Headlines – 9/29/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 29, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – September 29, 2006

  From the 9/29/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

Better get going if plans are OB vs. SP
By Billy Davis

If Batesville barber Mike Martin can sneak away from his barber’s chair Friday afternoon, he already has a spot picked out to watch the 7 p.m. kick-off at Olive Branch High School.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"There’s a small hill near the concession stand, where I stood and watched the game two years ago, and if I can go, I reckon I’ll stand there," Martin said Thursday, snipping at a head of gray hair and talking football.

That small hill may be prime real estate tonight when the Tigers and 3,000 or more of their fans descend upon the home turf of the Olive Branch Quistors.

Olive Branch will open its gates at 5 p.m. to welcome an expected crowd of 6,000, said Olive Branch High principal Kyle Brigance.

Football fans already know the stakes tonight: both 1-5A teams enter tonight’s game with 5-0 records and a string of trounced opponents. Last week, Olive Branch rolled over Southaven High 49-0 while South Panola steamrolled Horn Lake 40-7.

And Olive Branch, already pumped up by its record, wants revenge after the 2005 Tigers twice spoiled the Quistors otherwise admirable 12-2 record.

South Panola also enters tonight’s game with a 50-0 winning streak. If the Tigers fend off a Quistor upset, South Panola will tie the long-heralded 51-0 consecutive win record set by the Hamilton High Lions.

Asked if customers have been talking up tonight’s matchup, Martin said, "Oh, yeah."

"They’re calling it The Game," he said.

Sports media have all but billed tonight’s matchup as "The Game," too. USA Today, the national newspaper, tapped the matchup as its Game of the Week, and The Clarion-Ledger, following suit, predicts a 23-13 win by the Tigers.

In a Clarion-Ledger story this week, sports writer Todd Kelly noted that Olive Branch has defeated its opponents 301-18 but gently noted, too, that those opponents have a combined record of 5-19 so far this season.

Former Olive Branch coach Jamie Mitchell told Tupelo’s daily newspaper his football team was "shell-shocked" when they played the Tigers in Batesville in 2003.

"They were just in awe…They weren’t ready for that environment," Mitchell told the newspaper in a weekend story.

Daily Journal sports writer Brad Locke described a game in Tiger territory as "pushing a child into a Halloween house, with disembodied growls and grinding Rob Zombie music melting whatever courage the kid may have had."

The difference tonight, of course, is that the Tigers are on the road, 45 minutes north of their University of South Panola campus after playing four straight games at home.

"I’m not nervous about tonight’s game because Olive Branch ain’t got what they think they got," said Tiger football fan Herman Ellis, who was purchasing cigarettes Thursday at a convenience store in Batesville.

Ellis, 66, said he has followed South Panola football since his son, Melvin Ellis, played fullback for then-coach Darrel Arnold in the late ?70s. His grandson, Kiko Ellis, is presently a 9th grader on the Tiger football team.

Ellis, a tire repairman for Dunlap and Kyle, said he is off work Friday and plans to leave Batesville by 5 p.m. to capture a seat for the game.

Ellis said the secret to South Panola’s success is its coaching staff, led by Ricky Woods and defensive coordinator Willis Wright. He also cites the Tigers’ "week-to-week strategy."

And just what is that strategy?

Ellis grins, ready for the punch line: "The strategy is, if push comes to shove, we do what we have to do to their boys, which is run them over."

Shoemaker lauded as mover in healthcare field
Modern Healthcare Magazine has selected Tri-Lakes Medical Center CEO Ray Shoemaker as one of its 2006 "Up & Comers," an annual award presented to innovative leaders in the healthcare field.

Only a handful of recipients are named each year according to the announcement made to the top 65 Tri-Lakes executives by former Mississippi governor Ronnie Musgrove on September 14 at a Tri-Lakes executive retreat at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Mo.

The Up & Comers award was developed by the publication to recognize and showcase talented young leaders, under age 40, who bring a fresh perspective to healthcare. Shoemaker is being honored for his innovation, optimism and leadership while serving as CEO for Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

"It is an honor to be recognized for the great strides we have made at Tri-Lakes Medical Center," said Shoemaker. "When I arrived at Tri-Lakes, my vision was to provide the best care for our patients. This achievement would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of the medical center staff. Their dedication is amazing."

Shoemaker’s arrival at Tri-Lakes Medical Center marked many significant operational changes for a struggling organization. Under his leadership the hospital’s annual revenue was increased from $22 million to $90 million.

Shoemaker’s guidance resulted in a new hospital mission statement focusing on meeting the needs of the community and providing the best possible patient care.

Modern Healthcare Magazine is a weekly news publication providing hospital executives with current healthcare business news.

Starbucks inks deal, makes plans official for new store
By Jason C. Mattox

A contract signed September 22 by Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey and a representative for coffee shop chain Starbucks completes the deal for the Seattle-based company to buy one acre lot of land from the City of Batesville for $371,131.

