Headlines – 8/4/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – August 4, 2006

  From the 8/4/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

TVA power peak led to Casket Co. cutback
Contract allows interruption of factory’s power
By John Howell Sr.

The Tennessee Valley Authority electrical generating system met a system peak Tuesday of more than 31,600 megawatts, the highest power load ever for the month of August, Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association Manager Brad Robison said.

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The high power demand has forced Batesville Casket Company to curtail production. The factory in the W. M. Harmon Industrial Complex curtailed operations Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a spokesman said.

"We were notified by TVEPA/TVA on Thursday morning, that power would not be curtailed, and the outlook was positive for the remainder of the week," said Chuck Grogan, director of wood operations.

"TVA has called upon certain industrial customers to reduce their load," Robison said. "TVA has contracts with certain industrial customers where they have agreed to reduce their use during crisis situations in exchange for special rates," Robison continued.

"Tallahatchie Valley regrets that TVA has had to implement this curtailment, but their sacrifice may prevent brownouts that would leave certain vulnerable customers in stifling heat that might be life threatening," the TVEPA manager said.

Batesville Casket Company is one of about 300 large industrial customers who buy electricity from TVA at the special, interruptible rates, according to published reports. Another is the Spring Hill (Tenn.) Manufacturing Plant which on Wednesday shut down its production of the Saturn VUE and Ion vehicles.

TVA – the Tennessee Valley Authority – is the electricity manufacturing system from which local distributors like the Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association purchase electricity to distribute to customers.

The high power demand is expected to continue at least through Friday, Robison said, as the nation copes with a record-setting heat wave.

Coupled with the hot weather, TVA experienced equipment failures at generating sites which reduced the output available to serve the required electrical load. Normally, TVA can purchase power from other power producers, the TVEPA association manager said, but because the heat wave is affecting the nation, purchased power is very limited.

"Obviously, we are watching this situation very closely and are monitoring Tallahatchie Valley’s system requirements to insure your association’s electrical system continues to remain reliable," Robison said. "Thanks to the strong dedication we have made to system upgrades and system maintenance we believe the electrical system is prepared to supply our association members’ needs."

"On behalf of TVA, we do ask all consumers, residential and business, to help reduce the demand on TVA’s electrical system by turning up your thermostats and turning off unnecessary lights and appliances especially between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m," the TVEPA manager added.

"Every amount of reduced usage helps as TVA, power distributors such as TVEPA, industry and Valley consumers work together to get through the current heat wave that is lingering throughout the service area," stated Robison.

‘Take Back’ meeting set for Sat. to rally support for ‘good people’
Public wants crackdown at Patton park
By Rupert Howell

"Take Our Neighborhood Back" is the theme for a project with the first meeting to be held this Saturday morning, August 5 at 10 in the Patton Lane Community Center according to Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey.

Autrey said several leaders in the African-American community had approached city leaders concerning illegal activities occurring around Patton Lane Park.

Autrey said some grownups including outside residents, and "punks" were sometimes using the park area to gamble, drink booze and sell dope.

"We want the kids to be using it," Autrey said.

Batesville Police Department Assistant Chief Tony Jones said the city wants to keep gambling, booze and dope out of the parks and off the streets and give them back to the "good people."

Jones and Autrey agree that it will take the help of local residents to be successful and that’s what Saturday’s meeting is about.

Jones said the police department can run the undesirables off but they’ll come right back.

"People want to report crime but they don’t want to get involved," Jones said before explaining that it often takes an eyewitness to make a good case against a criminal.

"If we get their dope, their money and send them away for awhile, they’ll think about it before they do it again," Col. Jones said.

"The citizens there have more at stake than anybody," he added.

The assistant police chief said that Saturday’s meeting is not connected to last Friday night’s "saturation operation" that involved Batesville Police Department, the Panola County Sheriff’s Department and North Mississippi Drug Task Force, but that the meeting has gained momentum from the operation.

Jones said the police department had received many compliments from residents for that operation.

During that operation the three law enforcement agencies cooperated with road blocks and sweeps through high crime apartment areas.

Jones also said that those types of operations will continue at various locations.

Mayor Autrey encouraged everyone to to come to Saturday’s meeting and to get involved in the project.

Alderman’s go-alone action no slam dunk after board reversal
By Jason C. Mattox

A Sardis alderman’s stand alone decision to remove the basketball goals near Highway 51 and Atkins Street close to the baseball field was reversed after other city leaders learned about the situation.

