Headlines – 2/9/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – February 9, 2007

  From the 02/09/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Tony Jones will head police department as Legge retires
     Police Captain Jimmy McCloud addresses the Batesville City Board Tuesday as incoming chief Tony Jones looks on.
By John Howell Sr.

In a surprise move Tuesday, Batesville Police Chief Gerald Legge Jr. announced his plans to retire, clearing the way for the appointment of Deputy Chief Tony Jones to the position.

Legge submitted a retirement proposal late during the Feb. 6 meeting of Batesville’s mayor and board of aldermen. The proposal provided for his resignation as police chief effective March 1 but allows him to start taking the 14 months of leave time he has accumulated since he started with the department in 1981.

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Legge’s proposal generated a short discussion among the mayor, aldermen and assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell about the technicalities of the transfer including whether Jones should be appointed as interim chief, acting chief or just chief.

"I have no problems with what you call me, just as long as you call me on payday," Legge quipped.

Police Captain Jimmy McCloud, who attended the meeting with Legge and Jones, told city officials that an interim or acting appointment would leave the department under a cloud of uncertainty. Referring to the period of several months in 2005 between the time that former police chief Roger Vanlandingham announced plans to retire and Legge had served as interim chief, "We couldn’t get any applications," because of the uncertainty, McCloud said.

Although the announcement came as a surprise, the structure of Legge’s proposal suggested considerable planning. Legge, 47, said Monday that he has accumulated 28 years in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). He plans to work as a private consultant to police agencies assisting in grant applications, he said. Legge also plans to work with Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs throughout the southeast.

Jones will become police chief effective March 1, and Legge will take the 14 months of leave time he has accumulated during his 26-year career.

Jones, 57, started with the police department in 1978

Batesville looks toward funding for infrastructure
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville leaders on Wednesday learned of options to pay for new infrastructure at the Covenant Crossing commercial development near Lowe’s.

Johnny Shell of USDA was present at the meeting to explain the option of a loan/grant program his agency offers to small municipalities with under 10,000 people in total population.

"We know that the money is there for the loan," Shell said. "There could also be some grant funds available to you."

Shell said the city could qualify for as much as a 45 percent grant with the rest of the project being funded through a low-interest long-term loan.
"We can offer you financing on the loan up to 35 years," he said.

"We all agree that getting the water and sewer out to Covenant Crossing is a must," McBride Engineering representative Blake Mendrop said. "But we need to look at the system as a whole and determine what other improvements might need to be made.

"I need to get with (Water Department Superintendent) Ricky (Shirey) to address this system-wide, so we can get accurate cost estimates," Mendrop added. "But the main thing right now is going to be Covenant Crossing."

Mayor Jerry Autrey said it was important to get the infrastructure for Covenant Crossing handled as soon as possible.

"The developer is going to want to start getting businesses in there sometime this spring or in the summer at the latest," he said. "So whatever we do, we need to make sure that is the first thing we take care of."

Autrey asked if it would be possible for the city to apply for the grant first and then apply for the balance of the needed funds in a loan.

"USDA does not offer a grant only program when it comes to water and sewer," he said. "You will have to take the loan first and we will try to get you grant funds to make up the difference you might need.

"We know the City of Batesville is a priority for this area office, so you will have a very good opportunity to get the funds you need," Shell added.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley asked Mendrop to prepare cost estimates for the board by its Feb. 20 meeting.

"With all due respect, we have talked about this a half-dozen times or more, and it’s getting to be time to do something about it," he said.

Mendrop also suggested the city begin looking to develop a new 20-year plan for future expansion of the city.

"Your zoning code is backed up by your 20-year plan, and it is almost time to have a new one," he said. "If you look at the old one, you will see that the expansion to the east has been more than you originally expected."

No formal action was taken on either matter.

In other board business:
  Aldermen voted to adopt a moratorium on subdivision regulations that call for the city to run water and sewer to developments with city street frontage. The moratorium will expire May 22
Candidate list growing for August ballot
By John Howell Sr.

