Headlines – 1/2/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 2, 2007

  From the 01/02/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Meet Mr. Crockett, lucky dude
Tate Co. man newest leader with 18-point
By Billy Davis

Hunters, are you sitting down?

The biggest buck entered in The Panolian’s 2006-2007 Big Buck Contest now belongs to Kenny Crockett, a farmer and rancher from Tate County.

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Crockett wasn’t freezing in a deer stand Christmas morning, his teeth chattering and his toes going numb, when he bagged an 18-pointer.

He didn’t spend an obscene amount of money on seed and fertilizer for food plots, or buy a four-wheeler that cost as much as a good used car, or postpone the children’s college fund to pay hunting camp dues.

Mr. Crockett, 53, just went looking for a cow.
"I had some cows that were calving, so I told my wife I needed to run out to the pasture," Crockett recalled.

The heifer Crockett was searching for was missing, so he drove through his pasture until he found her. In a nearby cotton field, he also saw several does.

"I wasn’t even in hunting mode," Crockett said. "I didn’t have the gun loaded. I was just watching the does."

When Crockett spotted a buck with the does, his mode changed quickly. He loaded his .270 Browning Automatic, stalked the buck through a thicket, then dropped him from 50 yards away.

"He saw me, and I shot as he turned," the hunter recalled.

Describing the tale to this newspaper last week, Crockett failed to mention anything about that calving cow.

When measured at Batesville Pawn Shop on December 27, Crockett’s entry put him ahead in the contest with a score of 68.25. The inside spread measured 20 and 3/4 inches. The main beams measured 23 1/2 inches. The base measured six inches.

"He didn’t have any drop tines, but he had a lot of stickers," Crockett said.

The first place hunter said the buck weighed about 175 pounds, a below-average weight for such a big rack, and was aged at 4 1/2 years.

The Big Buck Contest also has a new second place contestant, David Bridgers of Oxford. Bridgers bagged an 11-point with a 20 1/2-inch inside spread that earned him 64 points.

Bridgers’ 64 points edged him ahead of hunters Matt McGraw of Oxford and Randy Dungan of Charleston, who had tied for first place in recent weeks with 63.5 points.

When Crockett took his buck by Batesville Pawn Shop to be enter the contest, a crowd of onlookers swelled to over 100 people. Passers-by on Highway 6 West stopped at the sight of the deer, and admirers used their cell phones to spread the news.
"I about wrecked when I saw that buck. It was huge," said Jeremy Williams, who was driving past when he spotted the deer.

"I was there for an hour when I said I had to go, but people were pulling up and saying, ‘Please let us see your deer,’" Crockett said. "I guess I don’t really blame them because I would have done the same thing."

The Big Buck Contest ends January 31.

Mayor: new retail, cleaner streets in ’07
By Jason C. Mattox

Inside the city limits of Batesville, new construction, new businesses and cleaner streets are all anticipated in 2007 by Mayor Jerry Autrey.

Autrey said Covenant Crossing, the retail development at the intersection of I-55 and Highway 6, a Starbucks and a Walgreens should all begin construction at some point during 2007.

Starbucks entered into a contract to purchase more than one acre of city-owned property near Covenant Bank and Backyard Burgers. Walgreens is being pursued by Sinker Properties, LLC, which purchased the Dale’s building at the corner of Highways 51 and 6.

"The city has already agreed to seek Tax Increment Financing for infrastructure at Covenant Crossing," the mayor said. "That will mean new water and sewer lines going down in that area, and if the money is available, we will go ahead and run lines behind the development.

"That is the next area of the city that is going to see a lot of growth," Autrey added, referring to commercial properties east of I-55.

It is also important to the mayor to see a new industry move into the MOOG building in 2007.

"That building has been vacant for a few years now, and we are actively seeking a new tenant," he said. "Finding a factory that is looking to expand or relocate is difficult, but with the help of the Panola Partnership, we are hopeful the building will be occupied in 2007."

The mayor also touted the city’s recent enrollment in the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) clean-up program as a big step for the city.

"We will use work-release people who are working off court fines to clean up MDOT streets in the city limits," he said. "Once they complete MDOT streets, they can move on to other areas of Batesville."

The program will cost the city no money as MDOT will pay a supervisor and provide a vehicle and gas for the clean-up. A similar program is in operation through the county sheriff’s department.

Autrey said several streets would receive an overlay in the coming year.

"We were able to do $250,000 in paving in 2006, and we have another $200,000 budgeted for 2007," he said. "We don’t know which roads will get the overlay yet, but there are several in the city that need it."

One thoroughfare Autrey is hoping will be repaired is Keating Road.

"We have a lot of development out that way," he said. "The street is in bad shape, and we are looking at ways of getting it re-paved."

Autrey said the Keating Road repair will not come from the city’s street budget.

"We have tried to find money from the state, but they told us they can’t help us," he said. "I am hoping maybe the county will agree to overlay it if the city buys the asphalt."

While on the subject of Keating Road, Autrey said he has received notification from Cable One agreeing to expand its services into that area.

