Headlines – 1/30/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 30, 2007

  From the 01/30/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Wins stack up for Panolian artists at newspaper contest
     The Panolian publisher John Howell Sr. and graphic designers Margaret Buntin and Cassie White brought home 19 awards from the Mississippi Press Association’s Mid-Winter Conference.
By Rita Howell

The Panolian staff received 19 awards in the advertising division of the Mississippi Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. The awards were presented at a luncheon held last Saturday at the MPA’s midwinter conference in Jackson.

Panolian graphic designers Margaret Buntin and Cassie White were recognized for outstanding work. They were in competition with the state’s largest weekly and bi-weekly newspapers.

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Buntin received 17 awards, including five first place plaques. She was honored with first place awards for Best Service Ad (color); Best Service Ad (black and white); Best Auto Advertisement (black and white); Best Political Ad (black and white); and shared a first place award with John Howell Sr. for Best Series of Ads.

Buntin swept the Best Auto Ad (black and white) competition, taking first, second and third place.

Cassie White received a first place plaque for Best Classified Page or Section.

Buntin and White work closely with Panolian advertising representatives Beverly Boyett, Bob Boggan and Becky Brewer.

"We are proud of what Margaret and Cassie have accomplished and feel fortunate to have such talented graphic designers to help us produce a high-quality publication, week after week," publisher John Howell Sr. said. "These awards confirm that our advertisers can rely on Margaret and Cassie to communicate their message effectively, creatively and memorably."

Few complaints lodged over privilege tax bills
By Jason C. Mattox

Since letters were sent out to businesses in the City of Batesville which have not paid for their city privilege taxes, employees at city hall have received very few complaints, according to City Clerk Laura Herron.

"At the most we have had 10 people complain about it," Herron said. "Most of the people have been really nice and just wanted to know why they never received a letter."

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen have met in executive session twice to discuss the matter, but no disciplinary action has been taken.

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 stated during a meeting Jan. 2.

Following that meeting, a form letter was sent specifying for what years a business owed, and the amount. The letter instructed recipients to pay taxes by Jan. 31 to avoid further penalties.

"That has been the biggest complaint," Herron said. "They don’t mind paying the taxes, but they don’t think they should have to pay the penalties."

Herron said a conversation with the office of Attorney General Jim Hood let the city know they could not forgive the penalties.

"This is just like people that don’t pay their ad valorem taxes," she said. "When they don’t pay we assess penalties, and this works the same way."

Permits range from $20 to $1,840 and vary in between based on accessed value of inventory in the business.

The city can legally go back seven years and assess taxes and penalties for businesses that have not paid the taxes.

"It was an oversight, and the letters should have been sent out earlier, but the businesses knew they still owed the taxes," she said.

Two jump into race for District 11 seat
By Billy Davis

South Panola School District trustee Dr. Joe Gardner announced Monday that he has qualified to run in the February 13 special election.

Gardner, 62, said he filled out qualifying papers Friday in Jackson to run for the District 11 House seat formerly held by Rep. Leonard Morris. Morris passed away January 12.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour set the special election to fill the vacancy until the term expires January 1. The seat is also open this year, beginning with party primaries August 7.

Mississippi Secretary of State spokesman David Blount confirmed Monday that Gardner is the only candidate who has qualified to run in the special election. The deadline to qualify is 5 p.m. today.

Also expected to jump in the race is Steve Richardson, 48, of Tate County.

Richardson told The Panolian Monday that he was driving to Jackson later in the day to turn in qualifying papers. He had qualified to run in the August 7 Democratic Primary but had not qualified for the special election.

Gardner, who lives in the Concord community, operates Gardner Institute, a trucking school that prepares students to earn a commercial drivers license. He has held the school trustee’s seat since Morris was elected to the District 11 House in 1992.

Richardson lives in Tate County’s Tyro community, where he raises 75 acres of commercial vegetables for grocery stores. He retired last summer as county agent with the Mississippi State Extension Service.

Gardner formerly taught biology in the North Panola Public School District. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mississippi Valley State University and a master’s degree in biology from Ole Miss. He said he earned his doctorate in school administration from Southwestern University in Louisiana.

