Headlines Cont. – 6/13/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – June 13, 2006


Contractors weigh in on proposed ‘dozer pile’ burn ordinance
By Jason C. Mattox

A moratorium on burning large "dozer piles" was a hot topic at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Several contractors were present at the board’s first meeting in June to voice their opinions of the proposed moratorium and soon to be drafted ordinance.

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"Right now all we can burn is a pile that is 10 ft. by 10 ft. and five feet tall," W.A. Allgood said. "I really think each case should be looked at individually.

"It seems like that would work better than just having a blanket ordinance," he added.

Batesville Fire Department Chief Tim Taylor said the big problem doesn’t seem to be as much the fires as it is the smoke that bothers the neighbors.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said he believes the city needs to examine the existing ordinance and look at what changes could be made.

"We all want to come up with an ordinance that can work for everyone, while keeping the people around the fires safe," he said. "We don’t want to make it difficult on contractors or developers. This is mainly a safety concern."

The moratorium was placed in effect to keep contractors from burning off scrap materials and cleared off trees and shrubs near homes or businesses.

Chris Brocato, owner of Brocato Construction, said if piles are too close to a business or residence, they should be required to haul them off rather than burn them.

"I think we can all understand why you don’t need to burn near a home or business," he said. "But in a situation where there is not another house for a good distance, we should be able to burn."

Calvin Land, who is seeking a developer for property he owns on Mill Cross Road, said the strict ordinance could scare off potential developers.

"When it comes to something like knowing when it is safe to burn, all that takes is common sense," he said. "A good ol’ dose of country time thinking will work in that situation."

Mayor Jerry Autrey said the input from the contractors would be taken into consideration when drawing up the new ordinance.

"We are planning on tuning up the ordinance," he said. "That’s one of the reasons we wanted to see what you all had to say about it."

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley echoed the mayor’s thoughts.

"This let us know your input for the ordinance so we can be fair to you while preserving the safety of the town," he said.

No action was taken. The matter will be discussed again at a later date.

Alderman Dugger’s stance:
     ban snakes from town
By John Howell Sr.

Snakes would be banned in Batesville if alderman Bill Dugger had his way.

Dugger revealed his distaste for the reptile species Tuesday, June 6, during Police Chief Gerald Legge’s report to city officials about Batesville SpringFest. Legge said that the May 19 and 20 Springfest weekend had been busy for his officers but that only a few incidents on The Square had contributed to their workload.

That’s when alderman Rufus Manley described a SpringFest festival goer who "had a yellow snake yeh long wrapped around her," he said, extending his arms to demonstrate the snake’s length.

Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said that the lady had two snakes – a small one she carried in her hand in addition to the snake Manley described.

"Is there any way we can say ?no snakes?’" Dugger asked.

Dugger’s question led to a discussion to the possibility of an ordinance regulating what creatures might be prohibited from attending public events in the city, but that apparently was not what the alderman had in mind.

"I’m talking about no snakes anywhere in the city," he quipped as the discussion ranged from leashed and unleashed dogs and leashed panthers in addition to the reptiles. The city officials asked assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell to research what animal activity city ordinances currently regulate as a background for a possible future ordinance.

Other activities which involved police personnel included children getting separated from their parents and a lost wallet, Legge said.

"We had some issues with folks on the balconies," the police chief continued. "Some of the stuff that people were doing was coming down on the sidewalks below," Legge said.

Job effort only half of equation
Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed encouraged the town’s citizens to drive to Batesville Monday to the Panola Board of Supervisors’ meeting to show support for the location of Rolando Foods in the facility that formerly housed Dana Industries there.

That was a good move by the mayor – to mobilize public support in Crenshaw for an industry which will employ people and help offset a dismal unemployment rate in that northwest corner of the county. A demonstration of support before Panola supervisors helps to convince them of Crenshaw’s appreciation for the supervisors having gone out on a limb in their decision to give the vacant, county-owned building to Rolando.

