Headlines – 1/26/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 26, 2007

  From the 01/26/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

     Panola County Supervisor Robert Avant (left) looks on as John Rounsaville, Mississippi state director of USDA Rural Development, signs a ceremonial check Tuesday for a $118,250 federal grant benefiting the Longtown Volunteer Fire Department. The grant will help build a fire station in Avant’s district. The county supervisor said additional federal monies totaling about $300,000 were secured by Mississippi’s congressional delegation to help with the project.
     Rounsaville is new to the state director’s job and said the check signing Tuesday was his first attempt at the political ceremony.
MAEP funding on easy path to passage
By Billy Davis

Seeing figures that showed an improved state economy helped Rep. Warner McBride support fully funding MAEP, the state program for fairly and fully funding public education.

The yearly funding of MAEP (Miss. Adequate Education Program) is a hot-button issue for state legislators, but McBride said this week the measure will find favor in the state senate and the governor’s office.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The measure, which funds K-12 classes, has already passed the state House and is in the Senate. Gov. Haley Barbour has said publicly he will support fully funding MAEP.

"This is the first year in a long time we’ve fully funded MAEP," McBride told The Panolian in an interview Thursday morning.

Asked if election-year politics will help the legislation sail through the current term, McBride instead said the lack of financing, not politics, has been the culprit in recent years.

"A lot of money is being spent on the Gulf Coast, and that’s showing up in the state economy," said the legislator, referring to post-Katrina work.

Dr. Keith Shaffer, superintendent of the South Panola School District, said he met Tuesday with McBride and Sen. Nolan Mettetal to describe the need for fully funding MAEP.

"Even though the rhetoric from Jackson is that everybody’s on board, I assured them how essential it was to have full funding," said Shaffer. He told the legislators, for example, that a state fund is no longer available for repairing and improving school buildings.

Shaffer said an MAEP formula distributes state funds by using three criteria: a school district’s average daily attendance (ADA), a statewide calculation of per-student cost, and the school district’s tax millage.

County scraps plan for culvert removal
By Billy Davis

A suggestion that the county advertise for bids to get rid of junky county-owned culverts won approval from supervisors before the idea was shot down due to liability concerns.

The board of supervisors met Friday morning to wrap up county business for January and celebrate a Rural Development grant for the Longtown Volunteer Fire Department.

Supervisors have ridden the county’s roads in recent days in preparation for their annual road reports, and several supervisors said Friday they plan to make note of the rusty culverts lining the roadways.

"We’ve got culverts all over the county," District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant told his colleagues.

District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins sparked the discussion by asking if the county could get rid of the unsightly culverts by allowing the general public to haul away the scrap.

County road crews currently load the culverts and sell them for scrap, but Perkins said the manpower and expense is a waste of time.

"It takes two to three men out there with a track hoe to load that culvert and get it to the scrap yard," Perkins said. "We make $38 for the culvert and spent $338 to get it done."

Board attorney Bill McKenzie suggested, however, that a bid process would protect the county by ensuring the process was done fairly.

"The state auditor frowns upon giving anything away," agreed road manager Lygunnah Bean.

Supervisors asked McKenzie to draft an advertisement for hauling away the culverts, but Bean then spoke up about the liability concerns.

The road manager described the liability of a winning bidder’s heavy equipment damaging a passing vehicle or the culvert itself causing damage while being transported on a trailer.

"That worries me greatly," said Bean. "I can’t tell you how many people want to sue the county for everything. I get calls every day."

Faced with that concern, supervisors agreed to drop the idea of a bid.

"I guess we’re back to step one," Avant said.

Batesville share of sales tax outpacing state
By Rupert Howell

While sales tax collections dipped seven percent statewide, sales tax paid and diverted back to the City of Batesville increased slightly for the month of December over the same month last year.

Batesville’s year-to-date totals have increased seven percent according to figures recently released by the State Tax Commission while state-wide year-to-date figures increased only four percent.

