Headlines – 6/30/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 30, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – June 30, 2006

  From the 6/30/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

     Major General Harold A. Cross (right), the adjutant general of Mississippi, and Warrant Officer Harris "Bubba" Bryan pause in front of a Mississippi Army National Guard AH-64 Apache helicopter.
     Bryan, of Batesville, serves as a pilot with Troop E, 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry, Mississippi Army National Guard. Troop E has been training with its eight Apache helicopters at Ft. Hood since February as part of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), the first-ever all-Army National Guard combat aviation brigade. The 36th is in the final training stages for an upcoming mission in Iraq. The Apache helicopter is the Army’s primary attack helicopter.
Supervisor wants feedback on enforcing auto ordinance
By Billy Davis

If you didn’t know Panola County has a junk car ordinance, forbidding landowners from possessing a yard littered with non-working automobiles, then you’re in good company.

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"I didn’t think about it until Monday," Robert Avant, president of the Panola County Board of Supervisors, said when reached by phone two days later.

Avant said he was reminded of the ordinance at the supervisors’ June 26 meeting when county permit clerk Diane Stewart broached the subject.

The junk car ordinance, part of the county’s land-use standards, was tweaked in 2002 when supervisors and the county land development commission decided an earlier version of the ordinance was too stringent.

"The original definition read ?no junk cars,’ which means zero were allowed, and that wasn’t the intention of the ordinance," recalled Danny Walker, chairman of the land commission.

The commission voted to alter the ordinance to allow a maximum of seven automobiles, Walker said, agreeing with supervisors that rural landowners deserved a "little leeway" not provided by the earlier definition.

"We agreed among ourselves that anything above seven automobiles literally amounted to a yard full of them, and that amounted to a junk yard," said the commission chairman.

The ordinance still reads the same as 2002: three cars are allowed to be seen from a public right-of-way while the other four automobiles must be hidden behind a fence or similar barrier.

The current junk car ordinance reads:

No more than seven disabled automotive vehicles may be stored on any parcel unless in a completely enclosed building. A disabled vehicle is one without a current license plate or in normal operating condition. Of these seven, no more than three may be viewed from the public right of way and must be undergoing active repair. Remaining vehicles shall be stored in rear yards and obscured from public view by landscaping or fencing.

Spurred by a county resident who made a complaint about junk cars near her home, Stewart asked supervisors Monday how to proceed if a similar complaint violates the ordinance.

"If it’s five, six or seven (vehicles), what do you want me to do?" Stewart asked the board.

In the telephone interview Wednesday, Avant said he expects the board of supervisors will "look seriously" at the junk car ordinance now that the topic has resurfaced.

Avant suggested that sheriff’s deputy Bobby Walton could make a list of landowners who violate the ordinance and send them a letter that asks them to clean up the property.

"I agree we need some type of enforcement, but I think we should send notices to everybody first," Avant said. "Most people are unaware of the ordinance, and it would be fair to warn them first."

Asked if the county supervisors were "leery" of angering voters by cracking down on junk cars, Avant said it’s a "possibility" that his colleagues are nervous about the publics’ reaction to such a move.

"You’ve got to remember that, at one time, the garbage containers made folks mad," said Avant, recalling the uproar caused when the county began inching away from garbage dumps in favor of roadside pickup.

To better gauge public opinion, Avant suggested that Panola Countians contact their supervisors in coming days and voice their opinion, namely whether they support a crackdown of junk cars in the county.

Avant said he may support pushing the allowed number of junk cars from seven to 10 but added that he was undecided on a particular number.

According to Walker, putting some "teeth" in an ordinance that has sat unused for four years would be a welcomed sign of progress.

"We would welcome some direction from the supervisors," Walker said, speaking for the commission.

Junk cars draw new attention
By Billy Davis

A Panola County resident’s public complaint about junk cars located near her newly-built home has shed new light on the county’s little-known "seven car" rule.

Blackjack resident Margaret Eubanks built a cabin this spring on an acre and a half with the understanding – since proven wrong – that three vehicles located just feet from her property line were only a temporary eyesore.

"I was told they could be moved because the county owns the land," said Eubanks, 54, who moved to Panola County from Olive Branch after retiring from a Memphis brewery.

But a county ordinance tweaked in 2002 by the land commission and approved by supervisors allows a maximum of seven disabled vehicles on private property. Of those seven vehicles, a maximum of three can be seen from the public right-of-way while the other four vehicles must be hidden from public view.

The junk car ordinance defines a disabled vehicle as "one without a current license plate or in normal operating condition."

The three vehicles located near Eubanks’ home, two cars and the shell of a truck, are all visible from Blackjack Road, meaning those three automobiles – but not a fourth – are allowed on private property.

Four years after its passage, the seven-car rule became a topic at a June 26 county meeting when county permit clerk Diane Stewart asked supervisors for clarification about the junk car ordinance and its enforcement.

Responding to that question, supervisors advised Stewart to send a letter to the landowner along with a copy of the "seven-car" ordinance. They had no answer, however, when Stewart asked for a second course of action if a landowner remains in violation.