Richardson said he earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Alcorn State and a master’s degree in agronomy from Mississippi State.

Mayor steers meeting’s agenda from "illegal" town water report
By Billy Davis

A motion by a Crenshaw alderman to hire three police officers died for lack of a second after his board colleague said he did not have a chance to review the city’s applications.

Crenshaw’s mayor and board of aldermen convened Friday evening for a special called meeting to vote on the police officer hiring and to hear from a part-time city employee who inspected the town’s water system.

Both items on the agenda centered around the wishes of Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed, who recommended three hirings from a list of 10 applicants and refused to hear a report on the condition of the town’s water system.

To start the meeting, inspector Michael Purdy announced a report prepared for the Miss. Department of Health that he listed "everything that I found wrong," noting that some infrastructure had been fixed since he conducted his inspection days earlier.

Reed interrupted Purdy, however, and declared that discussing the health report was "illegal" since the meeting’s agenda did not specifically mention the reading of the report.

"Is that the one from the Mississippi Department of Health?" Reed asked.

"That’s right," Purdy responded.

"Okay, that wasn’t on the agenda," Reed said.
"Mayor, it’s all connected," protested Alderman David Whitsell.

"It’s not all connected," Reed replied.

Board attorney Mary Brown backed the mayor’s assertion, agreeing that the meeting’s agenda consisted of discussion of Purdy’s hiring contract with the city and the hiring of police officers.

The called meeting’s agenda, taped to the door of the board room, stated the meeting included two items: "Michael Purdy (Maint.)" and "Hiring police officers."

Purdy is a city inspector for the City of Sardis. He was hired by Crenshaw aldermen in a 3-2 vote to inspect the town’s water system, filling a job left empty after the former town inspector quit his job last summer.

Purdy put away the report and moved on to discussion of his inspection contract. He asked for $600 a month and a promise of back pay for previous months of work for the city, and the purchase of a second chlorine bottle for the town’s water system.

"If I have to change it, I want a second full bottle right there," Purdy said. "Right now there’s only one bottle."

Aldermen voted 3-0 to keep a second full bottle ready for use.

Responding to the back pay request, Brown told Purdy he could not legally be paid by the town until he signs a contract, but she assured him he could receive pay for previous work if she formally requests it in chancery court.

When the agenda moved to the police hirings, Reed noted that he and Police Chief Darryl Linzy had interviewed applicants the night before and the mayor personally narrowed a list of 10 applicants to three hirings. Then he asked for a motion to hire his recommendations.

"Mayor, is there a reason we didn’t get to see ’em?" asked Alderman David Whitsell.

"Get to see ’em ?" Reed asked.

"The applications for the officers," Whitsell explained.

"You can come by the office anytime. They’re never closed up or nothing," Reed said, raising his voice. "If you want to see them tonight, I can pass them down to you."

Whitsell also asked Reed how many of the applicants are certified, referring to officers who have undergone training at a state police academy. Reed did not answer the question.

Without naming the applicants, Reed said he was making three recommendations for hiring. Alderman Keith Pride then made a motion to accept the recommendation, but the motion died after Whitsell and Alderman Barbara Bradley refused to follow the motion with a second.

After waiting in silence for about 30 seconds, Reed declared the called meeting over. The room quickly emptied, but Brown brought back the aldermen to formally adjourn the meeting.

After the meeting, a reporter asked Reed why he decided to discuss the hiring contract but not the health department report since neither subjects were listed on the meeting’s agenda.

"(Michael Purdy) was to get up and tell us about the contract, and that’s it," Reed said. "It wasn’t anything else Michael was supposed to talk about but the contract. It was self-understood."

After the mayor and board of aldermen dismissed from the called meeting, the city officials assembled with the police chief in his office, presumably to discuss the hiring of police officers.

Outside the police chief’s office, Reed turned away a reporter who asked the mayor to sit in on the meeting.

"We’re just talking to the chief," the mayor said. "It’s not a meeting."

The mayor declared the meeting over when the reporter suggested that the closed meeting was likely breaking the state’s open meeting’s law by convening behind closed doors with a quorum of city officials.



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