As Panola Board of Supervisors President Robert Avant observed, "Rolando could be to Crenshaw what Nissan is to Canton."

Another good move available to Mayor Reed would be the recognition that there is already much public support mobilized in Crenshaw in support of reversing the decline and deterioration that has depressed property values and which is turning a formerly picturesque town into a junk-strewn, overgrown landscape.

That the public support is already mobilized is evident by their contacts with this newspaper. A quick ride through the small town verifies reports of abandoned houses that have been allowed to sit unattended for years while yards have grown weeds, then trees and structures have rotted. Abandoned vehicles are routinely strewn about some yards in various stages of disassembly, and at least one mobile home has been allowed on a lot where mobile homes are prohibited.

"We were so much better off than other Delta towns," a lady lamented, observing Crenshaw’s present condition.

"How many of these do you think you’d find in Sardis, Batesville or Como?" a man asked, pointing to empty houses with overgrown yards.

Certainly, more jobs will help. But just as badly needed at this crucial juncture in Crenshaw’s history is a willingness on the part of elected officials to govern, manage and direct events. Steps taken right now to address the unsightly conditions which have developed along city streets would send a signal to Crenshaw residents, to officials of Rolando Foods and to the rest of the county that someone is in charge and someone cares.

Although, during an interview in May, Mayor Reed exhibited a rather startling unfamiliarity about whether Crenshaw had ordinances regulating such things as mobile home placement, abandoned homes, junked autos and overgrown lots, a veteran city official assured us that the city has in the past adopted ordinances dealing with all of the above.

Mayor Reed has said on several occasions that he is seeking to recover public records that were missing when he took office last July and has been unable to determine what ordinances have been adopted in Crenshaw prior to his taking office.

"We’re looking into it," has been the mayor’s frequent reply when citizens question him about the Crenshaw’s deteriorating conditions.

That’s not good enough for this group of Crenshaw citizens who are already mobilized to give their support to reverse the town’s decay and abandonment of government by elected officials. The mayor needs to make recovery of whatever records are missing an emergency priority. He needs to direct the current and former elected and appointed city officials to search for their own copies of meeting minutes and other documents. He needs to make inquiry of the former city attorneys – the most recent resigned abruptly following the May meeting of the mayor and aldermen – requesting what copies of records they have that could help reconstruct official records in city hall. Without the city’s records, it becomes a government of men, not of law.

Reversing this decline in the quality of life and value of property in Crenshaw is as important to the city as landing an employer like Rolando Foods to provide jobs. It is the part of the equation that will help keep closest to home the payroll money created by the jobs. If Crenshaw’s quality of life deteriorates, people who work there will choose to live elsewhere instead of living and paying taxes and buying goods in Crenshaw city limits where those dollars will have the greatest impact. Decline in property values means lower assessments for tax purposes which erodes the city’s income from property tax.

And those who think that this is a Crenshaw problem isolated over in the northwest corner of the county might consider a couple of worst-case-scenario questions raised during an impromptu, free-ranging discussion of the city’s plight:

"Could it revert back to the county?" one of those concerned citizens asked. "How do you unincorporate a municipality?"

Reception on Friday
A reception in Batesville Friday night will honor a group of seven Mississippi artists, including pottery artist Rachel Ballentine of Sardis and painter Carol Roark of Enid.

The law firm of Smith, Phillips, Mitchell and Scott will host the reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at its offices at 695 Shamrock Drive. The public is invited.
Ballentine and Roark are members of the Mississippi Studio, a collaboration that offers an online gallery showcasing work of seven Mississippi women whose work ranges from photography to Roark’s equine paintings to Ballentine’s hand-built clay vessels.

The reception will include an art show featuring work by Roark and Ballentine, in addition to the other Mississippi Studio artists Heather Ryan and Hope Carr of Yazoo City, Robin Whitfield and Gabriella Delawey of Grenada, and Susan Russell of Madison.


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