The three vehicles near Eubanks’ home are not in violation of the ordinance, Stewart told supervisors, but she wanted specific direction from the board when a future junk car complaint does violate the ordinance.

Stewart also told the board that she had come at the request of Danny Walker, chairman of the county land development commission, to publicly inquire about the supervisors’ wishes.

Stewart said her reason for coming was partly due to the recent tussle between supervisors and the land commission over a store owner. Neither board found common ground during that months-long row over commercial paving, but both bodies agreed that better communication would improve their relationship.

"My question is, when this situation arises again, do you want me to send them a letter, fine them, take them to court, or bring every complaint to you?" Stewart asked the supervisors.

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant responded first to Stewart’s question, suggesting that she should send a letter to the landowner.

"I say send the letter first because they probably don’t know they’re in violation," said Avant, suggesting that few residents know of the ordinance.

"My suggestion is to send a letter and a copy of the ordinance," added District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

"And after that?" Stewart asked, inquiring about a follow-up from the county if her letters fall on deaf ears.

The conversation instead moved on to a suggestion from District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins that the person reporting a violation should be known to the landowner.

"Please let them know when you write the letter who filed the complaint," Perkins told Stewart, referring to the landowners.

"I think they have a right to know. "I would want to know," agreed Avant. "If they file a complaint, let them step forward."

Reached after the supervisors’ meeting Monday, Eubanks said she heard from Stewart after Perkins and County Administrator David Chandler offered sympathy for her situation but passed her complaint to the permit clerk.

"Mr. Chandler told me he was pleased that I was interested in keeping my property nice and clean," recalled Eubanks.

Eubanks built a two-story cabin home earlier this year, doing so with two of the three vehicles almost abutting her property line. She later built a wood fence to hide the vehicles from view.

Neighbors mistakenly told Eubanks that a nearby driveway is an old county road, meaning the threes vehicles are located on public property and could be moved, she said.

"I understand this is a rural county, which is why I moved here, because I like the country and the quiet atmosphere," Eubanks said. "But if this is what Panola County wants rather than growth and development, then I’ll sell my place and move elsewhere."

SP meets to adopt budget
Trustees of the South Panola School District will meet today (Friday) at noon to adopt a $36,345,072.68 budget for the 2006-2007 school year at the Parenting Center behind the Intermediate School on Atwell and College Streets.

The net local Ad Valorem tax request for operations is $6,379,863.

Trustees met twice last week for a public hearings where a four percent budget increase was discussed followed by a budget hearing.

Following today’s adoption of the budget, school officials will submit their budget to the Panola County Board of Supervisors prior to August 15 for funding through tax millage.

City offers advice for new service: ‘put out right can’
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville residents should place next week’s garbage in their BFI cans and roll them curbside on their usual pickup day, Panola County Solid Waste Manager Dean Joiner said.

"They need to use their BFI cans until it’s picked up; as they pick up garbage next week, they’ll pick up the cans," Joiner said. BFI’s cans and next week’s garbage will be collected as the current contractor wraps up its arrangement with the city and the county’s solid waste collection service takes over.

"Make sure you put out the right can," Batesville City Clerk Laura Herron said. A trailer will follow the BFI garbage truck next week for BFI can collection, she added.

Joiner said that temporary high school workers would finish distribution of Panola County Solid Waste cans to city households Thursday. The cans either had stickers identifying regular collection days as Wednesday or Thursday or they had no stickers, Joiner said. Fridays will be the collection day for households where cans were left with no stickers

Joiner reminded Batesville residents:

Make sure all cans are curbside by 7 a.m.     Pickup times may vary, he said.
Thursday will be collection day for city residents who receive back-door service, Joiner said. Only those who currently receive back-door service through BFI will continue to receive it from Panola County Solid Waste. The service for physically impaired residents can only be arranged by calling city hall at 563-4576.
Residents who have currently contracted through the city to receive two BFI cans should call city hall if they only receive one can from Panola County Solid Waste, Herron said. Any city resident can receive two cans, but they must come to city hall and apply, the city clerk added. The second can is available at extra cost.

Panola County Solid Waste will run its first route in the city on Saturday, July 8, Joiner said. Trucks will collect garbage from households normally scheduled for Friday pickup.

Batesville city officials voted in June to accept the bid of Panola County Solid Waste for household garbage collection after it submitted a bid of $8.25 per household, well below Allied Waste of North MS (formerly BFI) which submitted the next lowest bid at $12.37 per household. Other bids ranged from $12.75 to $14.88 per household.

The county solid waste manager said that his service could afford to bid low because his trucks have to travel only three miles to the transfer station at Courtland to offload. His competitor’s trucks have to travel 30 to 40 miles, he said.

Additionally, two of the three workers who man the county trucks are state trusty inmates, keeping the county service’s labor cost low.

Another factor is a long-term contract negotiated with the landfill in Tunica. Panola County Solid Waste has collected household garbage from county residents since 1993, a spokesman for the county administrator’s office said.

