| Panola Sheriff Hugh W. "Shot" Bright (right) bought a truck for one dollar Thursday. Mississippi Department of Transportation Northern District Commissioner Bill Minor handed the keys to the sheriff as part of MDOT’s Inmate Litter Removal Program.
Joining the sheriff and commissioner for the vehicle exchange were MDOT officials (from left) Richard Allen, Billy Applewhite, Courtney Blair, John Tramel and Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey.
| Cottonmouth fangs put man in hospital
| By Billy Davis
A snake bite on the ankle put Batesville businessman Ray Poole in the hospital last week, but the bite victim is recovering from the encounter.
Poole was pushing a boat into water last Wednesday at his farm when the snake, a cottonmouth, struck him, said Barbara Green, receptionist for Ray Poole Insurance.
The incident happened about 9:30 a.m. at Poole’s farm, located in the Central Academy area east of Batesville.
By Thursday Poole was recovering in a regular patient’s room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford, Green said, and hoped to be released by Sunday or Monday.
Reached Friday, Green reported that Poole was doing "much better" and swelling that had spread to the bite victim’s kneecap was finally going down.
"The pain is still there," Green said. "He was in a great deal of pain."
Doctors had used four drip bags of anti-venom on Poole by Friday due to the severity of the bite.
The cottonmouth likely injected every bit of its venom into Poole when it struck, Green said, explaining that a doctor at Baptist had consulted with a snake bite specialist from Jackson.
The cottonmouth is one of six venomous snakes found in Mississippi and is No. 5 in lethality of its venom, said Corey Wright, a researcher with the Miss. Museum of Natural Science in Jackson.
Wright said the snakes in order of lethality are eastern diamondback rattlesnake, No. 1; timber rattlesnake, No. 2; pygmy rattlesnake, No. 3; coral snake, No. 4; cottonmouth, No. 5; copperhead, No. 6.
Of the six species, Wright said the cottonmouth is the most aggressive.
Relaying the story of Poole’s encounter, Green said the insurance agent was entertaining guests who were planning to fish on one of two lakes on the property. When Poole helped them push the boat away from the bank, the snake was hiding beneath it.
After being struck, Poole killed the snake and drove himself to Tri-Lakes Medical Center for treatment. The bite victim had to continue to Baptist Hospital, however, because Tri-Lakes did not have the anti-venom needed to treat the bite.
The Jackson specialist said only three or four hospitals in Mississippi carry the anti-venom needed to treat Poole.
"They can’t keep it on the shelf for very long because it expires," Green said. "Luckily Oxford was one of the places that had it."
| MDOT, sheriff join in trash bash effort
| By John Howell Sr.
For agreeing to participate in the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Inmate Litter Removal Program, Panola Sheriff Hugh W. "Shot" Bright bought for his department a repainted MDOT-surplus Suburban vehicle for a one dollar bill Thursday.
MDOT will also pay $10 an hour for a guard to supervise county-housed state trusties who will remove litter from rights of way of state-maintained roads in the county, MDOT Maintenance Program Specialist Courtney Blair said.
The inmates will work for four days a week, seven hours a day under the program, she added.
"This will be a big help to us," said John Tramel, MDOT Maintenance Supervisor I who is responsible for maintenance ? including roadside trash removal ? in Panola County. "Whenever we stop to pick up trash, we have to let something else go," he said.
Bright was joined by Blair and Tramel as well as MDOT Northern District Highway Commissioner Bill Minor, MDOT maintenance engineer Richard Allen and Area Maintenance Supervisor Billy Applewhite for the vehicle transfer at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex.
Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey had a special interest in the program and joined the group for the presentation. Autrey has asked aldermen to consider adopting the Inmate Litter Removal Program for the city.
Chief Deputy Otis Griffin said that the former MDOT vehicle will expand the department’s litter fighting capability which includes a converted school bus with a trailer and a converted ambulance.
"We’re going to try to keep it clean and beautiful and we’re going to try to see people when they throw out trash," Griffin said. "A lot of time people will be a mile from the house and will throw it out rather than keep it and throw it in the garbage at the house," the chief deputy added.
| Program enlisting citizen volunteers
| By Billy Davis
Training begins next month for Panolians who are willing to respond to emergencies in their communities.
Thirteen participants have signed up for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training so far, but classroom space is available for a total of 40 attendees, said Son Hudson, director of the county’s emergency management agency (EMA) office.
"We would like a maximum of 20 people per class," Hudson said.
The county’s emergency management agency (EMA), more commonly known as the civil defense office, is sponsoring the CERT training.
The CERT training is open for any able-bodied person who is not affiliated with a first responder agency, said EMP deputy director Daniel Cole.
"The purpose of CERT is for average citizens to respond to the scene of a disaster in their community and know what to do before the first responders arrive," explained Cole.
At the scene of a natural disaster, a CERT-trained citizen would perform tasks such as conducting light search and rescue, putting out small fires, turning off potential dangerous gas lines, and rendering basic medical treatment to victims.
