Headlines – 10/24/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – October 24, 2006

  From the 10/24/06 issue of The Panolian   –   


BPD: foul play doubtful in death
   of 40-year-old
By Jason C. Mattox

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The Batesville Police Department does not suspect foul play was involved in the death of a man whose body was discovered at his residence.

The body of Jerry Smith was discovered Sunday around noon at his residence at No. 7 Harmon Circle by a Batesville police after the department received a call from Larry Malone, Smith’s step-father. Smith was 40.

"Apparently, he had been dead for a few days," said BPD Major Don Province. "We had a neighbor tell us he hadn’t seen him in a week."

An autopsy is being conducted to determine cause of death.

City hears advice to utilize planning board
By Jason C. Mattox

While Batesville aldermen will still have the final say in a variance request, they will soon begin hearing recommendations from the planning commission.

Bob Barber, a consultant for the city and the planning commission, presented proposed changes to several ordinances during a meeting with the board of aldermen last Tuesday.

Aldermen are expected to act on the proposed changes at their first meeting in December.

"We started out by looking at your ordinances against some from neighboring municipalities," Barber said. "What myself and the planning commission discovered is that you have some pretty good ordinances."

"You need to change the way you administer the ordinances," he said. "You have a planning commission that works with these ordinances on a regular basis and you need to use them to your advantage."

Barber suggested letting all variance requests go to the commission first.

"Once the planning commission makes a decision, they can make a recommendation to you about whether to approve it or deny it," he said. "But the final decision would remain with the board."

Barber did point out that in several municipalities, the planning commission votes to allow or disallow the variance and the aldermen serve as an appeal board.

"That has worked well in other cities, but I can understand your desire to still have final say in the matter," Barber said.

Code Enforcement Office Administrator Pam Comer said Monday morning that she hopes the city understands how helpful the commission can be. Among the changes made to the city’s ordinances, Comer said the biggest help to the city will come with a stricter sign ordinance.

"The way it is written now, if a business changes occupancy, they will have to bring the signage into compliance or file for their own variance," she said. "That is something that is going to help us get it back on track.

"We have people that will come in here and get what they are allowed, but a lot of times they will ask for a variance," Comer added. "The board has generally allowed a variance when it is requested."
Comer said concerns over sign sizes was the biggest reason Barber was brought in to consult on the ordinances, but added that it allowed her a chance to tweak others.

One of those tweaked was what businesses were required to get a conditional-use permit.

"With the new changes, any business that comes into a temporary structure, like a fireworks stand, will have to apply for a conditional use permit," she said. "It gives us a way of seeing what is coming into town."

In addition to these changes, the modified ordinances will make things a little easier on fast-food restaurants.

"Since the last set of ordinances was adopted in 1992, all fast-food restaurants needing a drive-thru window were required to get a variance," Comer said. "That’s because drive-thrus were only supposed to be allowed in a C-3 zone, and the city doesn’t have property zoned C-3."

Under the changed ordinance, drive-thru windows are allowed in C-2 zones.

"As a whole, these changes are going to help us get a little more up to date," Comer said. "But you never know when someone will come in with something that we don’t have an ordinance for. This needs to be a steady changing process to keep us as up to date as possible."

New trash pick-up will get newer
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville residents who are just starting to get used to new trash pick-up days should get ready for another schedule change. That’s the message Dean Joiner of Panola County Solid Waste shared with the mayor and board of aldermen last Tuesday.

"When we started running the city on Fridays, we expected it to take us all day," he said. "Now that we have been doing it for a few months, it is only taking us about three hours to do the entire city."

Joiner said the county wanted to change the city pick-up from Friday to a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday pick-up.

"We were only running four days a week before we took on the city as a customer," he said. "We were using our Fridays to do the maintenance on the trucks, and we need to get back to that."

City leaders had no comment about the request, apparently allowing Dean’s proposal to take place.

According to Joiner, the last time the city will pick up on a Friday in the city will be November 3.

Cans will be stickered telling residents when their new pick-up day will be.

"Most of the people will go back to their old pick-up day," Joiner said. "This will be more economical, and we should see very little trouble with the change."

In other board business:
Aldermen voted to advertise for internet service at the Batesville Civic Center.
Police Chief Gerald Legge was given permission to attend the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Winter Conference November 27-30 in Olive Branch with expenses paid by the city.
Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell informed aldermen that the trial date for litigation on the Whitaker case was postponed until March 2007.
City officials will be allowed to attend the Mississippi Municipal League meeting June 24-28, 2007, in Biloxi.
BCC director Roy Hyde was given permission to advertise for food and beverage proposals at the facility.
Janet Young was hired to the position of part-time janitor at the BCC. She will be scheduled as needed.
Langley remembered
     as humble ‘person of God’
     Sgt. Robert Langley and his daughter Maci received a warm greeting when he visited Batesville Elementary School in May after he returned from serving in Afghanistan with the National Guard.
By John Howell Sr.

