Headlines Cont. – 1/19/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2007

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – January 19, 2007


Citizen asks for community input for North Panola superintendent search
By Jason C. Mattox

The North Panola School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday night voted a change in leadership for the first time in several years, and fielded a proposal that community members provide input into the selection of the next district superintendent.

During the opening moments of the board meeting, trustees voted by secret ballot to select their officers for 2007. The results of that election were made public near the end of the meeting. Pearl McGlothian, Marie Wilson and Tracy Thompson were selected as president, vice-president and secretary of the board, respectively.
Cecil Dowden had served as board president last year.

After the announcement of officers was made, Odessa Johnson asked the board if community members would be allowed input on the selection of the next superintendent.

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Superintendent Glendora Dugger has resigned her position effective June 30, 2007.

"The last time you chose a superintendent, the board hired a consultant to find the best fit for the district, and after your first choice declined the offer, we got Mr. (Robert) Massey," she said. "You were all put up there to act on behalf of your constituents, but none of us wanted that."

Johnson asked about a committee of community leaders who could assist the board during the interview process.

"I know the board will have the final say, but this is our school and our children we are talking about," she said. "We want to see North Panola get the best possible person to fill that position."

Dowden said the board would be advertising the position soon and would select a pool of candidates to interview from the applications.

"We want to do what is best for the students in the district as well," he said.

In other board business:
Board members approved joining the National School Board Association Affiliation for 2006-07 at a cost of $1,365.
The school district calendar was revised to make Feb. 23, April 20, and May 11 full days rather than early release days.
Como Elementary School was given permission to accept a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. The grant will pay for a performance of Puppet Arts Theater at the school on a later date.
The fee for bus use by the North Panola High School Beta Club was waived to allow the club to travel to the state Beta convention in Tupelo Feb. 8- 9.
Batesville city board may pass home grant on to county
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville leaders are considering signing an interlocal agreement with Panola County to use a $250,000 first time home buyer’s grant.

Charlie Sanders, who was awarded the construction contract for the grant, told aldermen during their meeting Wednesday that he has been unable to find land in the city suitable to build the 10 new homes.

"The Mississippi Development Authority has made concessions that will allow the grant to be administered by the city while the project is transferred to the county," he said. "This doesn’t mean I won’t build some houses in the city, but it will allow me to look for property in the county."

Sanders explained that if they did not move fast, the city would be in danger of losing the grant funds.

"This was an unforeseeable problem and MDA understands that," he said. "Once we explain the problems, they will allow the transfer of the grant to Panola County."

Mayor Jerry Autrey told board members that assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell, who was not present at the meeting, had some concerns about the agreement.

"I personally don’t feel comfortable without the total approval of the attorney," Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said.

Parker Still, who was acting as assistant city attorney in Mitchell’s absence, said revisions needed to be made to the agreement before the city adopts it, should they choose to do so.

Manley said he opposes paying the attorney’s fees if the city would not receive the tax benefits from the homes.

"With the extra work, if it will cause problems, we can withdraw the motion to accept the grant and let it go back to the state," he said. "There are other programs we can apply for."

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders suggested letting the attorneys contact MDA to find out further details.

"We have committed to the program, and we should at least look into it a little further," she said.

No formal action was taken.

School board extends contract for Superintendent Shaffer
By Rupert Howell

Sarah Dell Gray took an oath administered by Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson to again serve as school trustee and Superintendent Keith Shaffer’s contract was extended for one year during the South Panola School District monthly meeting held Tuesday, January 16.

Carlson served as attorney for that board before becoming Circuit Judge and currently Supreme Court Judge and maintains his family home on College Street just up the street from the board room.

Gray was also among board officers re-elected by acclamation to their positions as she serves as secretary of the board.

Trustee Lygunnah Bean serves as president and Dr. Joe Gardner serves as vice-president of the five member board whose responsibilities include hiring a superintendent.

Shaffer’s contract was extended to four years, the longest allowable by state law. He currently had three years left on his contract and will undergo a performance evaluation in March by trustees concerning goals and accomplishments of the district.

Gray’s name did not appear on the November ballot as she was the only candidate to qualify for the elected position representing one of five sub-districts in the South Panola School District. Trustees serve five-year terms with one term expiring each year.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, board members recognized South Panola football coaches for their past championship season and their record setting win streak of 60 games, four seasons without a loss.

School trustees also heard academic reports from each school’s principal, approved personnel recommendations and approved one recommendation for student expulsion.

