Headlines Cont. – 9/29/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 29, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – September 29, 2006


Aldermen seek payment plan to collect fines
By Jason C. Mattox

After meeting for more than an hour Tuesday, the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen were still stalled in their efforts to find a way to collect more of the $800,000 in past due fines owed the city.

City leaders suggested that Mayor Jerry Autrey and city attorney Colmon Mitchell meet with municipal judge Bill McKenzie and court clerk Renee Hubbard to offer some of the city’s recommendations.

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Aldermen gathered to discuss the possibility of accepting partial payment of court fines rather than risk getting none of the fine.

"There is an attorney general’s opinion that allows the partial payment of fines," Mitchell said. "If they don’t pay the balance of the fine, you would find them in contempt of court."

Mitchell said one thing that could be done would be to take a partial payment and set up a date when the final installment would be due.

Hubbard said McKenzie had informed her he was against accepting partial payments.

"His feeling is that he is trying to teach criminals a sense of responsibility," she said. "He will tell them they have 30 days or however long and suggest they go to a finance company or sell their car or make other arrangements to get the fine paid.

"He just doesn’t want to do it," she insisted.

Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said repeat offenders should be put in jail and not just threatened with a suspended sentence.

"The people are going to talk," he said. "You won’t have to lock up but about 10. When people hear we are throwing them in jail, they will start paying their fines."

Mitchell said the best the board could do was offer their suggestions to the judge.

"You can go to him and ask for his cooperation," he said. "After that it will be up to him, but it is not a good idea to try to micro-manage the court."

Hubbard explained that after sentencing in court, the guilty party has 30 days to pay. If the fine is not paid after that 30 days, a notice is sent out giving them 10 days. After that, a final notice is mailed out.

"When it gets to that point we need to take them to jail and lock them up," Morrow said.

Lt. Col. Tony Jones said one problem with that is the jail’s capacity.

"They are at maximum capacity right now," he said. "They aren’t even taking people who are not felony cases."

Mitchell explained that the city is allowed to add on the costs of jail time ($20 per day in Panola County Jail) to the previous fines.

"The problem is, how are you going to get them to pay that when they wouldn’t pay the original fine?" Jones asked.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she supports accepting partial payments.

"I respect the judge, and agree that we don’t need to tell him how to run his courtroom, but there has to be a way of getting this done," she said.

No formal action was taken on the matter.

Commission members approach city board to expand duties
By Rupert Howell

Batesville Planning Commission members want to expand their duties and be the hearing agency for variances requested from the City Code of Ordinances involving zoning and development with the board of mayor and aldermen hearing appeals when variances are denied.

Variances from the zoning ordinances have traditionally been heard by the city board.

Commission members believe the new proposal would allow the commission members to act as a buffer between elected officials and their constituents while continuing to allow officials to hear directly from citizens in the appeal process.

The process would provide documentation for decisions allowing the mayor and aldermen to see why a particular variance had been denied when an appeal is considered.

Meeting Monday evening with community planning consultant Bob Barber and City Attorney Colmon Mitchell, board members voted to present changes to the board of aldermen and mayor for approval.
The presentation of the changes to the city board is tentatively set for October 17.

Code Enforcement Office Administrator Pam Comer explained, "There is always gray area. That’s what we’re trying to do -clean up gray area."

Some of the gray areas where recommendations where made were where to put bed and breakfasts, tattoo and body piercing parlors, sales from temporary buildings and tents (such as fireworks, fruit, snacks, sno-cones,) firearms shooting ranges, detail shops, wrecker and towing services and storage of wrecked vehicles.

Another recommendation discussed that will be presented to the board is approval of compliance for existing signs that have received a variance or those signs placed prior to the ordinances’ adoption in 1992. Also an existing sign that was damaged and whose repair would be more than 50 percent of the worth of the sign would have to be brought into compliance.

The code would be changed so that a change of occupancy of the premises would require site signage to conform to the provisions of the ordinance.

Members explained that by adopting these policies, non-conforming signs would eventually be brought into conformance.

Commissioners also briefly discussed illegal use of temporary signs, banners and window fronts with Barber suggesting that the board concentrate on one effort at a time.