A seven percent sales tax is collected by merchants, then paid to the state who returns approximately one-fifth to the municipality in which it was collected. The City of Batesville’s December check was $285,549. So far this fiscal year, which began July 1, the City has received $1,819,110.

An additional three percent tourism and economic development tax charged on hotel/motel rooms and restaurants increased 11 percent over the same period last year and over 10 percent for the year-to-date.

Batesville received $65,554 in December and has received $421,745 from that levy since July 1.

Other Panola County municipalities showed payments for December 2006 and 2005 respectively followed by percent of increase/decrease for year-to-date as follows:

     – Como, $15,729.12 and $14,871.62, +23;
     – Courtland, $1,548.42 and $1,419.14, +17;
     – Crenshaw, $3,695.43 and $2,755.28, +3;
     – Crowder, $2,625.23 and $6,942.62, +27;
     – Pope, $2,407.50 and $1,866.84, +9; and
     – Sardis, $20,166.61 and $20,619.20, +3.

Other nearby communities in the Panola County trade area received sales tax diversion in December 2006 and 2005 respectively:

     – Charleston, $24,445.70 and $24,480.57;
     – Lambert, $2,760.37 and $3,065.81;
     – Marks, $19,622.28 and $21,361.67;
     – Oakland, $3,615.42 and $3,232.33 and
     – Water Valley, $39,769.60 and $35,479.70.

Nearby cities with large trade areas received sale tax checks for December 2006 and 2005 with the year-to-date percent of increase respectively:

     – Clarksdale, $208,725.82 and $220,601.58, – ;
     – Grenada, $301,123.57 and $325,987.34, -3;
     – Oxford, $444,504.08 and $448,719.88, +6;
     – Senatobia, $158,929.32 and $154,061.29, +7.


State charges pending after man pleads in federal court
By Billy Davis

A Batesville man who pled guilty to federal charges of child pornography is also facing separate state charges following an investigation by the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

Charles Wayne McGee, 67, pled guilty Monday to possessing child pornography and coercing a five-year-old to create child pornography, a January 23 press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee states.

McGee appeared in federal court before U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson in Aberdeen. He faces a prison sentence of 15 to 40 years.

McGee was indicted by a Panola County grand jury last November on one charge of fondling and one count of child molestation, said Panola sheriff’s investigator Mark Whitten.

"Our charges have nothing to do with the federal plea," Whitten said. Child pornography is a federal offense while fondling and molestation are state charges, he explained.

Whitten said the fondling and molestation charges involved two different children. The separate incidents both occurred on April 14, 2006.

In the press release, Greenlee thanked the sheriff’s department for acting quickly to obtain a search warrant when it learned of the allegations.

The warrant turned up "critical evidence" against McGee that included computers and a digital camera, the press released stated. The computer contained nearly 2,000 images of child pornography.

Whitten credited sheriff’s deputy Clint Robertson, who responded to the initial call, and sheriff’s investigator Barry Thompson.

Special election candidate-less, but McBride draws opponents
By Billy Davis

No one has qualified to run in a February 13 special election to fill the District 11 House seat left empty by the death of Rep. Leonard Morris.

The qualifying deadline is Tuesday, January 30, for the special election.

David Blount, a spokesman for Secretary of State Eric Clark, confirmed Thursday morning that no one had filled out qualifying papers for the special election.

The special election is required after Morris passed away January 12. He had held the seat since 1993.

District 11 includes much of Panola County as well as Tate County. The seat is up for re-election this year.

Although no one has qualified for the special election, the Mississippi Democratic Party has listed Steve Richardson as a District 11 candidate in the August 7 Democratic primary.

Richardson is a retired county agent with the Tate County Extension Service. He could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday about his entry into the House race.

Blount pointed out that the listing of Richardson’s name and others is on the state Democratic Party Web site, which along with the state Republican Party is linked to the state secretary of state Web site.