As word traveled through Panola County during the weekend about the tragic death of a University police officer, Panola residents offered their remembrances of Robert Langley as a soldier, husband, father and friend.

Langley died early Saturday morning after being dragged by a motorist he had stopped on the University of Mississippi campus.

"He was an awesome father and husband," said newly-widowed Lisa Langley.

They had married in February, 2005, cancelling their plans for a big wedding when the National Guard soldier received his orders for Afghanistan deployment, she said. Instead, they were married in a smaller ceremony at the Sardis Lake Baptist Church where they were members.

Langley was a member of the 114th Field Artillery, based in New Albany. His homecoming in April after serving 14 months turned into a spontaneous celebration at Batesville Elementary School that teacher Frances Ashcraft photographed and remembers well.

"His daughter … was in kindergarten and he came to see her along with Mrs. Lloyd and Mrs. Broome’s class," Ashcraft recalled. "With the grace that only flows from our Lord Jesus, he listened, talked, looked and was one with the class. Not one moment was about him. There was no boasting. There was complete humility," the BES teacher continued.

Ashcraft said that Langley also had other plans the day he visited his daughter’s school, but he put those plans on hold to extend his visit. "He patiently allowed us to assemble kindergarten in the hallway to honor him. He let children touch and know a soldier. He gazed at them as only love can gaze, and you knew you were in the presence of God Almighty loving his children through a person of God," Ashcraft continued.

Circling the school and arriving back at the foyer of the annex, Langley encountered a small boy who wanted to talk to him, Ashcraft said. "He stooped to be at eye level with this boy and listened and talked with him until the boy was finished; not when he, the soldier, decided it was time to go, but more importantly, when the boy finished," she recalled.

"How vastly important to let something other than yourself decide what is important and for how long and with what intensity," the teacher continued. "This soldier was fully aware. He was being life at its finest."

The completion of Langley’s tour in Afghanistan had coincided with the completion of his National Guard enlistment, his widow said. Nevertheless, he had re-enlisted.

Lisa and Robert had met when they were both officers with the University Police Department, Lisa said. He had grown up in Madison County. When he attended the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy, Langley had been selected by his instructors as squad leader.

After their marriage, Langley moved to Panola County. Lisa took a job as rural mail carrier at the Courtland Post Office. Their son, Cory Bridges Langley, was born in September, 2005. He joined Robbie Langley and Maci Kirkland, both now six. Langley’s daughter, Ann Clare Bufkin, age nine, lives in Lafayette County, Lisa Langley said.

"He was a real, real good fellow," Langley’s friend, Ricky Swindle said. "He’d do exactly what he said he was going to do," continued Swindle, whose familiar sign at his Batesville Tire and Muffler proclaimed a message that welcomed Langley home when he returned from Afghanistan service.

Swindle said that Langley had borrowed his tractor in preparation for a family move to File Road.

"He brought the tractor back in better shape than when he left with it. You know, I appreciated that," Swindle said.

The University Police Department officer had just recently completed training with a Belgian Malinois, Truus, becoming a certified canine officer.

Funeral services for Langley will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Ford Center on the University of Mississippi campus.

Visitation will be today from 5-8 p.m. at the Ford Center.

(See complete obituary on page A2.)

Green sentenced to life term at quiet, quick court hearing
By Billy Davis

Convicted murderer Johnny Green was whisked through a sentencing hearing Friday that delivered the state-mandated sentence, life in prison.

Green, 60, stood quietly as Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker announced the prison sentence in the second-floor courtroom at the Yalobusha County Courthouse in Coffeeville.

Since a life sentence for a conviction of murder is mandated by state law, Baker did not hear from character witnesses for Green nor family members of the murder victim, Ricky Taylor Jr.

Panola County jurors found Green guilty September 21 of gunning down Taylor on Old Panola Road on July 23, 2005. The murder trial was held in Sardis over a four-day period.

Family members of both Green and Taylor were present for the sentencing.

As Baker handed down the sentence, defense attorneys Kevin Horan and Brennan Horan flanked their client, listening as Baker rejected post-trial motions that laid out their arguments for allowing a new trial.

"Your lawyers have done an excellent job. They’ve used every defense presented to you," Baker told Green. "I think the system has worked."
The circuit judge also noted that Green has a right to appeal his conviction and briefly mentioned a "parole statute," though he did not elaborate.

Contacted Monday about the state’s parole requirements, District Attorney John Champion said Green, who is 60, must serve 15 years before he is eligible for parole.

SPHS Homecoming
     LaKamaree Pride was crowned South Panola High School’s 2006 Homecoming Queen Friday night during halftime festivities. She was escorted by Demond Madkins.

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