"They have told me they have plans to provide services to the homes and the National Guard Readiness Center that are in that area," he said. "Once that is done, they are going to consider going out east of town to the hospital and the homes out there."

The final subject Autrey discussed is the construction of a skateboard park.

"We received a lot of input on this subject late in 2006," he said. "We have gotten (consultant) Jimmy Gouras to go out and look for grants, and he is working on one with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

"If we find out that we are definitely getting the money, we will go ahead and look for loans that will allow us the chance to get to work on it sooner," he said.

"All in all, these projects will have a tremendous impact on the city in the coming year," he said. "The new businesses will help provide us with more tax revenue and the cleaner streets will be appealing to the people of the town and businesses who might be looking to relocate or construct new facilities."

     Nyla Smith gets help from her dad, Anthony Smith, as she tries out her new electric scooter at American Legion Park last week. Nyla is a third-grader at Hickory Ridge Elementary in Memphis. She was in Batesville visiting her dad last week. Anthony Smith lives in Batesville and teaches physical education at Madison Palmer High School in Marks.
Tests follow Morris’ bout with pneumonia
By Rita Howell

Batesville resident and state Representative Leonard Morris was released from Baptist Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford last week but was also undergoing consultation with doctors in Jackson on Friday, according to his daughter, Lillian Morris.

Friends of the Morris family said the Realtor and active community leader was being treated for pneumonia when doctors discovered a medical problem regarding a kidney. Morris is 59.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Morris and his wife, Belinda Faye, and daughters Lenora and Lillian, expressed their gratitude to the citizens of Panola and Tate counties "for their prayers, telephone calls, personal visits and other random acts of kindness" during his illness.

"My family and I greatly appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness during this time," he said. "We continue to elicit your thoughts and prayers. The citizens of Panola and Tate counties will always be remembered."

Morris has served in the state legislature since 1993. He formerly served as a South Panola School District trustee and interim CEO of Panola Partnership.

The spring session of the state legislature begins today in Jackson.

Survey says: raise minimum wage
By Rupert Howell

Approximately 65 percent of Mississippians believe raising the minimum wage should be high or top priority according to a survey taken December 18 by Zata 3, a consulting firm that sponsored the survey.

The survey included 600 randomly selected voter households according to a news release from
Zata 3.

Over 60 percent thought sales tax on groceries being repealed should be a top or high priority while 56 percent thought funding healthcare and reducing smoking in Mississippi with a cigarette tax hike should be a high or top priority.

Respondents expressed strong support for the full funding of public education, with 66 percent for full funding agreeing that the need was either urgent or very important.

Zata 3 is a political consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. with offices in Mississippi, California and Kentucky that helps elect Democratic candidates and advance a "progressive public policy agenda," according to its Web site.

Zata 3 President Brad Chism, who is a native Mississippian from Tunica County, said the purpose of the survey’s release is to stimulate public debate and let people know about the company.

Chism echoes the company’s Web site when he said, "Elected officials serve us best when they hear directly from us rather than the filtered words of lobbyists and pundits."

"Mississippians expect lawmakers to roll up their sleeves and get to work on education funding, insurance and reform and a number of pocketbook issues," Chism stated.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents felt that fines for businesses that hire illegal aliens should be a "top priority."

Sixty percent of voters surveyed said that fines for insurance companies who don’t pay their claims on time should be a "top priority."

Also, 60 percent of voters surveyed said that funding Medicaid for low-income children and disabled adults should be a "top priority."

The Web site explains that the best safeguard against government manipulation at the expense of what best serves the country is a well-informed electorate.

Under the title of "Conflict of Interest," the Web site states, ". . . We have worked on a range of legislative issues at the federal and state level. Some of them will be addressed in these studies. We are committed to publishing the actual results of the surveys regardless of how they impact our former clients."

"Some of the numbers aren’t very attractive to our friends," Chism said.

Panola avoided double digits in ’06
By Billy Davis

Panola County enters 2007 with an unemployment rate that has remained in single digits throughout 2006.

Panola’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in November, a rate that is higher than its adjoining neighbors but several points lower than recent years.

State figures released this week by the Miss. Department of Employment Security (MDES) ranked Panola 63 among the state’s 82 counties.

Neighboring county Lafayette led the state with 4.2 percent unemployment. Jefferson County trailed all with an unemployment rate of 14 percent.

Rates in neighboring counties were 7.2 percent in Tate; 8.8 percent in Yalobusha; 7.8 percent in Tallahatchie; 8.8 percent in Quitman County; and 8.6 percent in Tunica. In northwest Mississippi, only Coahoma County’s 10.3 percent led Panola County.
MDES figures for November showed Panola boasted a work force of 15,190 with 13,840 employed. The unemployed numbers were 1,350.

In 2005, Panola County ended the year with an average unemployment rate of 8.9 percent after starting the year with a rate of 10.6 percent. Unemployment in recent years has jumped above 12 percent.

The 2005 average unemployment rate for Panola was 8.9 percent with an unemployed work force that averaged 1,350 workers for the year.

MDES releases December unemployment figures in February along with an annual labor force report that describes Panola’s job market during 2006.


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