Headlines – 6/6/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – June 6, 2006

  From the 6/6/06 issue of The Panolian   – 

Voting today narrows list of Dem candidates
Primary will test use of technology
     Deputy Circuit Clerk Heather Brewer fills ballot boxes with materials for today’s election Monday morning at the Courthouse in Batesville. Balloting is being done electronically for the first time with new Diebold voting machines in each precinct.

     Today’s primary election has four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and four candidates for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. First Congressional House of Representatives seat.

By Billy Davis

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Panola County voters will go to the polls today and vote electronically for two Democratic candidates.

Candidates in the Democratic primary are vying for a spot in the November general election to oppose U.S. Representative Roger Wicker or U.S. Senator Trent Lott.

Candidates in the U.S. senate race are Bill Bowlin, Erik Fleming, James O’Keefe and Catherine M. Starr.

Candidates in the 1st Congressional District race are William Bambach, Joe Forsythe Jr., James K. (Ken) Hurt and Ron Shapiro.

Voters will "cast" their ballot on the county’s new Diebold voting machines, which use an electronic screen instead of a paper ballot to record votes. The vote is then stored in the machine via a memory card.

The use of updated voting machines was mandated by the federal Help America Vote Act. Panola County supervisors approved the use of the Diebold machines at the recommendation of state Secretary of State Eric Clark.

For information about voting in the primary, contact the county circuit clerk’s office at 563-5610 in Batesville or 487-2073 in Sardis.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Coroner: autopsy will show if ‘rollover’ claimed life of infant
By Jason C. Mattox
and Billy Davis

A Sardis infant who died early Monday morning may have suffocated while sleeping with his mother.

The infant, Marcus Dewayne Gassion Jr., is the two-month-old son of Lakesha Davis.

Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge stressed that suffocation is only a possibility, noting that an autopsy is forthcoming.

Such deaths are called "rollovers," meaning the child is often killed by a parent who accidentally smothers the youngster while both are sleeping or dies by rolling beneath the parent.

No charges have been filed in the case, which is under investigation by the Sardis Police Department and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

Grant-Gulledge said she has seen at least four infant deaths due to "rollover" since she entered office.

Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis said the department was called to the home on Center Street about 6:30 Monday morning.

Although the police chief would not speculate about a cause of death, he also blamed rollover for several infant deaths this year.

"The best things to do are to check in on your children regularly and to make sure they are sleeping in a proper baby bed," Davis said.

SP Parent Center will make move
By Jason C. Mattox

If all goes according to plan, the South Panola Parent Center will have a new home before the start of the 2006-2007 academic year.

According to South Panola School District Superintendent Dr. Keith Shafer, the Parent Center, will soon be housed in the former Child Development Center by the end of the summer.

Both facilities are located behind Batesville Intermediate School on College Street.

The Child Development Center is now housed in the red brick two-story school building near Batesville Elementary School.

"We thought, because of the visibility and location of the house that was the CDC, it would be a good location for our Parent Center," Shaffer told The Panolian.

The Parent Center is a resource for parents who are looking for ways to aid their children in the learning process.

"The Parent Center has all kinds of handouts and other materials that parents can come by and pick up," Shafer said.

Some remodeling is already under way. The interior of the building has been repainted, old carpet has been removed, and the heating and air systems have been replaced.

Once all the upgrades are completed, the Parent Center will begin its move.

"We will also be moving Teresa Williams’ office into that building," Shafer said, referring to the Mississippi Department of Education employee who serves as the district’s attendance officer.

As for the space that is now the Parent Center, Shafer said it will be utilized by Batesville Intermediate School.

"The school’s technology person will probably move to a new office space in the building," he said. "As for the rest of the space, we are unsure what it will be used for at this time."

Shafer said the move will not immediately impact the South Panola School District Board of Trustees, which uses the existing Parent Center to hold its monthly meetings.

"The board will continue to meet in the present building until we determine whether or not there is enough space in the new facility," he said.