"Basically that CERT member is responding to the scene even before the first responders get there," Cole said. "When first responders arrive, the CERT member will update them on the situation."
The federal Department of Homeland Security is backing the CERT program through grant monies.
Grant money is paying for classroom materials and CERT equipment such as hard hats and vests.
CERT attendees must commit to a four-day daytime class or night class to qualify as a member.
The day classes are June 6, 8, 13 and 15 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The night classes are June 20, 22, 27 and 29 from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
A light lunch will be served for the daytime class.
The CERT classes will be held at the new National Guard Armory on Keating Road in Batesville.
To sign up for training call the EMA office at 563-6245 or 563-1116.
| No doubt in D.C. that bee talent
| By Rita Howell
Twelve-year-old Cherry Mathis of Batesville is in Washington, D.C. this week competing in the 79th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
It’s not unfamiliar territory for Cherry. Her sister Meg, now 15, competed there in 2004 and 2005, and Cherry got to tag along for all the drama of the spelling rounds, the fun of the parties, and the excitement of touring Washington.
The girls are the daughters of John and Keiko Mathis. For the past three years, a speller named Mathis has won the Mid-South Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Commercial Appeal, and advanced to the national competition. No one from Batesville had ever been to the national bee before Meg.
The competitors in the Mid-South Bee all represent counties in the Mississippi-Arkansas-Tennessee area. Cherry and Meg represented Tallahatchie County, because they go to school in Charleston, where their mom is a music teacher.
Meg, who was ranked 37th out of the 273 spellers in the national event last year, has helped her sister prepare for a solid year.
"When we came home last year, I started studying," Cherry said.
She has studied for two hours or more every day, the first hour on her own, and the second with her dad or sister calling out words to her.
It’s a family project.
Dad John is something of a statistician and organized a research endeavor last summer. For six weeks he and the girls went through the word lists for the past seven national bees, determining the derivations and studying the prefixes and suffixes.
John calculated the findings and determined the judges’ preferences for selecting words. Nineteen percent of the spelling bee words were of Latin origin, for example.
Using his statistics, he narrowed down the 475,000 words in the dictionary to 40-50,000 which he determined might be more likely to be chosen. It’s those words Cherry has focused on.
Her methods include visiting to find the "word of the day," writing down new words, and studying the Paideia, a word list published by media company Scripps, sponsor of the national bee. It includes about 4,000 words and she’s been through it three times.
The family was to leave Saturday to fly to Washington, where the first round of the bee will be held Wednesday in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt hotel.
The first round is a written test, and the second is oral. The field of 274 contestants will be narrowed to about 90 for the second day of competition.
Rounds will be televised Thursday on ESPN from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (local time) and the final rounds will be shown on ABC from 7 to 9 p.m. This is the first time the final rounds will be televised in prime time on a major network, an indication of the public’s growing interest in the spelling bee process.
Several movies have been released this year with a spelling bee theme, and Meg is featured in a soon-to-be published book called "American Bee."
If prior experience is any indication, on Wednesday and Thursday John Mathis will probably be on the front row nervously writing down every word his daughter spells. Meg will write down all the words everybody else spells.
While dad confesses he’ll be a bit anxious, Cherry, he predicts, will be fine. Meg has told her it’s very important to remain composed and calm, no matter what.
"She has a good poker face," John said.
Though she’s passionate about spelling, Cherry has other interests, like scrapbooking, painting and writing.
She was valedictorian of her sixth grade class at Charleston Upper Elementary this month.
She also likes board games and is looking forward to a party this week where the spellers and their siblings have their choice of a roomful of board games to play. The winner gets to take the game home.
Cherry and Meg are going after Monopoly.
| Power line project frees runway space
| By John Howell Sr.
The southern approach to the runway at the Panola County Airport will in effect be lengthened by 600 feet with the completion of a project to relocate utility poles and wires along Highway 35, Panola County Airport Board Chairman Tommy Wells said.
"Those power lines obstructed 600 feet off the south end," Wells said.
Because the poles and wires were in the glide path for aircraft approaching the runway from the south, the Federal Aviation Authority created what is called a ?displaced threshold’ at the airport," Wells said.
The FAA instructed pilots to begin their landings 600 feet north of the runway’s south end.
The FAA decision classified the Panola County Airport’s runway as 4,400 feet instead of its full 5,000 feet.
"A lot of your corporate aircraft have to land on 5,000 feet for insurance purposes," Wells said.
Corporate jets carrying passengers for local industry have routinely landed in Oxford when a 5,000 feet runway is required.
The power lines "have been placed underground; cable is in the process of moving its line," Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association spokesman Jamie Barnett said.
The project to place the electrical, cable and phone lines underground, and to remove the old lines and poles, cost about $78,000, Wells said, paid for through a grant from the FAA.
"We’ve been working on this a long time," over three years, Wells added.
The project should be completed in the next seven to 10 days.