Headlines – 1/5/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 5, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 2, 2007

  From the 01/05/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Education funding, tobacco tax hike on legislators’ ’07 agenda
By Billy Davis

Funding for public education and another attempt to increase the state’s tobacco tax are just two items of legislation being debated this week in Jackson.

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January 2 kicked off the 2007 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature, which runs for 90 days.

Looming large on the political radar screen is funding for MAEP, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a formula for equally funding the state’s public school districts, and its colleges and universities.

State Rep. Warner McBride of Batesville said a House Appropriations Committee on which he sits voted this week to fund MAEP and also voted to approve pay raises for public school teachers and state employees.

"The teacher’s pay raise is three percent, which will go into effect in July if passed," said McBride

Legislation voted on this week included an eminent domain bill that protects landowners from being forced to sell their property for private development.
The bill, which passed the House 97-20, comes after state lawmakers reacted to a 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that gave private developers more authority to take land for economic development purposes.

McBride said he voted for the bill.

Panola County is represented in the state House of Representatives by McBride and Rep. Leonard Morris of Batesville, and in the state Senate by Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis.

At press time Thursday, Morris was in critical condition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson (see related story, this page).

Truck trouble delayed holiday trash pick-up
By Billy Davis

Trash pick-up service should be back on schedule in Panola County after it wobbled a bit during the recent holidays when a garbage truck went out of service with engine problems.

The truck has since been repaired and the trash pick-up has caught up, said solid waste manager Dean Joiner.

"We got caught up Saturday," Joiner said, referring to December 30.

Panola County Administrator David Chandler updated supervisors about the trash pick-up at their "first Monday" meeting, which was held Tuesday in Sardis due to New Year’s Day.

"By Saturday at noon there wasn’t anything on the ground," Chandler said, adding that drivers were working at night to catch up.

When the truck went down, the trash pick-up schedule was already working a day behind due to Christmas Day, which fell on a Monday. The garbage pick-up is operating on a similar schedule this week due to New Year’s Day.

City due back taxes, routine audit shows
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville businesses will soon receive notification that unpaid privilege taxes which could date back up to seven years are now due, city officials said this week.

The unpaid privilege taxes were discovered during a routine audit by the Will Polk and Associates accounting firm and determined to have stemmed from a computer and personnel mistake, accountant Bill Crawford said. The discovery led to an executive session during the Tuesday, Jan. 2 meeting of Batesville’s mayor and board of aldermen to discuss the personnel matter, Mayor Jerry Autrey said.

Crawford and City Clerk Laura Herron then met Thursday to determine the extent of the uncollected taxes and plan for their collection. "My understanding of the code is that there is a seven-year statute of limitations," Crawford said. Businesses could owe for up to seven years of unpaid privilege taxes, plus penalties, he said.

"The city is required to collect mandated licenses," the accountant said. "The fact that a company or business did not get a notice or the city failed to send one does not mean it does not have to be paid," Crawford continued. "It’s like if you didn’t get a notice for a car tag; you’d still owe it."

The cost of privilege licenses is under $100 for most businesses, according to the accountant. For most, it’s $20 to $30 annually, he added.

"The law says you have to collect it," Mayor Autrey said.

Herron said that as business owners have been made aware of the omission, "They’ve been very nice; some of them have come in and paid. They said ?I know I owe it.’"

Although city officials have not yet determined the number of privilege licenses in arrears, city utility clerk Lisa Hamilton said that the city serves over 700 commercial utility customers.

Herron said that businesses which have closed will owe only the privilege tax that applied while they were in operation.

     A wrecker operator worked to clear debris Wednesday morning while Batesville Police Captain Jimmy McCloud helped direct traffic through the Highway 6 and 51 intersection following a three-vehicle accident.
     Police Lt.  Brad Shackelford said an eastbound vehicle making a left turn from Highway 6 and turning north onto Highway 51 was struck "almost head on" by a westbound vehicle traveling through the intersection. The westbound vehicle then struck a eastbound bound vehicle which was stopped in the Highway 6 turn lane. One victim was transported to Tri-Lakes Medical Center by ambulance.
Incumbents, one challenger lined up to qualify on Day 1
By Billy Davis

A challenger who is running for District 3 county supervisor was among several incumbents who signed qualifying papers January 2.

Construction company owner Donnie Shaw registered Tuesday, the first day for qualifying, along with two supervisors, two court clerks, and several other incumbents.

Shaw, 54, said he signed qualifying papers quickly so he could begin campaigning for the District 3 seat.

"I want to meet everybody so that means I have to start early so I’ll have plenty of time," said Shaw, who said he lives south of the Tocowa community.

Shaw described himself as a homebuilder and land developer. He owns Shaw Construction Company.

The District 3 seat is currently held by Supervisor Mack Benson, who had not filled out qualifying papers by Thursday at noon.

Incumbents who turned in qualifying papers Tuesday in Batesville were district supervisors Bubba Waldrup and Jerry Perkins, Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock, County Attorney C. Gaines Baker, District 2 Constable Raye Hawkins, and Circuit Clerk Joe Reid.

At the county courthouse in Sardis, incumbents who signed qualifying paperwork January 2 included Supervisor James Birge and Justice Court Judge James Appleton.

By noon on Thursday, three challengers and two incumbents signed qualifying papers in Batesville: county coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge, Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright, and challengers Calvin Land, who is running for District 4 supervisor; Howard Brower, who is running for District 4 supervisor; and Michael Towles, who is running for District 5 supervisor.

In Sardis, District 1 Constable Cleve Gale had qualified since Tuesday as of noon on Thursday.

Asked what he planned to discuss on the campaign trail, Shaw said he wants to talk about economic development and the public school system, reminding voters about the industrial site near Como that could draw a mega-industry, such as an automotive plant.

"If we get a Nissan plant or something like that, we need to be ready," Shaw said. "We need to prepare for new families who want to move here, so they don’t work here and live somewhere else, and for their children who will become part of the school system."

The start of another political season is moving toward a late-summer date, August 7, when the county’s Democrat and Republican parties hold their primary elections. Except for Land, who qualified as a Republican, the incumbents and challengers who qualified this week have registered as Democrats.

In Panola County, most county races are traditionally decided in the Democratic primary.

Independents who plan to run for a county seat or office must sign qualifying papers and also turn in a petition, gathering 50 signatures from qualified voters for a county-wide office or 15 signatures from qualified voters for a district office, such as a supervisor.

The deadline for qualifying is March 1.

For information about qualifying for office or questions about voting, contact the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office at 563-6210 in Batesville or 487-2073 in Sardis.

Morris’ condition is ‘critical’
By Billy Davis

State Rep. Leonard Morris was listed in critical condition Thursday after undergoing surgery in Jackson.

Morris, 59, was in surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where doctors had planned to remove one of his kidneys on which a tumor had been discovered.

A Medical Center spokesman confirmed, however, that Morris had "complications" during that procedure.

The Panolian reported in its Tuesday edition this week that Morris was battling pneumonia at Baptist Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford when doctors discovered a medical problem with a kidney.

A Medical Center spokesman said the procedure was planned to remove the tumor, but fellow lawmakers told the Associated Press Thursday that they understood Morris was set to have the kidney removed.

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

A Medical Center press release stated that Morris’ family is asking friends and fellow legislators to limit their visits to the hospital. All calls about Morris should be made to Mac Gordon, the state House of Representatives’ press representative, or to the Division of Public Affairs at the Medical Center.

The Division of Public Affairs can be contacted at (601) 984-1100. Gordon can be contacted at (601) 359-3323.

The Division of Public Affairs also will accept any cards or other items which friends wish to send to the Morris family.


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