Headlines Cont. – 3/13/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – March 13, 2007


Thirty year vet takes over as Batesville’s top cop
By Jason C. Mattox

A 30-year veteran of the Batesville Police Department recently completed his first week as chief.

Tony Jones, 57, who joined the ranks of the department in 1977 as a patrolman, became the second straight chief to come from within the department. The other was his predecessor, the recently retired Gerald Legge Jr.

Jones came to the Batesville PD after spending years in construction.

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"I was looking for something different," he said. "This provided me with some benefits, but most importantly, it presented me with a chance to make a difference in the lives of the people of this city."

After first applying to the department, it took nearly three months before Jones was hired to the department, but after his hiring, he has risen through the ranks.

Jones attended the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pearl in 1978, and shortly after his return was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

"We didn’t have near as many officers back then as we do now," he said. "Back in the late 70s, this was still what many would consider a small town."

Jones was the first officer in the Batesville Police Department to attend the FBI National Academy. He graduated in 1984, and returned to the department where he served as the first Lt. Detective in BPD’s history.

"Before the detective division was established, all of the officers would handle their own investigations when they got the time," he said. "It worked out well for the department and the city to have someone who was focussed on investigations."

Shortly after attaining the rank of Det. Captain, Jones was again promoted. This time to the rank of Administrative Captain.

"That was a lot of paperwork," he said. "It allowed me to know more about how that part of the department worked, but I was still overseeing the detective division as well."

Jones’ next promotion would be to the rank of major, one he held until 2005 when he was named Deputy Chief under Legge.

"Chief Legge was the fifth chief I worked under during my career," he said. "Each one of them taught me different things that I feel have prepared me to be the chief of this department," he said.

Jones said the mayor and board of aldermen’s decision to remain in-house for a second straight chief means a lot to the men who serve in the City of Batesville.

"It’s important in more ways than one," he said. "Firstly, this provides the officers with a sense of continuity. There were some who were worried the board would go outside of the department for the next chief.

"Second, it shows the men who might just be starting with the department that if they stick with it and continue to do a good job, they might get the chance to be chief," Jones added.

Jones said he would like to personally thank city leaders for the opportunity to lead the department.

"I want to thank them for believing in me," he said. "This job is a big responsibility, and one that I believe I am prepared for."

The chief said he is working on some changes that will make this department and the city a better place.

"We are focussed on getting as many of the drugs off the streets as we possibly can," he said. "Every drug user or dealer we take off the street makes it safer for the people of this city.

"I am also working to find a way of raising our starting pay for officers," Jones added. "These men are out there everyday putting their lives on the line."

The chief said he hopes a higher starting salary will help recruit new officers into the department.

"People don’t want to get into local law enforcement," he said. "Everyone interested in law enforcement wants to go into a larger agency right off the bat. Local law enforcement is just as important."

Jones said he is unsure how long he will lead, saying it would be "as long as the good Lord will let me."

"Mayor [Jerry] Autrey said I am going to be in here until he leaves office, but I’m not too sure about that," he said jokingly. "One thing is for sure, when it is time for me to step down, this department will be in good hands. There’s some good people behind me that would make excellent chiefs."

Skatepark committee discusses options at meeting
By Emily Williams

The Batesville Skatepark Committee met for the second time Thursday, March 8, at City Hall and heard ideas and suggestions from approximately 30 youths and adults who attended.

Trayner McAdams of Baton Rouge, La., who builds modular ramp skateparks and playgrounds, had been invited to the meeting by Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey. He fielded questions from committee members.

Skatepark Committee vice-president Kim Cook expressed her concern that modular component parks don’t last long in the heat. The grant money could instead be used for the permanent concrete park.

"Their warranties don’t cover wear and tear," said Cook.

"Any money going towards a modular park, is money wasted that could go towards a concrete park," said Cook who was also co-chairman of the Oxford Skatepark Committee.

"Well, the kids want this thing now," said Mayor Jerry Autrey.

"If you want something now, the community could spend a few thousand [from non-grant funds] …" Cook said after the meeting.

The mayor also suggested using the city’s money to put a small portable modular park at American Legion park or even on the Downtown Square where the two zip lanes are blocked off.

"We have applied for a grant and we want to get these kids something soon," said Autrey.

Another visitor at the meeting was Tom Pittman, president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, which will enable the Skatepark Committee to accept donations as a non-profit organization.

Pittman expressed his appreciation for the committee using his organization for the non-profit status.

Through the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, a donation to the skatepark becomes eligible for a tax deduction.

Kids at the meeting signed up to make donation jugs to set up at local stores and a few parents signed up to go to businesses with a letter and ask for donations, said president Emily Griste.

The committee also discussed possible t-shirt designs and the need for a design quickly.

The kids discussed doing tricks for donations at Spring Fest.

"We could teach kids how to do tricks for tips, and they would have to wear a helmet," said Ty Ferguson, 14.

Saturday, April 21 at Malco Theatre in Oxford, a professional skateboard movie will be featured. The five dollar donation for admission will help raise funds for the park, according to vice-president Kim Cook.

"But where are we going to put the concrete park?"several people asked.

Many agreed that the J.P. Hudson Memorial Park, located between Pollard and Booth Streets and formerly home to the J.P. Hudson little league baseball program, would be a perfect place to put the concrete park.

The main question was, "Who owns J.P. Hudson, and will the city pool be used this year?"

The committee is seeking a grant writer to write a grant in order to apply for funds to help defray the $150,000 estimated cost.

Anyone who can help with the grant writing or who has information about J.P. Hudson, may e-mail batesvilleskatepark@yahoo.com or call

Planning underway for Governor’s Job Fair
By John Howell Sr.

Planning in earnest started last week for Batesville’s third annual Governor’s Job Fair scheduled for Thursday, June 14.

Last year over 1,700 job applicants visited the fair where 59 employers set up booths at the Batesville Civic Center looking for employees to fill jobs ranging from welders and truck drivers to sea captains and secretaries.

Sponsored by the Governor’s Job Fair Network and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, the Batesville Job Fair is coordinated through Batesville’s WIN Job Center.

"Basically what we’ve decided is we’re going to stick with what we’ve done that works," Batesville WIN Job Center officer manager Cindy Martin said.

Martin said she would like to include "more of the service industries," including restaurants. "We’ve had some and they have been very successful," she said.

Participants will be charged a registration fee of $150 which includes display area, tables, chair, meals and other accommodations as may be needed to facilitate the interview and screening process.

Mississippi Department of Employment Security personnel compiled data at last year’s job fair which indicated 8,174 visits to employers’ booths by job seekers. Almost 500 on-site interviews were conducted and 274 job offers were made on the day of the job fair, and another 450 people were hired based on contact made during the job fair.

The 2006 Job Fair was co-sponsored by Northwest Community College, Panola Partnership, Mississippi Army National Guard, Mississippi Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation Human Services, City of Batesville, University of Mississippi, Panola County Board of Supervisors, the Batesville Job Corps Center, The Panolian, The Southern Reporter and WIN Job Centers.


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