Headlines – 2/16/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – February 16, 2007

  From the 02/16/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Gardner grateful despite turnout, Wallace assures ‘in this to win’
     While son Terence Herron II looks on, his mother Gwen Herron votes for a candidate in the House District 11 race. Herron voted at the Patton Lane Community Center in Batesville.
By Billy Davis

The top two vote getters in Tuesday’s District 11 special election say they are knocking on doors and calling on neighbors to improve voter turnout in the upcoming run-off election.

Voter turnout was nine percent in Panola County and 12 percent in Tate County. Only 1,610 of 15,736 registered voters went to the polls, voting figures from the Panola and Tate circuit clerk offices show.

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"I don’t think the older voters who would have supported me got out," said Teresa Wallace, 59, who finished second in the race to Dr. Joe Gardner, 62.

The skies were overcast early on election day, February 13, and rain had set in by late afternoon hours, when many voters traditionally head to the polls after they leave work.

Gardner agreed that voter turnout was a "little low," but added that he was still pleased since he placed first among five candidates.

Gardner received 786 votes compared to 398 votes cast for Wallace.

Gardner, who lives in the Concord community west of Batesville, enjoyed a commanding vote count in Panola County, where he pulled in 774 votes, or 64 percent of the votes cast. He got only 12 votes in Tate County.

Although well behind Gardner in the vote count, Wallace placed second both in Tate County (141 votes), where she works, and Panola County (257 votes), where she lives.

"I’m in this to win," Wallace told The Panolian on Wednesday, after the vote count showed her trailing second to Gardner.

On the campaign trail, Wallace said she is avoiding making a laundry list of promises, telling voters instead that she will be their "voice" in the legislature.

"I’m saying I’ll go down there (to the legislature) to see what can be done," Wallace said.

In a candidate survey for The Panolian, Wallace wrote that education and rural development are the most important campaign issues.

In the same survey, Gardner cited education and economic development as the most important issues.

On the campaign trail, Gardner said he is suggesting that high school students should be encouraged by the school to take vo-tech classes, explaining that acquiring a hands-on job is an asset even for college-bound students.

Gardner currently serves as a trustee for the South Panola School District, where he serves as vice-president. He holds the trustee seat formerly held by Representative Leonard Morris.

Wallace’s political experience includes participation as a Como election commissioner.

Wallace credited her vote tally in Tate County to years of name recognition. She has worked part-time for more than 20 years at a Senatobia dress shop, the Upstairs Closet, and as a Realtor for Reeves Williams in Senatobia for five years.

Gardner acknowledged that he is listed as a candidate in the August 7 Democratic Primary, meaning he will run for the District 11 seat if he loses in the coming runoff.

Wallace said she is also considering qualifying for the Democratic Primary if she loses in the runoff.

A third special election candidate, Kay Buckley-Houston, has also qualified to run in the Democratic Primary. Reached about her intentions, Buckley-Houston said she will likely withdraw from the House race and run against Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis. The qualifying deadline is March 1.

Second candidate qualifies with an ‘R’
By Billy Davis

A District 3 supervisor candidate is the ninth person to qualify to run for that seat and the second candidate to seek county office as a Republican.

Monty Thomas was the only candidate to turn in qualifying papers this week to run for a county office.

The qualifying deadline is March 1.

Thomas joins District 4 Supervisor Calvin Land on the GOP ticket. Land is a former Democrat county supervisor but now chairs the Panola County Republican Party Executive Committee.

If no one else qualifies as a Republican to oppose them, Thomas and Land could breeze through the August 7 primary while their Democrat opponents jostle for advancement to the general election.

The general election is November 7.

Although Panola County leans Republican in state and national elections, county candidates have traditionally stuck to the "D" designation.

The other District 3 candidates are Larry Key, Brad McCulley, Melvin Traywick, Tommy Austin, Donnie Shaw, Gary Thompson, Mike Darby and Harold "Hal" Herron.

District 3 Supervisor Mack Benson has said he is not running for re-election.

In District 4, where incumbent Jerry Perkins is running to keep his seat, challengers are Charles Downs, Land, Patricia Tramel, Howard Brower, Buddy Holland and Jarrell Mills.