Requests for two school bus turn-arounds were approved and will be sent to the Panola County Board of Supervisors for their approval to add to the county road department’s maintenance list. They were listed as James P. Hill at 375 E.Q. Gleaton Road and Naomi Moore at 6462 Barnacre Road.

Trustees routinely approved requests for travel, fund raisers, payments and reports.

Resolutions were approved recognizing both the football team and school nurse Donna Love who is retiring from the district after 25 years of service.

Injured skateboarder recovering
By Emily Williams

A 13 year-old Batesville boy who was seriously injured in a skateboarding accident last weekend should be released from LeBonheur Children’s hospital in Memphis today.

Banks Brasell, a seventh grade student at Batesville Junior High, son of Leslie Banks Brasell II of Batesville and Sue Brasell of Batesville, was skateboarding down a "big" hill in Westmoreland Heights Friday around 9 p.m. when he lost control of his board and fell, causing serious head injury, confirmed Banks’ mother.

Neighbors saw the accident and called 911.

"He was found unresponsive and was immediately flown to LeBonheur," Sue Brasell said.

He suffered from bleeding and swelling of the brain, but is now in stable condition.

Like many skaters, he was not wearing a helmet.

"He does have short term memory loss, damage to the right optic nerve and some double vision," she said.

"Hopefully with time his nerve will heal; if not we will seek surgery,"she said.

Short-term memory loss is normal for serious head injuries.

"He gets better every day," she said.

"We appreciate the churches and everyone in Batesville for their prayers and calls. Our prayers have been answered," she said.

"LeBonheur is great, I am so thankful we have a place like this," Brasell added.

Bryan Cage, owner of Suite 10 Skateboards in Oxford, heard about the accident while in Orlando, Fla. at the Surf Expo, according to a family friend.

"Bryan told the professional skateboarders about Banks and they wanted to do something," the family friend said.

More than 15 professionals signed a board that was presented to Banks while he recovered.

Among those who signed the board and wished Banks "get well soon" were Mike Valleley, Anthony Furlong, Rune Glifberg, Chris Haslam, Omar Hassam and Mark Appleyard.

March of Dimes Walk America meeting set
By Jason C. Mattox

Preparation for Panola’s annual March of Dimes Walk America has already begun and a kick-off meeting to discuss fund-raising and teams is scheduled for February 1.

Last year, 350 Panola Countians participated in the walk, held in April at the South Panola High School track. They raised about $20,500 for the March of Dimes.

"The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality," the March of Dimes web site states.

According to MOD Community Director Connie Snell of Tupelo, the kick-off for this year’s local event will take place at noon at Parker Hannafin in Batesville.

"This will be a chance for all of the teams that want to sign up and for us to develop a strategy for our fund-raising efforts," she said.

In the past, the biggest fund-raiser for walking teams has been the Blue Jeans for Babies campaign.

"During a typical work week in Mississippi, 848 babies are born, 107 are born to mothers who receive inadequate prenatal care, 137 are born pre-term, and nine will die before their first birthday," the web site reads.  "When you participate in Blue Jeans for Babies, you are helping the March of Dimes in our fight to prevent birth defects, prematurity and infant mortality."

"Team members and persons from the community purchase a Blue Jeans for Babies shirt for $15 to wear on a scheduled "dress down day" at your place of employment, school, or other organization," Snell said.

Walk America is the March of Dimes premiere fund-raising event for premature babies and their mothers.

This year’s Walk America is also searching for an ambassador family to serve as the face of the Batesville event.

An ambassador family is a family with a story of premature birth that can connect with the teams raising money for the event.

The date and location for this year’s walk will be determined during the kick-off.

Anyone wishing to sign-up a team can contact Snell at 662-844-6901.

Batesville aldermen considering providing sewer for mobile home
By Jason C. Mattox

A request from from a property owner on Elbert Smith Road to hook on to Batesville city sewer was put on hold while city leaders wait for further information.

Aldermen tabled the matter until their February 6 meeting.

Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Rickey Shirey informed aldermen about the request Wednesday afternoon during a board meeting.

"This is the woman you gave a six month variance to for a mobile home," Code Enforcement Office Administrator Pam Comer said.

Shirey said he had not done estimates to find a cost for the city, but speculated that it would be cost prohibitive.

"Do you want to spend the money to run a sewer line and get easements for someone that might not be there after six month?" he asked. "I know it will cost more money to run a line for one home than you can possibly get back in six months."

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said he didn’t think it would be a wise investment for the city.

