Headlines – 10/17/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – October 17, 2006

  From the 10/17/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

Hotel owners buy five-acre spot at Covenant
By Billy Davis

Covenant Crossing developer Alvan Kelly has snagged an upscale hotel for his Batesville site, the site’s purchaser announced Monday.

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Vijay Vaghela announced that his family has signed a contract with Kelly to purchase a five-acre tract located in the northwest corner of the property.

Covenant Crossing is located north of Highway 6 East and east of Interstate 55 near the Lowe’s store.

The Vaghela family already owns and manages two Batesville hotels, a Day’s Inn and a Comfort Inn, and is building a four-story, upscale Holiday Inn near Woodland Drive and Power Drive in east Batesville.

"When the time is right, we will begin work on our newest venture," Vaghela said. "We’re very glad to be part of Mr. Kelly’s development."

Reached Monday, Kelly confirmed the business deal with the Vaghela family and described the coming hotel as "maybe a Courtyard by Marriott, or something of that caliber."

Vijay Vaghela declined to specify the future name of the hotel, however, since his family must first apply to parent companies for the right to use a franchise name.

The hotel co-owner described the five-acre purchase as a "future investment" since the coming Holiday Inn must "get on its feet" before work begins on a second large hotel.

"It’s a little early to say what we will build at Covenant Crossing, but we saw the potential and like what Mr. Kelly is doing," he said.

Vaghela said the deal with Kelly included a signed contract and earnest money. A final closing should come "in coming months," he said.

Kelly also said Monday that he had finalized a deal on October 6 with Mi Pueblo, the Mexican restaurant chain, for one and one-half acres at Covenant Crossing. A verbal agreement between Kelly and Mi Pueblo had been announced in recent months.

Kelly announced plans for a shopping center development in February, but the self-described rookie developer has been slow to woo retail businesses to the prime location.

The DeSoto County developer owns an Olive Branch trucking company, Covenant Logistics, but got the development bug after selling a small tract in Hernando to Mi Pueblo.

Kelly purchased 134 acres from Memphis developer John Hyneman and is seeking a phase-one retail community followed by a residential area located on acreage located behind Lowe’s. He also purchased 47 acres that surrounds Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

A conceptual drawing of Covenant includes a hotel as part of the development, though one on a smaller scale, Kelly said Monday.

"We only had a couple of acres allotted for the hotel, so obviously this is better than we expected," Kelly said. "We’re really excited about this deal because it could raise the level of clients who will come to Batesville."

Literacy Council gets spacing help from SP
By Rita Howell

With an estimated 37 percent of Panola Countians age 16 and older lacking basic literacy skills, an effort is under way to reestablish the Panola Literacy Council, according to Batesville Public Librarian Barbara Evans, acting chairman for the council.

"We want to reach adults who, for one reason or another, never learned to read proficiently," she said. "It takes a lot of courage for someone to come forward and admit they can’t read."

The idea is to prepare literacy program participants to enter a GED program, if they choose.

The literacy council would also offer its services to youths who are above the compulsory school attendance age but not enrolled in school.

Funds are available through Northwest Community College’s Adult Basic Education program to provide study materials and a part-time director for the Panola Literacy Council, she said this week.

Monday the South Panola School District tentatively agreed to provide office space for the council, Evans said. The literacy council office would be located on the Batesville Intermediate School campus.

The council will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Batesville Public Library to formally adopt bylaws, elect officers, and discuss its role in combatting illiteracy.

Anyone who is interested in helping by serving on the board, volunteering as a tutor, or offering assistance in other ways is urged to attend the meeting.

"We particularly need minority representation on our board," Evans said.

Current board members, in addition to Evans, are: Angelia Hogan of Pope, acting vice chairman; Susan DeFalco-Tabbert of Pope, acting secretary; Bob Wadsworth of Batesville, acting treasurer; Joan Rose of Sardis, Sam Godfrey of Como, Maxine Thaggard of Batesville, Barbara Presley of Crenshaw, Sandra Pitcock of Batesville and Zannie Leland of Batesville.

For more information, contact Evans at 563-6631.

(Editor’s Note: The estimated rate of functional illiteracy among Panola Countians [cited above] was published in "The State of Literacy in America.")

After year off, Pope haunt house opens Friday at dark
By Billy Davis

A Halloween tradition returns to Panola County Friday night when the Pope Volunteer Fire Department resumes its annual haunted house.

The Pope fire department put away the ghoul costumes and Jason mask last year after its firefighters responded to the hurricane-stricken Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.

Now back on the calendar, "Jason’s Haunted House" will kick off for two weekend runs, and the fire department hopes for participation from at least 1,000 people ready to be scared.

"The haunted house is a lot of work, but everybody’s pumped up since we didn’t do it last year," said Pope Fire Chief John McCollum.

The haunted house is the fire department’s largest fund-raiser, and all funds raised from the $6 admission and snack sales will help pay for a recent expansion of the fire station.

Haunted house attendees meet at the Pope fire station on Pope-Water Valley Road, where they are taken via school bus to the haunted house. The bus rides begin at dark Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21, and again Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28.

Snacks and drinks will be available at the fire station.

The Mt. Olivet Volunteer Fire Department is also sponsoring a Halloween fund-raiser, a "Haunted Trail," beginning at dark on October 28. Admission to the haunted trail is $5.