"All in all, these changes should be very good for the district," Shafer added.

No-collateral loans available locally through Small Business Center
By John Howell Sr.

A $50,000 loan with no collateral?

Sounds too good to be true, but the Small Business Center of the South Delta Planning and Development District is making loans requiring no collateral for up to $50,000 in the Delta Workforce Investment Area that includes Panola County.

The Small Business Center’s "Business Loans Express" offers "quick and easy loans," Small Business Director Chuck Herring said.

"The demand is just unbelievable," Herring said. The loans are available to startups and existing businesses. The loan is ideal for a service-oriented business which does not require a heavy "bricks and mortar" location investment," Herring added.

"The sole criteria is your credit; you have to have average credit," Herring continued. Though that criteria eliminates many applicants in the Delta area, Herring said Business Loans Express has approved 17 out of 50 or 55 applicants since the program begin seven months ago.

Successful applicants have included truckers who wanted to buy their own rigs, day care operators and people in lawn care and maintenance businesses. A lady who makes candles in her home received approval through the program that would her allow her to expand her business, Herring said.
On the form where applicants are asked about the number of employees they expect, the answer is usually "one or two," Herring said.

"There are very few exclusions," he continued. It is a Small-Business-Administration-guaranteed program. The Small Business Center also offers assistance in developing business plans, record keeping, marketing strategies, and analysis of financial records.

Small Business Center representative Jimmy Giles is scheduled to have a booth at the June 15 Northwest Mississippi Area Job Fair at the Batesville Civic Center. He will also be in Batesville at least one day a week at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security WIN Job Center, Office Manager Cindy Martin said. Giles plans to be in Batesville on Thursdays and can be at the office on other days by appointment. For additional information call the WIN Job Center at 563-7318.

Pepsi robber pleads, gets 12-year sentence
By Billy Davis

An armed robbery suspect whose attempted theft left the victim wounded has received a 12-year prison sentence.

Nicholas Undrae Butler, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted armed robbery as part of the plea arrangement with Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly. Butler was represented in court by public defender David Walker.

Circuit Court Judge Ann Lamar gave Butler the 12-year sentence during a "plea day" in Batesville May 31, a sentencing order shows.

A Panola County grand jury indicted Butler last November for the September 27 attempted robbery of Pepsi employee James Gardner at First Security Bank in Batesville.

The indictment against Butler included one count of attempted armed robbery and one count of conspiracy. In the plea agreement, he pleaded guilty only to one of the two counts.

The defendant will also be under court-ordered supervision for five years after his release from prison.

Gardner, who was shot in the hand, was making an after-hours deposit for his employer at the bank’s main branch, located at Highway 6 and Eureka Street.

Butler, who had also been a Pepsi employee, was arrested by Batesville police when he arrived at the Pepsi plant to pick up his last paycheck.

The soft drink distributorship is located at 180 Corporate Drive in Batesville’s industrial park.

According to Butler’s court files, police received a tip and waited inside the plant for him to arrive. When the suspect tried to flee, police officers grabbed his shirt then tackled him as he tried to fight while being handcuffed.

Butler and a robbery accomplice were waiting for Gardner when he arrived at the bank, but the pair apparently botched the robbery and never took possession of the large deposit. (The Panolian does not publish the amount of bank deposits in crime-related stories).

According to Gardner’s statement to police, one of the suspects yelled "Shoot him! Shoot him!" as the robbery victim backed his vehicle and attempted to flee the would-be robbers.

Butler would not name his accomplice when questioned by police but admitted to firing the shot that hit Gardner, said Batesville Police Detective Paul Shivers.

The wounded Gardner drove to the Batesville Police Department, followed by the robbers until he turned into the police station. The department is located about a half-mile from the bank.

Emergency personnel from Tri-Lakes Medical Center were dispatched to the police station to help Gardner.

Gardner made the deposits for his employer about 2 a.m. each morning, and Butler was aware of the transaction and the time of the day when it occurred, Shivers said.

