Headlines Cont. – 6/16/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 16, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – June 16, 2006


Fire safety academy’s goal is changing statistics, saving lives
By Billy Davis

Batesville firefighters and the Junior Auxiliary of Batesville (JA) are again hosting Fire Academy for Kids, turning the cavernous fire truck bays at Fire Station No. 3 into a summer day camp.

The four-day fire academy began its third summer on Monday, June 12, accepting a class of 50 children ages 6 to 9. A second camp for children ages 10 through 12 kicks off next Monday and also runs four days.

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The purpose of the Fire Academy for Kids is to increase fire safety and education, said Batesville firefighter Rip Copeland, who oversees the camp and its daily activities.

The United States leads the world in fire-related deaths, Copeland noted, and Mississippi has the dubious distinction of boasting the highest fire death rate in the country.

"We’re doing our part to change those numbers because, hopefully, the kids leave with some knowledge that might help save them and their family," Copeland said.

The Batesville JA provides volunteer helpers as well as snacks.

JA members Andrea Still and Joann Davis are helping Copeland coordinate the fire academy.

During the four-day course fire academy attendees learn fire prevention, fire escape planning, proper use of the 9-1-1 emergency number, and take home a safety check list.

A "graduation" ceremony is held on Friday.

Fire academy organizers added a new element to the fire academy this year with the introduction of the Operation Lifesaver program, a railroad safety program sponsored by the Miss. Department of Transportation (MDOT).

MDOT employee Donna Prince, who oversees Operation Lifesaver for the state, helped Copeland bring the Operation Lifesaver "train" to the fire academy Tuesday morning.

Canadian National railroad owns and operates the "train," a wheeled engine, passenger car and caboose, which took children on a five-minute ride along Nosef Drive.

"The train is booked through 2007, so this might be the only time we can get it here," said Prince, who led children in the safety program.

Prince complimented Copeland and the BFD for adding the Operation Lifesaver program to the academy, noting that the effort began in October when she held a safety program in Batesville for local first responders.

"This is the best I’ve seen throughout the state, and I’m not just saying that," said Prince of the fire academy.

The fire academy opened up to the public this year after starting with a "dry run" program of firefighters’ children and their friends two years ago, Copeland said. Last year’s camps welcomed students from the Batesville Boys and Girls Club and the ATA martial arts class.

As the program expands, it’s adding newer public safety programs, Copeland said, citing Operation Lifesaver as the latest example.

"Next year we hope to add ‘Be in the Click,’ a seatbelt safety program," Copeland said. "It’s good to add to the curriculum because that’s more information that’s getting into the home."

Businesses get go-ahead from land commission
By Billy Davis

An office/warehouse in the Central Academy area and a laundromat near Courtland got the go-ahead Monday night to proceed as planned from the Panola County Land Commission.

Wanda Carmichael told the commission she plans to construct a 2,200-square-foot office with warehouse space on property located near the Highway 315/Highway 6 interchange.

The property is located on nine acres south of the The Garden District, a nursery and landscaping business, on the south side of Hotophia Creek.

No one voiced opposition to the application during a public hearing.

Carmichael said she planned to build a nice-looking building, bricking the front of the future facility and eventually paving the parking lot.

"I don’t propose to have anything that looks ratty or rundown," the applicant told the commission.

Carmichael caused a chuckle among commission members when she mentioned temporary plans for a gravel parking lot.

"Is that allowed?" she asked, apparently unaware of the continued dust-up over that issue (see page A1).

"At this time the supervisors think it’s appropriate to allow limestone rock, but gravel is not acceptable," commission chairman Danny Walker told the applicant.

After the commission approved his plans, Courtland plumber Myron Hall told the commission he would start immediately on building a laundromat near his plumbing business, located along Highway 51 near Courtland.

The commission agreed unanimously to Hall’s request, a special exception allowing a commercial business in an agricultural district.

Addressing concerns about loitering and safety, the commission requested that Hall provide adequate lighting and close the facility at 10 p.m.

Responding to that concern, Hall said he would "light up the whole parking lot" and planned to hire an attendant who would be on duty while the laundromat is open.

"I don’t want to open up and find a washing machine gone," Hall said.

Land commission looks for middle ground on lot paving
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors will hear a last-ditch plea for a compromise on commercial paving when they receive a recommendation in coming days from the Panola County Land Development Commission.

Land commission members voted unanimously Monday night to ask that supervisors require paved commercial parking lots along the county’s highways, a change that would require the supervisors reverse a decision they made last month.

The board of supervisors voted May 1 to allow limestone rock as an alternative to a hard surface, a vote that set in motion the required public hearing that took place Monday night at the county courthouse in Sardis.

The supervisors’ May 1 vote was itself a reversal of a longtime requirement that commercial properties operate with parking spaces and driveways surfaced with asphalt, concrete or DBST, a rock-sealed material.

During the public hearing, commission members agreed to ask supervisors to reconsider their May 1 decision, citing steady growth in the county, specifically along Highway 6 East, as a main reason for the request.

Commission member Dan Stewart also suggested that the federal Americans With Disabilities Act requires a hard surface on commercial property, wondering aloud if Panola County is breaking the law by reversing the paving requirement.

Stewart read directly from the 209-page law, suggesting that the mountain of federal regulations allows local governments to "add to but not take away" from the federal law.

"If our county decides to change the paving, then we would need to submit that to the Justice Department," Stewart told his colleagues.

As required by the hearing, the commission also nailed down three options for allowing limestone rock: a minimum six-inch base of clay gravel topped with at least three inches of limestone rock, or an entire bed of at least seven inches of the limestone rock, or an engineer’s opinion regarding the suitable amount of gravel or limestone rock for the base.

The land commission was joined by only one participant during the public hearing, District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup, who has searched for some political middle ground in recent weeks as his colleagues squabbled with the land commission.

During the May 1 meeting, supervisors passed on a suggestion offered by Waldrup that commercial businesses at least pave their parking spaces.

During a friendly but frank exchange with the commission Monday night, Waldrup hinted that the commission’s paving request might find a cool response from his colleagues on the board of supervisors.

Waldrup had remained quiet while the commission discussed a possible compromise, but a direct question from commission member Bob Haltom prompted Waldrup to comment on the controversial topic.

"Will that be a problem for your board?" Haltom eventually asked Waldrup, referring to the commission’s highway paving request.

After a five-second pause Waldrup replied, "Yes," flashing a nervous grin.

"Okay, let’s not put him on the spot," said land commission chairman Danny Walker, helping Waldrup back away from an obvious political predicament. Waldrup had told the commission earlier in the meeting that he was not representing the board.

Before being pulled into the discussion over the highway paving, Waldrup first volunteered his opinion about the limestone requirement, suggesting that the commission require a specific limestone rock known as CR 610.

"CR 610 will compact down like a hard surface," Waldrup said. "You won’t spin like you would on gravel."

"It is very durable," agreed Walker, whose work history includes an engineering career with the Miss. Department of Transportation.

Walker and the commission agreed to Waldrup’s suggestion, inserting CR 610 as the required material for an unpaved commercial parking lot.

The commission rejected Waldrup’s suggestion that an engineer decide the amount of CR 610 needed, instead leaving the hiring of an engineer as a third option for property owners.

Reached after the meeting, land commission attorney Colmon Mitchell said supervisors will receive the CR 610 recommendation for "roads that are not maintained by the Miss. Department of Transportation," meaning businesses located along MDOT-maintained roadways would continue to abide by the hard surface paving requirement.


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