The county service also collects garbage from households in the municipalities of Crenshaw and Como.

Joiner said that he had fielded questions from county residents who have asked why the county solid waste service is only charging the city $8.25 per household when county residents are charged $11 per can. He said that the difference is in the cost involved with individual billings and postage. Panola County Solid Waste will send the City of Batesville one bill for the approximately 2,300 households it will serve.

"The people of Batesville have really cooperated with us real well," Joiner said. "We’re anxious to get it started up; we aim to please," he added.

Batesville Garbage Collection Schedule
  Brewer Road
Harmon Road
Mill Cross Road
Kornegay Road
Nottingham Drive
Yorkshire Lane
Sherwood Place
Barnsdale Drive
Jolly James Drive
  Hunters Parkway
Power Drive
Blue Bird Lane
Turtle Creek
Quail Run
Maple Lane
Wood Duck Cove
Shagbark Drive
Redbud Lane
Elm Drive
Oak Drive
Dogwood Lane
Pecan Street
Hickory Lane
Hemlock Road
Birch Drive
Sweetgum Drive
Pine Lane
Dogwood Heights
Eureka Road
Woodland Road
Pine Lodge Road
Trantham Road
  (Hunters Parkway was moved to Thursdays following the publication of this list last week, Joiner said)
  All other city streets.  
July 4 brings closings
By Billy Davis
and John Howell, Sr.

Panola County government and local municipalities will be closed next Tuesday in observance of the Independence Day holiday.

The July 4th holiday will also affect garbage pickup for some residents.

In non-municipal Panola County, garbage pickup will remain on schedule next Monday but operate a day behind following the holiday Tuesday.

In Batesville, garbage pickup next week arrives as the City of Batesville changes its service from BFI to the county’s solid waste department.

BFI will pick up its regular routes on Monday and then operate a day behind following the holiday, said City Clerk Laura Herron.

Batesville residents should place next week’s garbage in their BFI can and roll it to the curb. BFI will pick up both the garbage and the cans at the company concludes its contract with the City of Batesville, Herron said.

In addition, Panola County Solid Waste will begin pickup in the city on Saturday, July 8. The county service will cover the streets it has regularly scheduled for Friday collection, solid waste manager Dean Joiner said.

In Sardis, garbage pickup will resume on schedule for the city’s Monday and Thursday pick-up dates.

In Como, garbage pickup will move to Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

The July 4th holiday celebrates the date in 1776 on which day the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, declaring itself free from Great Britain.

NP trustees approve no-increase budget
By Jason C. Mattox

North Panola School Board approved a $14,875,652.96 budget during a lengthy public hearing that included comments on everything from the budget to the use of the playground equipment by local children.

Just under 19 percent of the total budget is generated through local ad valorem taxes which will not be increased for school purposes with the approved budget.

District finance officer Lavette Upshaw explained that North Panola receives approximately 21 percent of its funding from the local level, the remaining money comes from the state and federal government.

"We are asking for no ad valorem tax increase this year," she said. Upshaw did stress the importance of every child being in the classroom.

"We do receive funds from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program that are based on our average daily attendance," she said. "So it is important for the children to be at school."

The district will receive an additional $397,000 from MAEP funds bringing the total to $8,128,788.

Upshaw said the increase in funding will be practically non-existent due to increased cost for retirement and insurance.

"As most of you know, we pay into a retirement fund for our employees in addition to paying on their insurance," she said. "We have been notified that the percentage going into retirement will increase along with the costs of insurance, so the increase in MAEP funding is essentially wiped out."

Special needs included in the 2006-07 budget include:

Two new buses
Security guard for North Panola High School
Bleachers for the visitors side of the football field at North Panola.
Pay raise for all staff excluding teachers.
Completion of a baseball field on the Como  campus.
New football uniforms; and
Van for district travel to cut down on expenses.

 "We are trying to do what is best for our school district," Upshaw said. "We can’t do it over night, but we are really trying to do all we can."

Following Upshaw’s report, the hearing was opened up for comments from the public.

Julius Harris, a regular at North Panola’s meetings, asked Upshaw for a full copy of the budget rather than the condensed version he had.

"You come in here and give us an abbreviated budget," he said. "Why can we not get a full copy of the budget?"

Upshaw responded by pointing out two full copies that rested on a table near the audience.

"I have two copies here for anyone to examine," she said. "If you want a copy of your own, all you have to do is submit a written request to the central office."

Upshaw told Harris the cost of the full budget would be $1 per page.

"That is utterly ridiculous," he replied.

Once Harris completed his comments, another regular, Georgia Wilson, spoke the the board of trustees.

"I want to know why we can have all the additional items in the budget, but our children can’t have a place to play during the summer," she said, referring to the fencing going up around the playground at Green Hill Elementary.

"You are worried about insurance, but now our children don’t have anything to do," Wilson continued. "You are taking our school away from them."

Board president Cecil Dowden closed the hearing portion of the meeting and the budget was approved 4-0. Rosa Wilson was absent from the meeting.


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