"That is not part of the special election," Blount said of the summer primary.

The state Democratic Party Web site also shows that state Rep. Warner McBride of Batesville and state Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis have qualified for the August 7 Democratic primary.

McBride represents District 10, which includes Panola, Lafayette and Tallahatchie counties. Mettetal represents Panola and Tate counties.

McBride has drawn two opponents for his House seat, Batesville restaurant owner Wally Pang and Tallahatchie County Supervisor Greg Hodges.

Hodges, whose name is listed on the state Democratic Web site, will face McBride in the August 7 primary. The state Republican Party Web site lists Pang as a candidate for the GOP primary on August 7.

Reached Thursday, Pang confirmed that he is running for state office on a theme of campaign finance reform.

In county races, candidates Buddy Holland and Jarrell Mills have qualified for the District 4 supervisor’s race.

Holland and Mills join three other candidates, Calvin Land, Patricia Tramel and Howard Brower, in an attempt to wrest the seat from District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins.

Land has qualified to run as a Republican and will face the winner of the August 7 Democratic primary in the November 7 general election.

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, who is running to keep his seat, also qualified this week with the Panola County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Clerks readying for race
By John Howell Sr.

Candidates for the upcoming special election called to fill the unexpired term in Mississippi Representative District 11 must qualify by Tuesday, Jan. 30, according to Mississippi Secretary of State Eric Clark. Monday’s announcement by Gov. Haley Barbour of the February 13 special election sent circuit clerks in two counties scrambling to prepare ballots.

The governor called the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the Jan. 12 death of Leonard Morris of Batesville. District 11 includes portions of Panola and Tate counties.

Panola Circuit Clerk Joe Reid and Tate County Circuit Clerk Eddie Hadskey were both at mid-week counting voters to determine the number of ballots needed to cover the Feb. 13 special election. If no candidate polls a majority in the special election, a runoff will be held Feb. 27.

Special election ballots do not list party affiliations of candidates. In Panola County, District 11 runs from the northeast corner to the southwest corner. The district includes all of Como, a large portion of Sardis, and a large portion of Batesville. The district line skirts the municipal limits of Courtland, excluding voters within the Town of Courtland. The district line then runs west approximately along Morrow, Hughes and Asa Roads but veers from those roads as boundaries in two places. At Asa Road’s intersection with the Dummy Line Road, the district line veers to the Tallahatchie River channel to include Crowder.

Panola voting precincts in District 11 include Como (partial), Pleasant Mount, West Sardis (partial) South Sardis (partial), Pleasant Grove, Curtis, Macedonia-Concord, Batesville #3 (partial), Courtland (partial), Tocowa (partial), East Batesville (partial), North Batesville A (partial), North Batesville B-2 (partial), and Enon.
District 11 also includes the southeast portion of Tate County, approximately the area east of Highway 51 and south of Highway 4 East, Hadskey said.

Tate voting precincts in District 11 are Looxahoma, Senatobia 3, Senatobia 4, Thyatira (partial) and Wyatte.

TVEPA still at work
By John Howell Sr.

Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association employees assisting with ice storm recovery in southwest Missouri found infrastructure damage similar to what they faced in Mississippi in 1994, Ronnie Williams said.

"It was about as bad as it was in ?94, but there’s not a lot of pine trees," said Williams, a serviceman for the electric cooperative.

Williams and 12 other TVEPA electrical workers left for Mt. Vernon, Missouri last Friday to help replace utility poles and lines downed by ice from storms that swept through the region earlier in January.

Mt. Vernon is about 35 miles west of Springfield, Mo.

In 1994, an ice storm in northwest Mississippi destroyed much of TVEPA’s electrical distribution system, breaking down over 1,500 utility poles and miles of electrical line. TVEPA workers were then assisted through mutual aid agreements by electrical workers from around the Southeast.


Copyright 2001-2007 by Batesville Newspapers, LLC.  All rights reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission  is prohibited.