The property is located on House-Carlson Drive near its intersection with Highway 6 East, near the Batesville Civic Center. The lot had been advertised as 1.42 acres. Starbucks purchased only one acre.

Starbucks representatives told city leaders last week they expect to be open in the spring of 2007.

The Batesville store will join more than 8,000 Starbucks shops in 36 countries.

The contract allows 90 days for the company to do its due diligence work and 30 days to complete the closing.

"After hearing from Fred Hand at our last board meeting, it appears Starbucks has done most of its due diligence work already," city attorney Colmon Mitchell said.

Hand’s company, Hand Enterprises, is purchasing the property for Starbucks.

Mitchell said the contract the city was preparing to enter into was one of the "most-solid" he had ever seen.

"Usually it takes us four or five revisions before we even get close to getting close," he said. "This is the second draft and it is pretty straight forward.

"This has been one of the easiest negotiations I have ever had on the city’s behalf," Mitchell added.

While taking the contract paragraph by paragraph, several aldermen became concerned that an exhibit included in the contract could be a formal site plan.

"Some of the design is just not going to work," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said. "There is too much traffic out there already."

Mitchell said the city could simply include a new page to the contract that states they are not approving a site plan.

"The site plan has to go to code enforcement, then the planning commission, and, as a last resort, the city board," the attorney explained.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, the mayor’s cell phone was ringing. On the other end was Hand.

Autrey handed off the phone to Mitchell who explained the concerns about the site plan to Hand.

"He said write it in and fax it over and he will sign it," Mitchell said after concluding his conversation. "They are ready to get this deal done.

"Then I say let it fly," Pounders said.

As for other parties interested in the property, Autrey said Tuesday afternoon he is trying to sway them to a piece of property near Backyard Burgers.

"We have three more people looking to buy land out to the east of town," he said. "So, I would like to get one of them to look at the property across the street from the civic center."

Autrey said the development near Wal-Mart and Lowes will be good for the city as a whole because it will generate more tax revenue that will allow the city to overlay more streets among other things.

"We have $200,000 in the new budget for streets," he said. "I would like to be able to do more, and the sale of property could allow us to do that.

"All of us also know we are going to have to do some water, sewer and gas work to help the development out that way, and some of the money from the sale could help us pay for that work," Autrey added.

The mayor said he realizes there will be problems when the development comes to fruition, but he expects them to be good problems.

"We know it is going to create more traffic, and it will make it necessary for us to do the infrastructure work, but these are problems that are good to have," he said. "The growth will have a tremendous impact on the city."

Habitat home free and clear
     Joining Mrs. Melissa Wright (seated) Thursday to celebrate the payoff of her home through Panola’s Habitat for Humanity were several chapter members including (from left) Mary Murphey, Tom Hastings, Tom and Mary Kennedy, Sara Dell Gray and Bishop E. M. Fondren. Wright’s home, built in 1987, was the first project of the local Habitat group. They are now seeking applicants for three new homes to be built in Sardis.
By John Howell Sr.

While Panola County’s Habitat for Humanity chapter is seeking applicants for the three homes it plans to build in Sardis, the local volunteer organization celebrated a milestone with Melissa Wright on Thursday.

The 90-year-old homeowner got a certificate of title for her home at 788 Good Hope Road showing that she had paid off her mortgage and owns it free and clear. Panola Habitat members joined Wright in her home to present the appropriate paperwork as well as a check to refund a surplus that remained in her escrow account when matters were settled last week.

Wright and her late son, Melvin, had signed mortgage papers in June, 1987, to take possession of the modest, three-bedroom home. Her prior home had burned, and Wright had lived in a trailer until her Habitat home was completed. Melvin Wright died three years ago, Mrs. Wright said. Her grandson, Everett Wright, now lives with her in the home.

The Wrights’ home is one of seven built by Panola Habitat, local affiliate of the Christian-based housing ministry financed through private donations and using volunteer labor. Habitat for Humanity offers assistance in home ownership to low income families with reasonable credit records. It requires no down payment from the families for whom it builds homes, but the family is expected to contribute "sweat equity" assistance with the construction.

"We do a thorough credit check, and the successful applicant cannot have a police record," Panola Habitat volunteer Mary Murphey said. The applicant must also have a work history of two uninterrupted years, she added. The local chapter requires the home-building family to contribute 300 hours of sweat equity towards the structure’s completion, Murphey added. Habitat charges no interest to their mortgagees.

Habitat volunteers held a garage sale in July that raised almost $1,000, Murphey said. The goods sold were donated; volunteers rose early and waited on customers until most of the items were gone; and the site was provided by Dr. Andy Garrott whose parking lot on Eureka Street gave the event high visibility.