The Batesville Police Department provides escorts for bank deposits, but the Pepsi employee made the deposit without one, Shivers also said.

A Pepsi official reached at the Batesville facility declined comment about the incident.

Supervisors add ‘ifs’ to possible handover
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors agreed Monday to give the former Dana plant in Crenshaw to a prospective industry but added stipulations to any future handover.

To receive ownership of the facility, industrial prospect Rolando Foods must show proof of sufficient funds, must pay off a lien against the property, and must fulfill their promise of creating new jobs.

The board’s action came after District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant urged his colleagues to respond to the request made weeks ago from Rolando Foods.

Rolando, currently based in Maryland, wants the Crenshaw facility as bank collateral before relocating to Panola County. The company makes various food products.

"Rolando needs a 5-0 vote from this board that they can take to the bank," announced Avant, who represents the Crenshaw area and serves as president of the board of supervisors.

Pressed to make a decision, the board of supervisors listened to board attorney Bill McKenzie spell out the situation, namely that Rolando’s financier would own the building if the food company fails in its operation.

When supervisors mistakenly suggested that Rolando was seeking ownership once its finances are in order, McKenzie noted that the company instead is seeking the facility to bolster its financial outlook.

"This is a chicken and the egg situation, something that we’ve never come across before," McKenzie said.

When Supervisor Bubba Waldrup suggested that the Dana facility would "revert back" to the county if Rolando failed, McKenzie corrected him.

"That’s where your problem is ? the reverting back ain’t gonna happen," McKenzie replied.

After listening to McKenzie’s counsel, Waldrup and Supervisor Jerry Perkins requested the set of stipulations that Rolando must meet to receive the facility.

McKenzie acknowledged his frank tone in questioning the merits of the deal but stressed that the supervisors would "take the heat" for giving away the facility if the jobs fail to materialize.

"I don’t mind taking the heat on this one," Avant replied. "I’ll take the heat if I don’t get the jobs."
Unemployment in Crenshaw is over 25 percent, said the board president, who described the isolated town as "dying."

"It’s dead, really," Avant said.

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons told supervisors Monday that Rolando’s financial situation is "positive but weak" after reviewing their financial records.

Editor asks for patience after upgrade brings ‘new problems’
Subscribers of The Panolian, especially those outside the Batesville area, may have recently experienced delivery problems with their subscriptions.

According to Managing Editor Rupert Howell the twice-weekly newspaper has "upgraded" the software that produces the subscribers’ list. The new software is so smart it uses U.S. Postal information to separate or sort subscriber names and addresses into their routes, P.O. boxes, cities and counties.

"That brings on new problems for us," Howell said.

"We have towns in our circulation area with routes in more than one county, like Enid, Como, Crowder, Crenshaw, and Oakland," he said.

The software separates the counties and throws some of the papers into the "catch-all" three-digit zip codes. Those newspapers then must travel to Memphis or Grenada before they come to the post office where they are supposed to be, Howell explained.

"We make every effort to ensure that our local subscribers get their newspaper on the day of publication," Howell said, explaining that most local papers are dropped at the post office of the subscriber by Panolian staff.

Newspapers for Batesville, Como, Courtland, Sardis, Enid, Lambert, Marks, Crowder, Pope and Oakland are delivered to the Post Offices on Monday and Thursday nights.

"We ask subscribers to continue to be patient as we work through these problems. We fully anticipate smooth delivery after a few of the bugs are worked out," Howell said.

Those with circulation problems should call 563-4591.

Summer Day Camp
     More than 70 kids arrived Monday for the first day of Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Center’s Summer Day Camp. The eight-week camp features character education, nutrition and academic assessment, tutoring, music, art, crafts, sports and field trips. Counselor/coach Timothy Williams organized an outside game with the help of counselors (back, from left) Cindy Morton, Melissa Gleaton, Ernestine Pope and Sheree Redmon.

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