Other county officials who have drawn opponents are Circuit Clerk Joe Reid, who is facing Margaret Pope; Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright, who is facing Jamie Tedford; District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup, who is facing independent candidate Paul Pfeiffer and Democrat Michael Towles; District 1 Constable Cleve Gale, who will face Eric "Buck" Harris; and District 1 Justice Court Judge James Appleton, who will face Everett Hill.

Be wary of ‘travelers’
The Batesville Police Department is warning residents to be wary of the so-called "Irish travelers," a roaming band of day laborers who routinely con their customers.

The BPD is passing along the warning after hearing from police in other Mississippi cities, said BPD Detective Paul Shivers.

Shivers said the scam artists use construction work to hide their real goal, which is cheating and stealing from unknowing customers.

"They like to get your attention outside the home and then sneak inside," the detective said. "They have a lot of tricks they use."

Shivers said a ringleader of the group was once arrested in Batesville and served a prison sentence.

Entergy repairs mean some will go ‘juiceless’
Customers of Entergy who live in Courtland and Pope and the areas served by the power company’s Enid substation will be without electricity this afternoon for about one hour, from 4-5 p.m., according to Entergy spokesman George Cossar of Senatobia.

The outage is planned so that some maintenance and repair work can be accomplished, Cossar said.

Entergy crews will be working in the area for the next week and will again require power to be cut next Friday, February 23, for about two hours, from 4-6 p.m., he said.

Gardner took comfy lead in state election
Will meet Wallace in Feb. runoff
District 11 Election Results
Panola County (official)
Candidate name Votes
     Joe C. Gardner 774
     Kay Buckley Houston 19
     Myrt B. Price 90
     Steve Richardson 65
     Teresa Wallace 257
     Write-in votes 1
Tate County (unofficial)
     Joe C. Gardner 12
     Kay Buckley Houston 0
     Myrt B. Price 35
     Steve Richardson 199
     Teresa Wallace 141
     Write-in votes 0

By Billy Davis

A special election to fill a state House seat has now moved to a February 27 runoff, with candidates Dr. Joe Gardner and Teresa Wallace squaring off to fill the District 11 seat formerly held by Leonard Morris.

District 11 includes much of Panola County and parts of Tate County.

Gardner, 62, is from Batesville. In Panola County’s voting precincts, he pulled in 64 percent, or 774 votes, of 1,206 Panolian votes cast, according to a circuit clerk election report. He picked up only 12 Tate County votes.

Wallace, 59, lives in Como but is well known in Tate County, where she is a Realtor for Reeves Williams.

In Panola County, voters delivered 21 percent of their vote, or 257 votes to Wallace, earning her a second-place finish behind Gardner. Wallace fared well in Tate County, too, where she picked up 141 votes, or 36 percent of the vote, and a second-place finish behind Steve Richardson.

All totalled, Gardner garnered 786 votes to 398 votes cast for Wallace.

In Panola County, other candidates and their totals included: Myrt Price, 90 votes; Steve Richardson, 65 votes; and Kay Buckley-Houston, 19 votes.

Despite Gardner’s wide lead, the runoff is still necessary since Gardner failed to pull in at least 50 percent of the total votes cast, said Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid.

"He lacked about 20 votes," Reid said.

Voter turnout in Tate County was 12 percent, an unofficial vote tally shows. From 3,028 registered voters, a total of 390 votes were cast in seven precincts.

In Panola County, official results showed a voter turnout of nine percent, or 1,220 votes, in 14 precincts. The precincts, which stretch across Panola County, boast 12,708 registered voters.

Two die in late-night house fire
By Jason C. Mattox

A late-night house fire east of Sardis Wednesday left two dead, according to Panola County Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright.

Law enforcement officials could not identify the victims, who were found in the smoldering ruins of a rental house owned by David Trammell at 15 Edwards Road.

According to local law enforcement officials, the bodies of a male and female were recovered at the scene. The male has been tentatively identified, but the name has not been released. The female victim has not been identified.

No foul play is suspected, according to Panola County Emergency Management Deputy Director Daniel Cole. The incident is being investigated by the Mississippi Fire Marshall’s Office and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, he said.

The bodies have been sent to Jackson for identification.