Ward 3 Alderman Mike Wilson told fellow board members he was aware of some complaints about what was going on at the courts.

"I told them just because they were being closed did not mean they would stay closed," he said. "I told them they could come to the meeting tonight and make their case."

Montrel Pegues, acting as spokesman for the group of 10 or more residents, told city leaders he just wanted some explanation.

"I was at work and some guys came in and asked me why they were taking down the goals," he said. "They were upset because they were shooting when the goals came down."

Pegues said the news rattled him, and he started looking for answers.

"I went to City Hall hoping to meet with (city clerk) Miss Odessa (Johnson) and the mayor but they were gone to a convention," he said. "So I went by Alderman Wilson’s home and spoke with him."

Pegues said Wilson explained that the decision was made due to violations to rules and regulations agreed upon before the reopening of the court.

Those rules included, among other things, no gambling, cursing, or alcohol consumption, and no playing with shirts off.

The courts were originally closed almost five years ago due to complaints from neighbors around the court.

"We had gotten to a point where we had policemen over there all the time for people gambling, drinking and selling drugs," Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye told The Panolian in a telephone interview Thursday.

Pegues said he was unaware of any rules being broken on the court during the new period which began in late May, and said he just needed something he could take back to the people.

"The guys we have watching the court know that beer bottles are not allowed on the court," he said. "If things ever get out of hand, they put the rim locks on, and break up the game."

Ward 2 Alderman Bill Smith said he had spoken with residents in the area around the courts and heard no complaints.

"The people I talked to didn’t seem to have a problem with the courts at all," he said. "They were asking me why the city took them down."

Dye said he was simply supporting one of the aldermen when he instructed city workers to remove the goals.

"When one of my aldermen comes and says they want to take the goals down, I am going to back them on that decision," he said. "But we might have acted a little too quickly."

Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn said he had also spoken with people around the courts as well as Police Chief Mike Davis.

"There have been no complaints lodged at the PD or at City Hall," he said. "So, I have no problem with the goals going back up."

Wilson added he too had no problem with the goals being replaced.

"I have no problem with the goals, but I will not vote for them to go back up," he said.

Aldermen voted 3-0 to reopen the courts. Wilson and Ward 4 Alderman Rivers McArthur abstained from voting.

Photo by: Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson
     Cpl. Adam Burkes, 23, a Batesville native who’s a combat engineer for Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Gieger, N.C., puts his platoon at parade rest during his final drill evaluation at the School of Infantry Corporal’s Course. Burkes is the son of Jerry and Bonnie Burkes.
BFD firefighters speak out, write about chief
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen discussed alleged dissension in the ranks of the fire department not once, but twice during a meeting on Tuesday.

Prior to the regularly scheduled meeting, more than 20 firefighters filled the board room to offer input on speculated restructuring.

"We called this meeting with the fire department to discuss some things and get them out in the open," Mayor Jerry Autrey said. "We want your input on what you like or dislike about the fire department."

The first topic Autrey brought to light was the city’s consideration of hiring a full-time chief.

"We are not going to act on anything today, but we have some money and want to know what you all think," he said.

Autrey said he thought the city had a great fire department and he and the board just wanted to know if there was a need for any changes.

"This is not about any problems with the chief," he said. "I have no problem with Tim (Taylor), and I hope he knows that."

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said it is not about problems with the department.

"The question of need for a full-time chief came up with the resignation of Chris Olsen," he said. "The money is available, and we need to decide just what to do with it.

"Batesville is growing, and you sometimes have to make changes to keep up with the growth," Manley added.

The first firefighter to offer input was Taylor.

"It sounds like you are really pushing the idea of a full-time chief," he said. "But I think this fire department is running very well the way it is now.

"Unlike some of the other organizations in the city, the Batesville Fire Department is a team," Taylor added. "We have some problems, but we work them out among ourselves when we do.

"The men in this fire department elected me as their chief, and they can un-elect my butt when the time comes," he continued.

Taylor said ultimately the decision belonged to the aldermen, but he urged them to take the input of the firemen into consideration.

"Whatever you do, you need to seriously consider the feelings of these men in this room," he said. "The buildings and trucks are not your fire department. These guys are."

Firefighter Banks Brasell said he appreciated the board’s continuous support of the department.

"I can never remember this board denying something we really needed," he said. "As for the way this fire department is run, I think it is running just fine. The men know they can come talk to any of us if they are having problems.

