the Miss. Department of Human Services, and the City of Como. Other participants included retired nurses, a veterinarian and a pharmacist.
| Morgan cheer clinic is today, Sat.
| Morgan Gymnastics of Batesville is seeking participants for cheer clinics this weekend.
The clinics begin at 7 p.m. today (Friday) and 10 a.m. Saturday.
Participants are required to be present at both and are asked to call ahead at (662) 561-0062.
Morgan Gymnastics is located in the Gateway Shopping Center on Highway 51.
Included are classes for grades 3-12 with a peewee squad for younger children.
| When a truck and its cow trailer came to a stop at Highways 6 and 51 Wednesday morning, this bull escaped and stepped into the busiest intersection in Batesville. What happened next was a 20-minute cat-and-mouse game as the animal led law enforcement officers on a chase, following a route that took it east, west, north and south into parking lots and across busy lanes of traffic. Batesville police officers, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies participated in the beef chase.
Here, Batesville firefighter Jackie Chapman helps to try to corral the animal in front of Boonie Mae’s Restaurant. The animal’s owner, Jeff Magee, eventually loaded the bovine after it was corralled into a fenced yard behind the old Ace Hardware store.
| Public hearing will pave way for supervisors’ wishes
| Rift over parking lots not over until change adopted
| By Billy Davis
Scheduling a public hearing is the next step in altering the county’s land-use regulations to reflect a change voted on by Panola County supervisors, members of the Panola County Land Development Commission said this week.
Land commission consultant Bob Barber reminded commission members of the required hearing at their meeting Monday night in Batesville at the county courthouse.
The change comes after supervisors voted unanimously on May 1 to add crushed limestone as an alternative to paving commercial parking lots, effectively ending a feud between the commission and business owner Stan Holcomb, who had paved only a small part of his lot.
Supervisors sided with Holcomb twice in two separate board votes over objections from the commission.
Barber told the commission he received the supervisors’ requested change via an e-mail from board of supervisors attorney Bill McKenzie.
A date for the public hearing was not announced Monday but could come as soon as next month’s June 12 meeting of the commission.
"The county attorney asked that this be drafted and adopted," Barber said, "but before we do that we must have a public hearing."
Supervisors didn’t mention a public hearing during their May 1 meeting, where District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, who pushed for the vote, said he hoped the matter would be put to rest after the vote.
Commission members discussed the supervisors’ May 1 vote for barely a minute Monday night before chairman Danny Walker cut off comments that could have turned into a repeat of past debates.
During the brief discussion, however, commission member Bob Haltom wondered aloud if the public hearing could address a compromise about the location of paved parking lots.
"It seems reasonable to use crushed limestone on country roads, but loose rock next to Highway 6 is not acceptable," Haltom suggested.
Holcomb’s business, Stan’s Country store, is located between Batesville and Oxford next to Highway 6 East.
Commission member Danny Jones followed with a more pointed observation, suggesting that the supervisors could have asked for a variance for businesses located on country roads.
Walker then threw up a hand.
"Let’s leave it alone, get our wording right for the public hearing, and let’s be done with it," Walker replied, ending the discussion. "I don’t mean to cut anybody off, but I really don’t want to plow the same field twice."
Reached Tuesday after the commission meeting, Barber said the supervisors have altered Panola County’s land-use standards in past years, at one time changing language regarding junk cars.
"I can’t remember what they changed, but that was one topic," Barber told The Panolian.
Barber said supervisors also waded into a controversial topic when an adult entertainment business proposed opening its doors in the county.
That proposal failed amid a public outcry.
After that controversy was over, supervisors requested tighter restrictions to help prevent a similar occurrence, Barber recalled.
Panola County permit clerk Diane Stewart told the commission Monday that she had heard from two new businesses, a dairy bar and a motorcycle shop, since supervisors altered the paving requirement.
The dairy bar might use crushed limestone, but the motorcycle shop will open with a paved lot because of the danger of flying rocks, Stewart said.
Walker noted during the meeting that the hard surface paving requirement is still intact until the language is changed following the public hearing.
In other commission business, Jones was elected secretary after the resignation of commission member Robert Carter, who had served in that position.
Stewart’s monthly permit report included waste water permits for 11 new homes, five existing homes, 10 new mobile homes, four existing mobile homes and one existing church.
| County cool to project’s high cost
| By Billy Davis
The price tag is more than a half-million dollars for gutting and replacing the entire heating and air unit at the county courthouse in Batesville, county supervisors learned this week.
Panola County Administrator David Chandler announced a single bid of $544,319 from Tri-Star Mechanical, a Batesville business, at the supervisors’ "second Monday" meeting.
The board of supervisors took the bid under advisement.
Chandler said after the meeting, however, that the county will likely rebid for the work, citing Tri-Star’s price as an obvious factor.
If a bidder is picked for the project, the work is scheduled for October.
The courthouse work includes completely updating the heating and cooling system, now decades old, as well as installing energy efficient lighting through the hallways and offices.
"The ceiling in the courtroom will also be lowered," Chandler said. "When you have a hundred people in there to select a jury, it gets pretty hot."
When the Mississippi summer starts to bake Panola County, box fans and desk fans are a common site in the courthouse offices. Last summer, Circuit Court Clerk Joe Reid installed an air conditioning unit to cool his office.
Tri-Star also bid financing for the project at 7.5 percent, but supervisors agreed Monday they would seek a lower rate elsewhere.
The interest cost would be about $109,000, Chandler said, meaning the total cost to taxpayers would be $653,319.
The bid opening Monday was actually a re-bid for the courthouse work after Tri-Star and an Oxford firm both bid their cost via a monthly payment, the country administrator said.
The heating/cooling system at the county courthouse in Sardis is also slated for a renovation, though Chandler said he couldn’t give a work date when asked about that project.
|In other county business:
||Supervisors gave final approval to a concrete manufacturer wishing to locate its business on Hentz Road at the Pope/Courtland interstate exit.
DeSoto Concrete Products had applied for a special exception to operate an industry in an area zoned agricultural. The county land development commission had approved the application.
||Supervisors approved travel for Daniel Cole and Tam Hawkins of the county’s civil defense office. The employees are attending a civil defense conference June 5 and 6.