"The bodies found at the fire were unrecognizable," Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge said. "The identities should be available from Jackson by the middle of next week."

Cole said the fire happened at approximately 11 p.m. and three volunteer fire departments, Sardis, Como and Sardis Lower Lake, responded to the scene.

"Sardis Fire Department was the first on the scene," he said.

Sardis Fire Chief Chuck Moore said his department arrived at 11:15 p.m. and found the house fully in flames.

"When we got to the fire, the house was totally gone," he said. "There was nothing sticking out of the flames but the chimney."

Moore said due to the severity of the damage, there was no rescue attempt.

"We were told by some people at the scene that there were people inside, but it took us two or three hours just to get the house cooled down enough to go in and recover the bodies," he said. "We were told there was supposed to be one man and one woman in the house."

Supervisors see year of county road costs
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors viewed a report Monday showing the cost of paving and maintaining county roads last year, also seeing a breakdown of where the funds have been spent in each district.

County road manager Lygunnah Bean passed out copies of the road figures as part of his regular road department report, boasting to supervisors that new computer software is allowing the county to better track the costs of labor, materials and equipment.

"I can’t say thanks enough because the new system puts all of this information at our fingertips," said Bean, referring to the new GASB accounting system that kicked off last year.

GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) is a federal-mandated accounting program whose latest requirement is that county governments provide a day-to-day tracking of their costs and expenditures.

According to Bean’s figures, the county spent $3.4 million in 2006 to pave roads, gravel roads, and put down shoulder gravel, and also pay for road department manpower and county-owned equipment to perform the work.

Supervisors did not comment about the road cost figures.

Reached after the meeting, Bean said the $3.4 million tally comes from road department monies spent from January, 2006, through last month.
The figures show the monies distributed per district as follows:

District 1: $824,161
District 2: $705,274
District 3: $612,645
District 4: $908,479
District 5: $404,938

Supervisors have suggested in the past that District 2 and District 4 have the largest number of roads, including gravel roads, meaning costs in those districts typically exceed all others.

District 5, which includes much of Batesville’s city limits, and District 3 have among the least amount of road construction and maintenance needs.

Bean’s figures also show how the $3.4 million was spent, showing 74 percent was spent on materials, 17 percent was spent on equipment, and nine percent was spent on labor.

With improved record keeping on hand, Bean said he can approach supervisors with figures that show, for example, that utilizing the road department for spreading shoulder gravel saves taxpayers’ money.

"A comparison that breaks down the cost of materials, labor and equipment shows the cost to the county as $1,626 per mile if we do it ourselves," Bean said. "When we bid it out, the lowest bid was $3,700."

Bean showed supervisors Monday the cost-per-mile figures as well.

In other county business:
Supervisors heard a request from Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock that county department heads should alert his office immediately when the status of a county employee changes.
     "If they’re hired or if they’re fired, Malia needs to know immediately," Pitcock said, referring to Malia Brewer, a deputy chancery court clerk who oversees county payroll.
     Brewer formally made the request in a letter to the board, which supervisors voted unanimously to adopt as a board order.
Supervisors voted to amend the setbacks of a subdivision planned by developer Ted Stewart to 25 feet in front, 20 feet in the rear and 10 feet on the sides. The county’s subdivision codes stipulate a 35-35-15 setback.
     Engineer Byron Houston made the request on behalf of Stewart, who Houston said forgot to request a setback change when he asked supervisors last month to overturn a land commission vote to allow a smaller lot size.
     The board voted to allow Stewart a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet. The county’s regulations require a 12,000 square foot lot.
Supervisors voted unanimously to budget $50,000 for improvements to the county courtroom in Batesville.
     County Administrator David Chandler made the request, saying the carpet needs replacing, the benches need reconditioning, and the layout of the judge’s bench and witness stand needs to be improved. The work will be advertised for bids.
     The coming improvements follow a $500,000 renovation of the courthouse that replaced antiquated lighting and the heating and air.
     Chandler also told supervisors the county courthouse in Sardis will need roof repair in coming months.
Supervisors announced that several of them are attending a National Association of Counties conference March 3-7 in Washington, D.C. Attending are Supervisors Robert Avant and James Birge, Bean and Chandler.

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