"I just don’t see how we can justify running a sewer line for one customer," he said. "She might just have to put in a treatment plant."

Comer said city ordinances do not allow treatment plants inside the city limits.

"You would probably be serving her for at least a year," Comer said. "They have indicated to me that they plan to get a second temporary permit."

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders echoed Manley’s sentiments.

"I would like to help her, but that is a lot of expense on our part for just one sewer customer," she said. "She needs to make her decision to either build or have the property rezoned for a mobile home."

Mayor Jerry Autrey said the city needed to postpone a decision until Shirey could bring cost estimates to the board at its first meeting in February.

In other board business:
Fuel bids for city vehicles were taken under advisement.
Autrey was given permission to sign the food and beverage contract with new Batesville Civic Center Concessionaire The Dawg House.
Gas Department Superintendent William Wilson was given permission to attend the Mississippi Natural Gas Annual Tradeshow Seminar Feb. 28- March 1 in Tupelo with expenses paid by the city.
Sgt. Grey Nickels of the Batesville Police Department was given permission to attend the Glock Armorer’s Training Course Feb. 27, in Southaven with expenses paid by the city.
Police Chief Gerald Legge was given permission to purchase three mobile video systems from Integrated Communications at a total cost of $11,400.
Det. Sgt. George Williford was given permission to attend the Cyber Crimes and Forensic Tools and Techniques training in Starkville Feb. 5-9, with expenses paid by the city.
Sardis board approves change in insurance for city employees
By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Sardis will be changing their medical insurance carrier effective February 1.

The decision to change insurance carriers from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Humana came during a called meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen Wednesday night.

Leslie Smith, whom the city selected to shop their insurance coverage, presented the board two options, carriers John Alden and Humana.

"Both of these are very good companies and they each came in much lower than your existing carrier," he said.

The city chose to go with Humana, which would save the city $18,000 for employees’ insurance.

John Alden would have saved the city $23,000.

"The plans are both very good, but the Humana plan is richer than the one from John Alden," Smith said.

Under Humana, city employees will have a $20 true doctor’s copay.

"Unlike Blue Cross/Blue Shield who gave you a copay but charged you a percentage for x-rays, shots and other tests, your employees will have to pay no more than their $20 copay for anything done in the doctor’s office," Smith said.

In other board business:
Aldermen took applications for employment in the public works department under advisement.
Aldermen voted unanimously to adopt the Panola County Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Jason West was reinstated to active duty with the Sardis Police Department pending the outcome of an ongoing criminal investigation
Batesville aldermen adjust water bills
By Jason C. Mattox

Aldermen for the City of Batesville reduced a pair of water bills to the customers’ monthly average during their meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting had been recessed Tuesday afternoon due to lack of a quorum as aldermen attended the funeral of Rep. Leonard Morris.

The bills in question belonged to Bill Stubblefield, who was present to argue his case, and Valerie Williams, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Stubblefield said he received a water bill for $1,624.

"My bill would normally run about $16," he said.

Stubblefield said he believed the high bill was caused by a leak in his water line that could have been caused when city workers purged a nearby line.

"We had trash in our dishwasher and icemaker," he said. "We didn’t know anything was wrong until that point."

Stubblefield said there was no other evidence of a leak.

"You couldn’t hear the water running," he said. "There was no water anywhere near the house, we really didn’t know what was going on, but to get a bill this large, it had to be running like a river."

Aldermen voted unanimously to take a three month average of Stubblefield’s past water bills to arrive at a new charge for the past month’s usage.

Williams’ problem was similar to that of Stubblefield, according to City Clerk Laura Herron who presented the situation to the board. No dollar figures were give,n however.

"I believe we should give her the same courtesy we gave Mr. Stubblefield," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.

The board unanimously voted to find the three month average of her usage as well.

In other board business:
Aldermen voted to hire Fredrick Payne to the position of patrolman with the Batesville Police Department pending successful pre-employment examinations.
Police Chief Gerald Legge informed the board that new K-9 officer Ruby Myers was returning to Batesville with the department’s new dog. The dog was purchased for $6,000.
Brett Childs of the Batesville Fire Department was given permission to attend the Interior Structural Fire Attack training at the Mississippi Fire Academy on Feb. 2, with expenses paid by the city.
Fire and Life Safety Educators Rip Copeland, William Stewart, Cowles Horton and Fire Chief Tim Taylor were given permission to attend Firefighters Legislative Day in Jackson on Jan. 24, with expenses paid by the city.

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