Headlines – 10/20/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 20, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – October 20, 2006

  From the 10/20/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

Business is booming, state figures confirm
By Rupert Howell

The good news is that sales tax reimbursement in August for the City of Batesville was up 38 percent – the bad news, about one-half of it is "one time" money.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to Kathy Waterbury with the State Tax Commission, part of the increase was due to audit adjustments and late payments, but the rest was due to increased sales.

Sales tax collections can indicate health of retail sales within the municipality.

Waterbury serves as director of communication for the commission. Their figures showed that sales taxes paid in Batesville increased 38 percent over the same monthly period last year.

But when asked to verify the $100,000 increase, Waterbury found the one-time money.

The City received a check for $352,905 in August which represents Batesville’s 18 percent share of the total sales taxes collected in June. That amount added to the previous month’s collections indicate a 22-percent increase for the two-month period at the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, which began July 1.

The amount refunded to the City of Batesville in August of 2005 was $255,879, approximately $100,000 less than the city received this August.

Panola Partnership Executive Director Sonny Simmons said that Batesville has become a shopping hub for a 60-mile radius and is optimistic about continued retail growth, predicting, "It’s going to continue."

Simmons cites four new local industries and four existing industrial expansions netting a total of over 500 new jobs within a 24-month period.

A former mayor of Winona, Simmons said that sales tax figures were one of the first things he looked at as mayor.

"It’s where a large part of your funding for city services comes from," he said and noted that the most recent check to Batesville was more than that received by Greenwood, a city with approximately four times the population.

Gil Bridges, who with his wife, Nancy, operates rental stores in Batesville and Oxford, says look at the local strip malls. He noted that a shopping center south of his business on Highway 51, Eagle Crest on Highway 6, and Gateway at Highways 6 and 51, are filled with occupants and the parking areas are often near capacity.

But Woody Loden, whose family business includes owning a large chunk of the east-west and north-south Highway 51 and 6 retail corridor, says he still has units to fill and more may be empty following the first of the year as leases expire.

The Lodens are remodeling the former Western Auto building into three smaller stores that he says are easier to lease and announced to the Batesville Rotary Club this week that Radio Shack will occupy one of those units. That shopping center located next to Fred’s has recently had new facade prior to the present remodeling project there.

The three-percent tourism and economic development tax imposed on restaurants and hotels was up five percent over last August totalling $69,420. That tax is up nine percent for the two months recorded for the current fiscal year.

The state totals were up 16 percent for the same August reporting period.

‘Amp fee’ adds up to plea for a favor
By Jason C. Mattox

A Batesville commercial property owner’s request to have a permitting fee lowered was denied after several minutes of discussion with the mayor and board of aldermen Tuesday afternoon.

Woody Loden approached city leaders with the request for lowering his permit fee for electricity in the old Western Auto building.

"They are charging a permit fee of $1 per amp," he said. "That amounted to $1,700."

Loden argued that city code enforcement officers did not properly check the facility.

"Your man doesn’t check things out," he said. "He walks in, circles around and walks out. He doesn’t check anything."

Loden said he believes the permit fee is too much, especially since he began work on the remodeling last year.

Permit fees were raised in February 2006.

"We were working on this building last summer," he said. "We should be able to get our permits at last year’s cost."

Loden told the aldermen he had more than $200,000 invested in renovating the building.

"I would just like to see the permit fee grandfathered," he said.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she understood Loden’s complaint but saw little the city could do.

"You are right to a point," she said. "But everything has gone up.

"I can’t think of anyone I would rather do this for, but if we do it for you, everyone else will want us to do the same," Pounders added.

Loden again asked for assistance with the rates.

"I don’t want the matter tabled, because it seems like you never get the issue resolved," he said.

"Batesville has been good to me and if you don’t do anything, I’m not going to leave town," Loden added. "But I would like to see you grandfather in these rates."

Code enforcement officer Thomas Burnett told Loden the city needed to increase the fees.

"We have always tried to look at your situation and work with you," he said. "But there was a need to raise our permit fees. It had been years since we had an increase prior to this one in February."

Loden then asked if he could at least get credit for the amps of electricity he already had in the building prior to the renovation.