Larry Key has qualified as a Democrat to seek the post of District Three Supervisor. Key’s entry into the race to fill the seat being vacated by Supervisor Mack Benson brings the number of candidates to eight.

Key joins Tommy Austin, Mike Darby, Harold "Hal" Herron, Brad McCulley, Donnie Shaw, Gary Thompson and Melvin Traywick in seeking to represent District Three on the Panola County Board of Supervisor.

District 4 follows District 3 in the number of candidates seeking to the supervisor’s post. Incumbent Jerry Perkins is seeking to keep his seat against challenges from Howard Brower, Charles Downs, Buddy Holland, Calvin Land, Jarrell Mills and Patricia Tramel.

Land has qualified to run as a Republican and will face the primary winner in the November 6 general election.

District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup faces challenger Michael Towles in the June 5 Democratic Primary. The Democrat nominated will then face independent candidate Paul Pfeiffer in the General Election on November 7.

In county-wide races, Circuit Clerk Joe Reid faces a challenge by Margaret Pope in the June 5 primary election. Sheriff Hugh W. "Shot" Bright faces a challenge by Jamie Tedford. Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock and Tax Assessor-Collector David Garner have yet to draw opponents.

In other county races, District 1 Constable Cleve Gale will face a challenge from Eric "Buck" Harris while District 1 Justice Court Judge James Appleton will face Everett Hill.

Other Panola County public officials who have qualified to date but who have not yet drawn opponents are: District 2 Constable Raye Hawkins, County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge, County Attorney C. Gaines Baker, District 1 Supervisor James Birge, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, and District 2 Justice Court Judge Willie E. "Bill" Joiner.

Five vie for empty seat in voting next Tuesday
By John Howell Sr.

Voters in Mississippi Representative District 11 go to the polls Tuesday to select a successor for the house seat left vacant by the death of Leonard Morris in January.

Voters will choose from a field of five candidates, Kay Buckley-Houston, Joe C. Gardner, Myrt B. Price, Steve Richardson and Teresa Wallace.

Buckley-Houston, 42, of Batesville is an educator-counselor and university level writer who sees overcrowded jails and child support redesign as the two most important issues facing voters.

Buckley-Houston’s political experience dates back to an internship under Senator Thad Cochran as a South Panola High School senior in 1978 and also includes the 1989 campaign of Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and a stint with a UN debate team on which John F. Kennedy Jr. was also a member in 1982.

Buckley-Houston is a graduate of South Panola High School, Brandeis University and earned a master’s from Harvard in 1989. She is currently on a leave of absence from the Southern New England School of Law.

"Too many young men are being sent to prison long-term for drug charges, …" she stated in a questionnaire prepared for the candidates by The Panolian. "Curve the years of sentencing on minor drug charges so as not to overload the prison with years of minor drug offenders," Buckley-Houston continued.

Gardner, 62, lives in the Concord Community near Batesville and is President/CEO of Gardner Institute, a commercial truck driving school.

Gardner sees the most important campaign issues as education and economic development. He has served for 14 years as a trustee of the South Panola School District. Gardner holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and a Ph.D. in administration.

"The greatest problem facing Mississippi is fully funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program," Gardner stated on the questionnaire.

In seeking the post of state representative, Gardner hopes "to find ways to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and increase training for our unskilled labor force," he continued.

Price, 51, lives in Sardis and earlier lived in Tate County’s Looxahoma Community. Price is a property investor and holds a degree from the University of Mississippi in public administration-criminal justice.

Prices lists the funding of education and provision for health insurance as the two most important issues facing legislators. Mississippi’s greatest problem is education, he stated.

"Finding ways and means to keep teachers in Mississippi so that children will be able to obtain the necessary skills to be productive citizens" would be the goal of legislation he hopes to author to correct this problem, Price stated.

Richardson, 48, lives in the Tyro Community of Tate County. He is a retired county agent and a commercial vegetable producer who sees education as the most important issue facing Mississippi legislators.

