Headlines – 3/9/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 9, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – March 9, 2007

  From the 03/09/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Gardner swears in
     Dr. Joe C. Gardner takes the oath of office Monday, March 5 as the new state representative from House District 11. His wife Ella looks on as Speaker of the House Pro-Tempore J.P. Compretta of Bay St. Louis administers the oath of office in the House chamber.
     Rep. Gardner succeeds the late Rep. Leonard Morris after winning a special election. He is retired from the North Panola Schools and is a former member of the South Panola School Board. Members of his family are in background.
Animal shelter could come in ’07
By Billy Davis

With help from Panola County government, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey says he hopes to break ground this year for a city-operated animal shelter.

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Autrey was describing plans for the facility after Panola County supervisors received an interlocal agreement from the City of Batesville this week, a signal that construction of an animal shelter is gaining ground.

Autrey, who is serving his first term as mayor, said he would pursue an animal shelter if elected to office. He sought and received verbal support from supervisors last year to pursue a city/county animal shelter.

Stray dogs that are caught in Batesville are currently housed in pens located near Highway 6 East on property leased by the city.

"Basically all that’s there is pens for the dogs and a shed to keep their feed," Autrey said. "It’s not much there."

An architectural drawing of a future animal shelter includes pens for dogs and cats, a treatment room, and office space. The facility will be built so the dog pens can be expanded.

The animal shelter will be built near the former National Guard armory, located at Highway 51 and Eureka Road, where the city and county jointly own the property.

"It will either be located behind the Boys and Girls Club or farther south next to Hoskins Plumbing," Autrey told The Panolian.

The city budgeted $175,000 in its 2006-2007 budget toward construction of the facility, the mayor said.

Panola County Administrator David Chandler said supervisors did not include the shelter in the county’s fiscal year budget but added that the budget can be amended once an interlocal agreement is finalized.

Supervisors received copies of the agreement from board attorney Bill McKenzie, who stressed to the board that the document was a first step toward nailing down a partnership.

"It doesn’t say who’s going to do what," McKenzie said. "It just says, ?Let’s start talking about it.’"

"It’s just a starting point," agreed District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

Autrey toured animal shelters Thursday in DeSoto County with Kim Strickland, president of the Panola County Humane Society.

"We’ve been working on this long and hard, probably since 2003," Strickland said. "It’s just something that has to be done."

Autrey said he has talked to county supervisors about the planned partnership and believes the facility will likely be operated by City of Batesville employees with both the city and Panola County sharing the funding.

"We might have a board of city officials and supervisors to oversee it," Autrey said. "We’ve still got to work that out."

Even when the animal shelter is constructed, Strickland said the facility will not be the answer to the obvious overpopulation of dogs and cats.

"It’s not the answer because, once it’s full, it’s full," Strickland said. "Our problem is convincing people to spay and neuter their animals and stop throwing them out on county roads."

Batesville industry lauds Ferguson
By John Howell Sr.

Officials at Batesville Casket Company honored Dan L. Ferguson Tuesday at a presentation recognizing his years of service to the funeral industry and to the community.

Ferguson is owner of Dickins Funeral Home in Batesville.

Batesville Casket Company representative Ron LaVigne, Panola plant manager Jon Oakley and other company officials coordinated the surprise presentation with Ferguson’s family and Dickins Funeral Home Director Sherry Anderson Tuesday.

The event honoring Ferguson coincided with a visit to the plant by the "Honoring Lives Tour," a traveling display designed to familiarize funeral home service staffs with products and marketing innovations.

When Ferguson was six years old, LeVigne said, he told his grandfather, David Butts Dickins, that he was going to work in the family’s funeral home business. Ferguson followed his early ambition through Batesville High School, Mississippi State University and the Dallas Institute-Gupton Jones where he studied mortuary science.

"Thank you for the service that you and your family have given Batesville, Mississippi," LaVigne said. "Thank you for representing us and our company."

Few details known after UPS truck flips
By Jason C. Mattox

A one-vehicle wreck on Interstate 55 kept the southbound lane blocked for five and a half hours Monday while the scene was investigated and cleaned up.

Miss. Highway patrolman Mike Wilkie, who was present at the scene, said a UPS delivery truck ran off the right side of the road and flipped over between the Batesville and Pope/Courtland exits.

Wilkie said the incident remains under investigation.

"At this point we don’t even know why the vehicle left the road," he added. "I have not had the chance to speak with the driver to see exactly what happened."

The identity of the driver was not known at press time.

The driver was taken the Regional Medical Center in Memphis for treatment. The extent of his injuries was unknown, the patrolman said.

"The wreck happened at about 4:30 p.m," Wilkie said. "We had it cleaned up by 10 p.m."

Missing teen found
By Billy Davis
and Jason C. Mattox

A teenager missing since early Tuesday was brought into the Batesville Police Department by friends – unharmed – Thursday afternoon, according Chief Tony Jones.

Batesville police say they believe the girl, 13, climbed out the bedroom window of her home during the night of March 6.

The mother alerted police hours after midnight when she found the child gone and the bedroom window still open, said the police chief.

BPD Lt. Billy Sossaman, who investigated the case, said the window showed no signs of forced entry.

"There was no note," Sossaman said. "No clothes are missing."