Some volunteers are members of the organization; others could be called supporters because they show up during the home construction projects often donating all or part of the skilled labor and equipment needed to complete a properly built home, according to another Panola Habitat member, Becky Owen. Owen cited bulldozer work provided by W. A. Allgood on the new site on Lincoln Street in Sardis as an example. Gil Bridges of Magnolia Rent-All often donates equipment needed during construction, Owen added.

"I don’t mind helping them out," Allgood said. "We just took our dozer and leveled off a rise on that lot and cleared it some."

Contractor Ted Stewart donates his construction skills as does plumber Myron Hall who is anxiously awaiting completion of concrete work at the three Sardis sites so that he can start necessary plumbing, Murphey said.

In addition to volunteers and supporters, Panola Habitat is also looking for applicants for the three new homes planned for Liberty Street in Sardis. Preference will be given to couples with children, Murphey said.

"So many people that could use this are not aware of Habitat’s program," said Sara Dell Gray, another member of the Panola affiliate.

Developer, city mayor in ‘friendly’ competition over commercial prospects
By Billy Davis

Covenant Crossing developer Alvan Kelly says he is negotiating with several potential clients, including a pharmacy and a grocery store chain, about buying commercial acreage.

The Covenant development is located in east Batesville between Interstate 55 and Lowe’s, where dirt work performed over the summer has readied the site for coming infrastructure improvements.

Kelly unveiled his development plans in February at a Batesville Rotary Club luncheon, where he announced the purchase of 134 acres from Memphis developer John Hyneman. Kelly bought 49 acres near Lowe’s and 47 acres surrounding Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Kelly acknowledged that several months have passed without announcing his first customer – but said that could all change soon.

"We’re getting real close on some things. I know I sound like a broken record, but we are," Kelly told The Panolian Wednesday.

Asked about persistent "street talk" that retail store Target was considering a move to Batesville, Kelly said the city had "been in the cross hairs" but demographic numbers, such as population and household income, have not hit the company’s minimum numbers.

"They basically said you’re not there yet," Kelly said. "They expect it will be 2008 before Batesville meets their criteria."

While Kelly courts customers for his development, he is competing against prime real estate, located across Highway 6 from Covenant, that is owned by the City of Batesville.

City officials announced last week that coffee house chain Starbucks is purchasing one acre of city-owned property for $371,121. The prime site is located at the intersection of Highway 6 East and House-Carlson Drive.

Starbucks hopes to open its doors by May, 2007, Fred Hand, a developer who seeks land for Starbucks and other commercial clients, said last week.

The City of Batesville hopes to lure more commercial customers to a cluster of three lots located roughly between the highway and the Batesville Civic Center.

The largest city-owned acreage is a 7.07-acre lot that is located across House- Carlson Drive from the coming Starbucks. The property adjoins the current shopping center. A 3.74-acre lot is for sale south of Covenant Bank and north of the civic center, and 2.43 acres, located between Tri-Lakes and the civic center, are also for sale.

Despite the city-led competition, Kelly said he and Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey are cooperating as "friendly competitors."

"It’s all good news for me. Anything Mr. Autrey gets for Batesville helps me," Kelly said.

Autrey, in fact, invited Kelly to speak to Rotarians in February.

"After we worked with Mr. Hand about Starbucks, I gave him Mr. Kelly’s number and he called him the next day," recalled Autrey, offering an example of cooperation.

Autrey said he is communicating with a pharmacy and two restaurants about the city-owned properties.

Asked what demographics potential businesses look at, Autrey said the numbers are broken down into a variety of charts and graphs that map populations and income levels.

"They know how many people are located from the center of Batesville in miles – one miles, five miles, 10 miles – and do the same thing for other towns around us," Autrey said.

"I think they may know how many toilets we have," the mayor joked.

Local man sentenced for child crimes
By Billy Davis

A Batesville man found guilty of sexually abusing a minor has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Danny Lee Williams, 31, was sentenced Friday, September 22, by Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker in Sardis.

Williams had faced a 12-count indictment on charges of sexual battery and fondling when his case went to trial August 21 in Batesville.

A Panola jury of eight women and four men took less than 30 minutes to convict Williams on nine counts of sexual battery on a minor and three counts of fondling. Three counts of fondling had been tossed out due to lack of evidence.

Williams received a 15-year sentence on one count of sexual battery and five years on a second same count. Other counts will run concurrently with the 15- and five-year sentences.

Sexual battery of a minor carries a maximum 30 years in prison per count with no minimum sentence. Fondling of a minor carries a minimum two-year sentence with a maximum of 15 years.

Plus regular PANOLA PEOPLE features:

Copyright 2005-2006 by The Panolian, Inc..  All rights reserved
Copyright 2001-2004 by Batesville Newspapers, LLC.  All rights reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission  is prohibited.