Richardson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from Alcorn State and Mississippi State, respectively. Though he has previously held no public office, he states that he has worked closely with elected county officials in preparing budgets for extension service programs.

Richardson is concerned about Mississippi’s slow economic growth and proposes development of economic incentives for industry start-up, establishing funds for site development and tailoring job training to industry needs as a means to stimulate the state’s economy.

Wallace, 59, of Como, is a Realtor with Reeves Williams Realty. She sees education and rural development as the two most important issues facing legislators.

Wallace is a graduate of Forest Hill High School in Jackson. She also attended Northwest Mississippi Community College.

The greatest problems facing Mississippi are "the recovery of Katrina – long term and more local industrial development to increase the availability of jobs for our state," she stated.

Wallace’s solutions to these problems would be to "use state tax rebates and bonding authority to develop industrial projects of long-term value and higher-than-average wages," she continued.

District 11 includes southeast Tate County and a wide swath of Panola County including all of the municipal limits of the Town of Como and a portion of the cities of Sardis and Batesville and the Town of Crowder.

Panola Circuit Clerk Joe Reid urged any voter who has a question about whether he or she lives in the district to call his office at 563-6210.

Candidates will not be listed by party affiliation on the special election ballot. If no candidate receives a majority on Feb. 13, a runoff will be held on Feb. 27.

Water woes continue in Crenshaw
By John Howell Sr.

Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed said that the town’s low score in an annual water system inspection was partly because no one from the town was available to accompany inspector Jeff Williams when he visited there January 10.

"He wrote it up on the best of his ability because there was no one around; everything he wrote about has been corrected, some of it we are still working on," Reed told aldermen and about 20 citizens who packed the town’s meeting room Tuesday night, Feb. 6.

However, Mississippi State Department of Health Bureau of Public Water Supply engineer Jeff Williams said Wednesday, "Larry was with me during the inspection," referring to Crenshaw municipal employee Larry Cotton who had been injured eight days earlier while adding chlorine to the water system.

Crenshaw scored 0.7 on a possible 5.0 scale in the inspection. During annual inspections from 2004 through 2006, the town’s water system scored 4.0 each year, according to information on the Mississippi State Department of Health’s web site. The lowest previous score for any water system in Panola County during that three-year period was 2.33.

Mayor Reed said that most of the problems cited in the inspection report had been solved with the installation of pumps. Only one well out of three was operating at the time of the inspection, the report stated.

Also cited in the inspection report was the lack of chlorine in the water supply. The health department report recommended adding a self-contained breathing apparatus to protect workers handling the water purification chemical.

The report cited the lack of a certified water operator to collect samples of the town’s water supply.

"A lot of what they were cited for would be taken care of with a certified operator," Williams said.

Crenshaw has been without a certified water operator to pull water samples since last July when municipal employee Jimmy Frazier resigned. The deficiency continues with the recent decision of Michael Purdy not to accept a contract with the town.

Purdy was initially selected as a certified water operator and met with the mayor and aldermen in a special called meeting on Friday, Jan. 26. At that meeting Purdy was prevented from discussing both the health department’s inspection report or his own list of deficiencies he had compiled about the system.

"It’s not worth me losing my license," Purdy said of his decision not to accept the contract.

After announcing Purdy’s decision, the mayor recommended contacting Bobby Brown of Water Management Enterprise about taking the contract. Aldermen in December voted 3 to 2 to accept Purdy’s bid over Brown’s.

On a motion by alderman Keith Pride, the aldermen Tuesday night voted 2 to 2 to give Brown the contract for water testing. Alderman Marvin Phipps voted with Pride. Aldermen Alberta Bradley and David Whitsell voted against the motion, bringing a tie due to the absence of alderman Shirley Morgan. Mayor Reed broke the tie, voting to offer the contract to Brown.

Other problems cited were the need for cleaning and painting the town’s elevated water storage tank, lack of a working backup generator for one well, an unlocked gate and door at one well and managerial and financial deficiencies.


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