After a few more minutes of discussion, aldermen asked Code enforcement office administrator Pam Comer to investigate the matter and see if the credit for previous amps was possible.

In other board business:
Proposals were received for administrative services for the 2007 Community Development Block Grant program. A meeting will be set up to rate proposals submitted by attorneys, engineers and consultants.
Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell was asked to investigate whether the city could return a 50 x 50 parcel of land to Butch Mitchell. The land was given to the city when they purchased the Humanity Water System.
Anthony Love, an employee of the water and sewer department, was placed to on-call status and received a salary adjustment of $50 per month.
Comer was given permission to advertise for a building inspector truck.
Fire and Life Safety Educator Rip Copeland was given permission to attend the Risk Watch Champion Conference in Boston with expenses paid by the city.
Pollworker training set for Oct. 23
A training session for pollworkers in the Batesville district will be conducted Monday, October 23 at 6 p.m. at the Panola County Extension Building on Highway 51 South next to Meek’s Auto.

The training is in preparation for the November 7 election, according to Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid. Renovations currently under way at the Batesville courthouse prevent the workshop from being held there.

A training session for those who will work the polls in the Sardis district will be conducted at 6 pm. Tuesday, October 24, at the Sardis courthouse.

Reid also said anyone who needs to vote by absentee ballot may come by his office to do so.

Plus regular PANOLA PEOPLE features:
Fishers and their Farmalls will make trek
     to tractor show
     Antique tractor enthusiast Bud Fisher Jr. putts along on a Farmall Cub in 2004 at an antique tractor show in Fredericktown, Mo. Restored tractors belonging to Fisher and other enthusiasts will be on display Saturday at the Antique Engine and Tractor Show in Sardis.
By Billy Davis

When the Farmalls and Fords, John Deeres and Massey Fergusons line up Saturday morning to parade through a field at the Sardis Industrial Park, Bud Fisher Jr. will feel like he’s come home again.
The Pope resident has spent countless hours on his hobby, antique tractor restoration, his hands working among weather-beaten belts, rotten hoses, and rusty parts of old Farmall Cub tractors. Piece by piece, he methodically brings the workhorses of farm history back to life.

But Fisher says the best part of restoring tractors is attending the tractor shows. His greatest enjoyment is displaying his salvaged and restored tractors in front of fellow hobbyists and an appreciative public.
"I’ve got friends all over the country," said Fisher, 41, who has refurbished nine Farmalls with his dad, Bud Fisher Sr. The pair together have seven restored tractors and three waiting to be brought back to life.

The son bought his first restoration project in 2000. The father sought and bought his first Farmall in 2003 after attending a huge Missouri tractor show, Cuborama, with Bud Jr.

The first Farmall tractor was introduced in 1924 by McCormick-Deering, a division of the International Harvester company. Fisher collects the company’s smaller-sized tractors affectionately known as "Cubs."

Fisher’s first Farmall Cub came from the City of Water Valley after he submitted a sealed bid. He bought the 1955 tractor for $505 from the city’s street department.

"It had duct tape around the steering wheel and somebody had painted it with white latex house paint," the tractor restorer recalled.

Several of Bud Sr.’s and Bud Jr.’s Farmall Cubs will be displayed at the 17th annual Antique Tractor and Engine Show, where they will pose alongside other antique tractors hauled to the show by tractor enthusiasts from North Mississippi and other states.
The annual tractor parade is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday followed by a tractor pull at 11 am. Other Saturday activities include children’s games, arts and crafts booths, a flea market, and live music throughout the day.

A fish fry is planned for 5 p.m. today to kick off the weekend fun.

The popularity of the Internet has helped Fisher pursue his hobby, allowing him to shop and buy entire tractors and parts, and the irony hasn’t escaped him either.

"I’m using the latest technology to preserve history," noted Fisher, who helps moderate an all-Farmall Cub Web site, farmallcub.com.

Fisher shops for antique tractors that are in the $500 range or – if he’s lucky-free of charge, if he will haul the machinery away.

"The tractors actually cost more to restore than they’re worth when you’re done," explained Fisher, "so you’ve got to find them as cheap as possible."