"Let’s get the variances thing done (with the city board) without biting off too many hot button issues," Barber recommended.

Nell Foshee serves as planning commission chairman and Barbara Broome is vice-chairman. Other members present at Monday night’s meeting were: Charlie Dulany, Brad Clark, Billy Downs, Everette Red and Bro. Chris Townsend.

Tax exemption approved for Majestic Corp.
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville city officials agreed Tuesday, September 15, to ad valorem tax exemption for a trailer manufacturer and to Tax Increment Financing bonds for the Covenant Crossing development at Highway 6 and Interstate 55.

Consultant Jimmy Gouras, accompanied by Panola Partnership Executive Director Sonny Simmons, appeared at a hearing during the meeting of mayor and aldermen.

"We’re not in the business of asking y’all to take risks," Gouras told city officials. Gouras made the presentation on behalf of developer Alvan Kelly, who is developing Covenant Crossing near Lowes.

Through the Tax Increment Financing program, Kelly will fund major infrastructure construction required, such as streets, water and sewer lines, for the development, Gouras said. Once the development is completed and the retail space is occupied, the city will issue bonds to cover the infrastructure costs and pay for it with the ad valorem tax collected from the property.

"Does this interfere with our bonding capacity," asked Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders.

"No," the consultant replied. The TIF bonds only required the pledge of the increased tax collections generated by the development.

Gouras said that a similar request had been made of the county, which was also expected to approve the joint TIF venture.

Aldermen voted unanimously to approve Gouras’ request.

Majestic Corporation will manufacture enclosed utility trailers in the former Batesville American building on Highway 51 South, Simmons told the mayor and aldermen.

The manufacturer will employ 40 to 100 people, Simmons added.

Aldermen voted to exempt the company from ad valorem taxes contingent on meeting the employment projections.

Bids awarded for work on Sardis ditch
By Jason C. Mattox

The awarding of bids for equipment and materials to make improvements to Wild Dog Ditch means the City of Sardis is close to resolving an erosion problem it has been battling for years.

Wild Dog Ditch starts near the American Legion Baseball Fields and runs west through town.

During a called meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Monday night, bids on equipment, including a dump truck, trackhoe and bulldozer were awarded to local company W&W Contractors who bid $121,000 for the use of the equipment.

Vulcan of Memphis was the low bidder for rip-rap (white rocks used to prevent erosion) at $208,845 for 8,500 tons or rock. The bid for the sediment cloth went to Henson Pipe at $18,481.

The project is being funded by an 85/15 matching grant through USDA and Natural Resource Conservation Services for $379,000.

Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn recused himself from any discussion and the vote pertaining to the matter. Scallorn is employed by W&W Contractors.

"We will be able to pay our 15 percent with the work we do on the project," Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said. "So I will be keeping a close eye on this project."

Dye said the city needed to be in a rush about starting the project as it was originally scheduled for completion by the end of the month.

"There have been some holdups in Jackson that have kept us from being able to get started," he said. "They understand that, and we shouldn’t be penalized for the late start."

Ward 1 Alderman Joseph "JoJo" Still voiced concerns about the equipment rate not including labor.

"Are we sure we have someone who can drive this stuff?" he asked. "If we do, I don’t have a problem with it."

Dye said there were city employees who could handle the machinery.

"We should to be able to tell really quick if someone can drive a trackhoe or not," he replied.

Mangrum family home burns; help needed
The family of James and Toni Mangrum escaped injury when a smoke alarm alerted them to a fire in their LeMaster Road home which was completely destroyed Wednesday night.

Mrs. Mangrum said that everything the family owned was either burned or damaged during the fire.

She explained that her husband, first awakened by the alarms, alerted the rest of the family to get out of the trailer home.

The Mangrums’ three children, two boys and a girl, are in need of clothing in boys’ sizes 3T-4T, 6&7 and girls’ 16 or women’s 3, 4.

Also shoes are needed in women’s size 7, boys’ 11, 12 1/2 to 13.

Clothing may be brought to The Panolian office at 363 Highway 51 north during normal business hours Monday through Friday and left with Terri Howard.


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