Headlines – 10/6/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 6, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – October 6, 2006

  From the 10/6/06 issue of The Panolian   –   


Variance vote finds no second
By John Howell Sr.

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A lengthy hearing over a variance to allow a mobile home at 103 Patton Lane changed direction Tuesday when property owner Daryl Henderson described the structure he sought as a "modular home," including a shingle roof, poured piers and permanent foundation attachment.

Henderson, members of his family and their attorney, Rosharwin Williams of Clarksdale, spoke during the hearing in support of allowing the new structure to replace a mobile home that burned on the site several years ago. Henderson said that he planned to make the address his home.

The family had initially come to the board seeking a rezoning that would allow placement of a mobile home on the site to replace the burned structure and had been turned down.

At the Tuesday, October 3 meeting of the Batesville mayor and aldermen their request for the variance generated a lengthy discussion over the date of the fire and the question of the abandonment of the home. The discussion revealed that a petition had been circulated among neighbors of the 103 Patton Lane address who support the mobile home placement at the site.

Following the hearing, Alderman Rufus Manley made a motion to allow its placement, but there was no second.

Alderman Bill Dugger said that the board had turned down other variance requests and that the request had been studied by the Batesville Planning Commission. "They turned it down," Dugger said.

After Henderson described the modular structure to city officials, Dugger made a motion to take the variance request under advisement until the October 17 meeting. The motion passed 4-0.

City Code Enforcement official Pam Comer said that Batesville’s current zoning regulations allow modular structures conditionally on R-3 (multi-family use) and agricultural property. She said the city code describes a modular home as a structure pre-assembled in a manufacturing plant and hauled to a site and placed on a permanent foundation – either in two parts similar to a double-wide mobile home or in panels. The structures must meet the Southern Building Code, she said.

  • Following another hearing, city officials voted 4-0 against a variance which would allow a larger sign on the Fred’s building on Highway 6. Comer told the mayor and alderman that the building’s current sign was at the maximum size allowed.
  • The hearings also included a request by brothers Wayne and Raymond Belk to allow a drive-through window at a Whit’s of Mississippi restaurant proposed for an outlet parcel of the Gateway Plaza Shopping Center.

They received approval from city officials.

The restaurant will be located between the First Security Bank branch and Medicap Pharmacy.

McMinn will head commission
By Billy Davis

Batesville resident Ronald "Runt" McMinn has been picked by his peers to serve as chairman of the Panola County Election Commission, the board of supervisors learned Monday.

McMinn, 62, attended the supervisors’ "first Monday" meeting to inform the board that he has replaced long-serving chairman Mildred Moore. Moore gave up her seat last month, citing the need to take care of her ailing husband, James Hal Moore.

A replacement for Moore has not been named by supervisors.

The five-member election commission works with the circuit clerk’s office to oversee various elections.

The commission also works behind the scenes to routinely purge the voter rolls, most often of deceased voters. McMinn is a regular visitor to The Panolian office, where he picks up a list of newspaper obituaries to match names with the voter rolls.

Reached at home this week, Moore said she was grateful that McMinn had agreed to lead the election commission as chairman.

"I had tried several times to get him to agree to be chairman," Moore said. "Runt is the most knowledgeable about the new election technology than all of us. He’s perfect for it."

McMinn, 62, said he has served on the election commission "seven or eight years" after he was appointed by supervisors to finish the term of the late Preston Phillips.

"Our goal is to make sure we have the best elections in Panola that give everybody an equal and fair opportunity to vote," McMinn said.

McMinn is a retired high school coach and works as parks director for the City of Batesville.

‘Welcome’ signs to get touch-up
By Jason C. Mattox

Changes are coming for the "Welcome to Batesville" signs on Interstate 55 after aldermen voted Tuesday to update them.

Artist Carl Brown was hired to rework the signs at a total cost of $4,000.

The signs, which picture a large tiger and boast of the South Panola High School football team, will feature a newly-painted tiger and carry the message "5A Champions," listing the years South Panola has won the state championship.

Brown told the aldermen it would cost them $8,000 to replace both of the signs, but he would remodel half the signs and clean the other half for the $4,000 price.

"That’s this week’s special," Brown said jokingly.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger said it was important to him for the signs to look good whichever route the city chose to take.

"We want these signs to look the best they can, because we are proud of our football team," he said. "It’s just a lot of money to replace them both."

Dugger also questioned how long the new signs would last.

"They should last a good while," Brown replied. "The signs you have now are good signs, they are just weathered from the last three years.

"It is still a good sign, it just looks worn," Brown added.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said the city should seriously consider full replacement, but added she would go along with what other aldermen wanted.

"If we are going to spend that kind of money, we might as well get new signs made, but I am just one vote," she said.

Dugger said he was of the opinion the city should simply remodel half of each sign.

"I would like for us to do a lot more, but right now, that just seems like too much money," he said.

In other board business:
Bids for uniform and mop rental were tabled.
Waste Water Treatment Plant employee Gary Snider was given a salary adjustment of $100 per month for completing Class II Certification.
Plus regular PANOLA PEOPLE features:
BPD: plan in place if ‘shooter’ reported at school
     A Glock pistol rests on the hip of Batesville school resource officer Karen Stewart as students change classes Thursday morning at South Panola High School. School officials believe the presence of Stewart and other school resource officers will help deter a school shooting. 
By Billy Davis and
Jason C. Mattox

If a gunman enters a school in Batesville, the Batesville Police Department can deploy a well-detailed action plan to react to the threat, the city’s police chief said this week.