The tractor enthusiast works on his farm machines under the family’s carport on Magnolia Street, or under a nearby shade tree, since the aptly named Cubs take up little space.

At the tractor shows, Fisher routinely hears more than compliments about his antique Farmalls; the sight of the restored red tractors brings back memories for many show attendees.

"People will just walk up and say, ‘My grandfather had a tractor like this,’ and I just listen to them tell their story," Fisher said. "I really enjoy the expressions on their faces when they see a tractor that triggers those memories."

Bud Sr. says he, too, gets enjoyment from the strangers who walk up and touch a restored Farmall Cub that instantly floods their mind with memories.

"They say, ‘I watched my daddy drive one of those,’ or say they drove one on their family’s farm, and they just talk and talk," the father said.

Bud Sr. calls it "hearing their side of the story."

Green’s sentencing is today
By Billy Davis

The sentencing of convicted murderer Johnny Green is scheduled for today in Yalobusha County.

Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid confirmed this week that Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker will hear post-trial motions from Green’s attorneys and hand down the sentencing today at 10 a.m.

Green will appear at the Yalobusha County Courthouse in Coffeeville. He is currently being held at the Panola County Detention Center.

Green, 60, is represented by attorneys Kevin Horan and Brennan Horan.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly presented the state’s case against Green, convincing a jury that Green gunned down Ricky Taylor Jr. on Old Panola Road on July 23, 2005.

Jurors found Green guilty of Taylor’s murder September 21, concluding a four-day trial in Sardis.
Green was well known in Sardis, where he worked as a bail bondsman and air conditioning repairman. He once served as fire chief and has run unsuccessfully for mayor and alderman.

According to Kelly, state sentencing guidelines allow Baker to sentence Green to life in prison, though Green is also eligible for parole under state law.

SP school board hears ‘on the way’ reports
Bean suggests minimum grade of 50
By Rupert Howell

South Panola School Board members learned that there are 891 special education students served by the district, 460 federal rules to follow (not including state and local) and an approximate enrollment of 4,500. Forty-six percent of those students or 2,180 are fed breakfast while 3,860 eat lunch prepared at a cost to the district of about $2.42 per plate

Department directors from the South Panola School District gave reports at the local school board meeting in a segment usually reserved for principal reports at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the trustees.

Transportation to and from school is provided on 59 regular route buses and seven special needs buses traveling 4,000 miles per day, burning an average 800 gallons of diesel each day at a cost of $1,776.

They also learned that there are 1,419 computers in the school district serviced by the technology department along with 21 computer server networks and 28 computer labs with a 3.26 to 1 student-to-computer ratio.

"We feel like we are on the way up and realize that it takes more than the principals to keep us in the right direction," said trustee board president Lygunnah Bean adding, "We wanted you here to feel our passion."

Departments and their directors include: special services, Mary Bennett; transportation, Robert Chapman (assistant director Scootie Murphree gave the report); food service, Lynn Dye; maintenance, Keith Moore; technology, Jay Sandlin; finance, Suzanne Covington; federal programs, Dr. Deloris Barnett.

In other business school board members approved expulsion of four students.

"Evidently these young men don’t want to go to school," Bean said. "They have been given every opportunity."

Bean also recommended that the district use a minimum grade of 50. He explained that a student who had a grade of 20 after the first grading period would not be able to raise their grade to passing even if they did well for the remainder of the year.

District Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer said that a 60 minimum grade had previously been too generous. No board action was taken on the administrative matter.

Administrators acknowledged the need to give lower grades in certain situations.

Bean also told Shaffer, "There should be no kids selling tickets or candy to get grades."

Bean referred to instances where students were given a high daily or test grade for participating in club or class activities by selling items for fund-raisers.

Trustees asked to receive academic reports at the end of each nine weeks.

"As a board, we can’t wait until the end of the year. What I’m looking for is indicators," Bean told administrators.

Trustees were also shown a triplicate trip form that would be used when a school group is traveling. The need for the form was noted after a recent Tunica County school bus wreck on Highway 6 in eastern Panola County. School officials who assisted with the wreck’s aftermath saw first hand the need for an accurate list of passengers.

One copy of each form will be carried by the law enforcement car which usually escorts band and football teams to and from competition.


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.