"As for our chief, I think Tim has done one hell of a job, and it would be hard to replace him," Brasell continued.

Assistant Chief Jackie Chapman echoed Brasell’s opinions.

"I’ve seen this fire department grow into what we are today," he said. "And I support the system we have in place.

"It’s like Banks and Tim have said, we have our problems, but we have always been able to work them out among ourselves," Chapman concluded.

Manley and the mayor both told the firefighters they appreciated their input.

"We have heard your thoughts, but I also know there is often a silent majority," Manley said. "Any of you who would like to speak with any of us privately is welcomed to do so."

Near the end of the regular meeting, questions about an unsigned letter from several firemen came into question.

"What do you think about this letter?" Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders asked Taylor.

Manley had a copy of a letter, which detailed what he called "demands" from the firefighters.

Those demands included pay for a fire chief equal to other department superintendents, new self contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) and masks, additional full-time firefighters and a voting machine for department elections.

"This is the first time I have seen this letter," he said. "But rest assured I had no part in it."

Manley jokingly said he didn’t want to see any pink slips as result of the letter.

"I can’t fire anyone anyway," Taylor said. "That’s up to this board, but this seems like it is just a problem we will have to work through."

Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said the board would do whatever it could to secure the equipment needed by the fire department.

"I think the SCBAs they are asking for are already on the chief’s budget request sheet," he said after the meeting. "We definitely understand that the firefighters put their lives on the line, and we want to do whatever we can to make sure they are properly equipped to battle a fire."

Water key to town’s revenue
By John Howell Sr.

Owners of Crenshaw property will likely see a tax increase next year in the town.

"Property taxes are going to have to be raised; it’s been years since it’s been done," Mayor Sylvester Reed said during the Tuesday, August 1 meeting of the town’s mayor and aldermen.

The mayor’s statement followed a July 29 budget meeting with Lygunnah Bean, who is helping city officials prepare their fiscal 2007 budget. During that meeting Bean identified the town’s water distribution system as the source for about 60 percent of the town’s revenue.

"If you’re going to do well, it’s going to be because of your ability to control your water," the consultant had told the town’s elected officials on Saturday.

During the Tuesday night meeting, city officials discussed personnel and equipment matters that affect the municipal water department:

The low bids of $45,321 and $32,690, for fencing and smoke testing were accepted by the unanimous vote of aldermen. Fencing will be erected around the town’s sewer lagoon. Smoke testing will help town workers locate water leaks. Leaks discovered on the town’s side of water meters mean that the town is losing water and the revenue its distribution generates. Leaks on the customer’s side of the meter means higher water bills.

Thweatt Construction Company was the successful low bidder for both items, which will be partially paid from grant funds, the mayor said.

Discussion related to Crenshaw’s system also ranged from the lack of a person certified to test the water quality to the city’s backhoe which broke down months ago.

Jimmy Frazier resigned from his duties as water operator July 13, citing in his resignation letter differences with the current administration.
Mayor Reed said that he had met with Michael Purdy, a certified water operator who would test "both for $600" per month, referring to the city’s water wells.

"We do have six months before we must have a certified person," the mayor added. During the interim, water samples can be submitted for testing.
"Who is going to pull the sample this month?" one alderman asked. The mayor said that a current employee would obtain the samples and submit them to the health department.

The mayor also reported meeting with a representative of Water Management Enterprise of Boyle, which tests water for a number of small municipalities, including Sledge, Falcon and Pope. Reed said that a Water Management Enterprise employee would visit "two times a week to check the water for $275." He did not say whether the $275 would be charged weekly or monthly. Attempts following the meeting, including attempts to contact the mayor, to clarify the time period covered by the $275 were unsuccessful.

"I would like to see Michael Purdy come on board because if something happens, he knows how to fix it," Alderman Alberta Bradley said. Alderman Keith Pride said that the prices had been submitted for testing the water and not for maintaining the water system.

New information in the town’s ongoing discussion of what to do about its inoperable backhoe included questions about the town’s credit worthiness, whether the implement could be leased and whether any of the current municipal employees could operate one if it could be obtained.

Attorney Brown said that the cost of the implement would subject its purchase to state bid laws.

"If we have a major break right now, what are we going to do?" Alderman David Whitsell asked.

Aldermen approved Whitsell’s motion for the mayor to talk to the Clarksdale Case dealership about buying a backhoe on terms.


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