A 15-page document called the Batesville Police Department School Crisis Plan maps out the department’s reaction to events ranging from a school shooting to a tornado.

Police Chief Gerald Legge showed a copy of the school crisis plan to a reporter during an interview Wednesday, hoping to assure parents and students that the police department is well aware of recent school shootings across the nation.

A 32-year-old gunman in Pennsylvania killed five girls in an Amish school Monday. That shooting followed a school shooting on September 27 in Wisconsin and September 29 in Colorado.

According to the document, a report of a gunman on campus would be declared an "active shooter situation," and officers would respond to that scenario accordingly. The plan includes a list of instructions for responding officers, including the commanding officer on the scene, an evacuation plan and assigned "staging areas" for teachers and students, and a diagram of each of the city’s school buildings.

Legge said neighboring SWAT teams would be available in case of a school shooting, with Oxford’s specially trained police officers being the closest. A list of those law enforcement agencies and their phone numbers are included in each copy of the plan.

Beyond those details, Legge asked that particular details be kept private due to security issues.

"We obviously don’t want details to get out (into the public), but we want parents to know that we’re aware of what has happened and have planned accordingly," Legge told The Panolian.

The crisis plan was tweaked last December, and officers trained according to the newer plan in January, the police chief said.

Reached this week, South Panola schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer said school principals are reviewing emergency plans following the recent school shootings.

"Supervision is what you try to harp on. You look for signs," the superintendent said."It’s important that the students know they can talk to the faculty – that we’re here to listen to them."

At North Panola, each school in the district, except Crenshaw Elementary, has a school security guard, according to Superintendent Glendora Dugger.

"All of our security guards are certified by the state, and we feel that our students are in a safe environment at each or our schools," she said.

Dugger added that the district hopes to have a school resource officer (SRO) on the Como campus within a few weeks. That officer would act as the supervisor for the other security personnel throughout the district.

"In addition to the SRO, we plan to add fences around the back of the North Panola High School, and Como," she said. "We are doing everything we can to keep our students safe."

"Everyone who enters one of our buildings must receive a pass from the office and have a purpose for being in the school," she added.

A 2002 study of school shootings found that attacks are typically planned and rarely done on impulse, and students often hear about the plans in advance, an Associated Press story reported this week.

The latest shooting in Pennsylvania didn’t follow the typical scenario, however, when Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself in the one-room school. The death toll so far from the shooting is six, including Roberts.

Both Shaffer and Legge noted that South Panola’s school resource officers could be the strongest deterrents of school violence.

Four armed Batesville police SROs patrol the campuses, and a fifth police officer will begin SRO work in January, the police chief said.

Still another SRO, a deputy sheriff, also patrols the Pope School campus.

"My wife and I have a daughter who’s a senior, so I’m looking at this from two different ways," Legge said. "I want to see our schools be as safe as possible and be a comfortable learning environment."

Voter registration ends today
By Billy Davis

Today is the last day to register to vote in the November 7 general election.

Voters who are not registered, but want to cast a ballot, can register at the Panola County circuit clerk’s office at the county courthouses in Batesville and Sardis.

The upcoming election will decide a U.S. Senate seat and the U.S. representative for the First Congressional District.

Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Erik Fleming and libertarian candidate Harold Taylor.

In the U.S. House race, Rep. Roger Wicker is being challenged by Democrat James K. Hurt.

Locally, Chancery Court Judge Melvin McClure is being challenged by Batesville attorney Vicki Cobb.

County road department meets federal Oct. deadline
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors learned Monday that the county road department is now in compliance with a federal-mandated accounting system known as GASB-34.

Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean informed supervisors of the just-completed feat at their "first Monday" meeting in Sardis. October is the deadline for compliance.

GASB, an acronym for Government Accounting Standards Board, lists the county’s 900 miles of roads and 200 bridges as county assets, and updates any work performed on them that affects their value.

"We have $9 million of roads and $2.3 million of bridges," Bean told supervisors, citing the GASB figures.

The road manager told The Panolian in May that the GASB computer software serves several purposes beyond simply keeping track of roads and bridges, namely reassuring taxpayers that the road department spends their money wisely. The computer software keeps track of citizens’ road work requests as well employees’ work assignments and work hours.

Bean also said GASB is an asset for Panola County government, since the value of the roads and bridges improves the county’s bond rating, which increases its borrowing power.

Supervisors hired Bean in 2003 with orders to implement GASB in the county road department, citing his organizational and leadership skills as plant manager at the now-closed Batesville American plant.

At Bean’s suggestion, supervisors hired Bobby Jones in April to oversee GASB for the road department. Jones had worked for Bean as quality manager at Batesville American.

At Batesville American, both Bean and Jones worked with a similar, non-government version of GASB.

"I want to say congratulations because that took a lot of time and work," board president Robert Avant told Bean Monday. "A lot of other counties aren’t in compliance yet."


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