For more information about Pope’s haunted house, call 934-8880. For more information about Mt. Olivet’s haunted trail, call 609-2370.

Crenshaw Club cranks to life
     Utilizing very limited space, Crenshaw Boys and Girls Club Director Carolyn Coleman puts young club members through calisthenics. Now open for just over a month, the Crenshaw club serves 50 children after school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
By John Howell Sr.

Crenshaw’s Boys and Girls Club has been operating for just over a month.

Fifty boys and girls and a host of adult and teenage volunteers utilize the Crenshaw Elementary School building three days a week for supervised homework, arts and crafts, computer lab and sports.

"Teachers are stopping us in the halls to tell us children’s grades are improving; children who never turned in their homework are turning in homework," a Boys and Girls Club volunteer said.

The Crenshaw club is the newest chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi, which began in Batesville and has operated a successful chapter since 1999. The Batesville club now serves up to 180 children after school and with a summer program. The Sardis club, started in the summer of 2003, serves up to 80 kids.

All three clubs have lists of children waiting to join.

Each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon Crenshaw Boys and Girls Club Director Carolyn Coleman, staff and volunteers, including teachers, parents and high school and college students, supervise and assist with homework during the meeting’s first hour. Students are seated around portable cafeteria seats and tables in the school’s largest room.

There is a mild hum as groups of students cluster around the volunteers. Some kids are asking questions; others work by themselves. Anything that rises above that mild hum attracts the firm attention of Coleman or another adult.

Following the study time and an afternoon snack, students divide into groups. Some get an exercise workout under Coleman’s direction; others visit the school’s computer lab. "They love the computer lab," Coleman said.

"I find activities that are motivational and fun," said computer lab instructor Kim Strickland. "They think they’re playing a game and they’re actually learning."

Still others work at arts and crafts under the supervision of Andrea Linzy.

"We’ve got to find a means of keeping them open," said Belinda Morris, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Batesville. The initial burst of enthusiasm with volunteer support and donations must also be converted to long-term support, she said.

"They’ve got a good group of volunteers," Morris added.

Early club have included car washes and a car and motorcycle show sponsored by Sammy Armstrong, Coleman said.

Unit advisory board president Robert Lee Jones of Crenshaw said that the club needed donations of food and art supplies but, "actually we need our own building; there’s only so much you can do in the school."

"We’re working with a real low budget," Jones continued, "we could have three times as many kids if we had the resources."

Tractor show hopes for jump in crowd
By Jason C. Mattox

The Sardis Chamber of Commerce will hold the 17th Annual Antique Engine and Tractor Show in the Industrial Park Friday and Saturday, September 20-21.

Events scheduled for this year’s show include a ladies-only skillet toss, a children’s bubble gum chewing contest, live music and the annual tractor pull to be emceed by Hal Johnson.

"We have a lot of new things to do this year, and all of us with the chamber hope that will help increase our crowd," Chamber president Roy Girner said.

According to Girner, just over 1,000 people attended last year’s event.

"That was a good attendance, but we want to have more people this year," he said.

"There are people that go to these kinds of shows every weekend," he said. "So we know this will be more than a local crowd and we want everyone to bring the family and have a good time."

A fish fry is scheduled for Friday night beginning at 5 p.m. Cost for the plates is $7.

The tractor parade will be held again this year and is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Admission for the event is $1 per person. Various vendors will be set up throughout the park selling concessions and arts and crafts items.

A shuttle will be available to transport attendees from the parking area to the show.

Sardis PD nabs 14 at ‘top five’ state haunt, hospital
By Jason C. Mattox

Fourteen Batesville residents were arrested Friday night at the old North Panola Hospital building in Sardis.

Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis said those arrested were between the ages of 16 and 21.

"When officers arrived at the hospital, there were three people outside the building and the others were inside," he said. "But there was no damage to the building.

"It was a mix of South Panola and North Delta students who were just out to see what was in there," Davis added.

Davis said he expected this type of activity at the hospital after a recent visit from "Orb Hunters USA," ghost hunters from Memphis whose tour of the hospital was reported in the October 10 issue of The Panolian.

"We knew there would start being some people coming around, but I wasn’t expecting this many at one time," he said.

All of those arrested were charged with trespassing and released into their parents’ custody.

"One of the people told me the reason they were there is because it is listed as one of the top five haunted places in the state," Davis said.

The chief said his department expects similar instances as Halloween gets closer.

"People need to stay away from the building," Davis said. "Anyone caught there will be charged with trespassing and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Fall weather: rain, then warm, then…
By Billy Davis

A warm front that settled over parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and a low-pressure system moving northeast from Texas, are the sources of the rain and wind that arrived late Sunday night in Panola County.

The wet weather should move on by noon Tuesday and give way to warmer temps through most of the week, said Doug Vogelsang, a National Weather Service spokesperson located in Memphis.

A Flash Flood Watch was issued Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., partly due to expectations of severe weather Monday night, the spokesperson also said.

Following several warm days this week, another cold front should arrive by the weekend, Vogelsang said, with a 30 percent chance of showers.

"After the warm weather, you should see a 10-degree drop when the cold front moves in," he said.


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