Jones said the mother has asked police to issue an Amber Alert, but the alert is used strictly for known kidnapping cases.


Daylight Saving Time begins earlier this year.

Remember to set your clocks ahead an hour this Sunday.

Appeals court nixes Martin Bros. yard
By Billy Davis

A north Panola County homeowner has won a state appeal that found the Panola County Board of Supervisors erred in allowing the area east of his home to be zoned as industrial property.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled this week in favor of Dr. Mike Cockrell and his wife, Lisa, who had fought plans by Sardis scrap yard Martin Bros. to move its business to property that adjoins their home and acreage.

The Cockrells built a 10,000-square-foot, plantation-style home that sits atop about 105 acres of rolling hills located at 1930 Holston Road.
The home and 46 acres are appraised at $707,106, said a spokesperson with the Panola County Tax Assessor’s Office.

Just east of the Cockrell home, however, the Martin family sought to relocate its scrap metal business to property it had purchased months earlier.

The Court of Appeals heard oral arguments September 21 from attorneys Tommy Shuler, who represented the Martin family, and John Lamar, who represented the Cockrells.

The conclusion of the 17-page ruling faulted Martin Bros. for failing to provide evidence that justified a zoning change from an agricultural area to an industrial area. Citing that lack of evidence, the court faulted the board of supervisors for siding with the scrap business and the circuit court for siding with the supervisors.

The court specifically cited a defense built around the Hanson pipe plant, located diagonally across from the Cockrell home, which supervisors cited as a reason for turning down the Cockrell’s appeal since another industry was already located near their property before they built their home.

The court did side with the board of supervisors over the accusation of "spot zoning," which is the singling out a small area for the benefit of few.

The court states that the board of supervisors "found a public need existed for additional employment and space to dispose of scrap metal, thus the zoning is not spot zoning and valid," the brief states. "We agree with the Board."

Before winning the appeal, the Cockrell family fought and lost three times since 2005, beginning with a 6-2 vote by the Panola County Land Development Commission that sided with Martin Bros. Scrap Yard.

The Cockrells then lost when they appealed the land commission vote to Panola County supervisors, who voted unanimously to turn down their appeal. The Cockrells later lost in a court hearing in circuit court before Judge Andrew C. Baker.

As the Cockrells were losing a string of appeals, Martin Bros. was preparing to move its operation from Sardis to the larger acreage which adjoins the Cockrell property.

Martin Bros. co-owner Henry Martin told The Panolian last year that he planned to "gamble" and proceed with readying the site for operation.

Reached this week, Martin said he had equipment already located on site awaiting installment that now must be sold to recoup his losses.

"I gambled and I lost," Martin said. "I lost big time, too."

Mike Cockrell could not be reached for comment by press time.

Trailer residents raises questions about space
By John Howell Sr.

A Crenshaw resident who has been told by her landlord to move her trailer will have to wait before space is designated for mobile homes in the town.

Lizzie May Jones told the town’s mayor and aldermen that the land on which her trailer is located had been sold and she had been given until the end of the month to find another location.

Dodson Trailer Park, the one area in the town legally designated as a trailer park, has no lots available.

Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed said that designating an area on Levee Street as a trailer park would solve Jones’ problem. Four spaces are available there, he said.

"Doesn’t a trailer park have to be a certain amount of ground?" Alderman Alberta Bradley asked, referring her question to town attorney Mary Brown of Grenada.

The town can determine what space requirements are needed, Brown said, but the owner of the property needs to seek rezoning and that a public hearing is part of that process.

After questioning Jones about the deadline she faces, the mayor asked the attorney to write a letter to Jones’ current landlord explaining the need for more time.

Jones then questioned the mayor further about ownership of the Levee Street property where she would like to move her trailer.

"I own most of that around there; … most of that park, I do," the mayor said.

"So you own the part I’m trying to get in to?" Jones asked.

Later in the meeting, Sam Presley, a Crenshaw resident who frequently attends town meetings, questioned town officials.

"Does the town have a disclosure policy?" Presley asked. "If any member of the board has a personal interest in a matter before the board, does the board have a disclosure policy …. (for instance if) a building is owned by a member of the board?"

Mayor Reed opens the floor for a limited number of questions from the floor at the end of each meeting and responds to the questions at the following meeting.

Other citizens asking questions included Percy Kirkwood, who wanted to know about a water leak at his property at 707 Park St. He said that town employees had worked on the leak and had damaged a plumbing fixture on his property during the repair. He asked who was going to pay for the damaged fixture.

Mayor’s report
Crenshaw is ready for the next step in a sewer rehabilitation project, Mayor Reed reported. Smoke tests have been completed and the town needs to seek bids on the next step. His request was unanimously approved by aldermen.
Town ad valorem taxes collected by the county have been flowing into Crenshaw’s treasury, the mayor said.
    The funds are being used to pay down old debts and address new needs, including purchasing tires for a town fire truck and funding the town’s commitment to the Crenshaw library.
Aldermen were told at the opening of the meeting of the need to keep the Tuesday night meeting brief due to health concerns for the town attorney. The date and time of a called meeting to deal with personnel matters in the police department and maintenance department will be announced at a later date.
     Alderman Milton Phipps was absent because of health problems.
     Attending, in addition to Reed and Bradley, were aldermen Shirley Morgan, David Whitsell and Keith Pride.

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