Headlines – 3/16/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – March 16, 2007

  From the 03/16/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Monster competition roars into Batesville
By Jason C. Mattox

The ear-pounding sounds of roaring engines crushing metal will fill the Batesville Civic Center Friday and Saturday nights when the Extreme Monster Truck Nationals hit town.

Doors open for the event at 6:30 p.m. The show will begin at 8 p.m. and is scheduled to entertain for about two and a half hours.

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The original "Equalizer," a veteran champion of monster truck shows over the past 18 years, will be featured in the Batesville shows.

Car-eating robot "Draco" will also be in action. "Draco" is billed as the world’s largest fire-breathing dragon-robot.

The Extreme Monster Truck Nationals are produced by B and M Promos under the umbrella of the American Monster Truck Association.

"Equalizer" races on the United States Hot Rod Association circuit. A former TNT Motorsports series champion, the truck is now driven by Mike Hawkins.

A new "Equalizer" was created for the 2007 campaign and cost an estimated $200,000. The original "Equalizer" will also compete in Batesville as "Hot Tamale."

Other trucks scheduled to compete include "Ragin’ Rebel," "Georgia Invader," "Get-R-Done" and "Reaper. "

Competitions will include a "no-stop car crushing," a wheelie contest, drag racing and freestyle.

Superhero Spiderman will also be on hand and kids and their parents can meet him with the purchase of a $25 VIP ticket. General admission children’s tickets (ages 3-12) are $10. General admission tickets for ages 12 and over are $17.

For more information about the monster truck show, contact the Batesville Civic Center at

Commission turns down pool hall
By Billy Davis

A woman who planned to open a pool hall in which beer would be served found a room full of opposition at the monthly meeting of the county land development commission.

The land commission, which met Monday evening in Batesville, voted to turn down applicant Patricia Clendenon, citing safety as a chief concern for the unanimous decision.

The proposed business would have been located near 51 First Stop in Courtland, known also as the former Gurley’s store, at the intersection of Highway 51 and Carlisle Road.

Clendenon said the pool hall would include from 10 to 14 pool tables and a bar that served beer. The facility would host an "occasional" dance with a live band, she said.

"There’s an additional building available, so it could be expanded next door into a larger dance floor," Clendenon told the land commission during the public hearing.

The establishment would be open as late as 2 a.m., she said.

More than 60 people crowded into the county courthouse to attend the public hearing, and more than 25 people took turns voicing their disapproval during the public hearing.

Courtland Baptist Church pastor Charles Locke called Clendenon’s plans a "moral issue," saying a pool hall "breeds gambling and fights."

"If a person with impaired vision leaves that place, people will be buried because somebody pulled out under the influence of alcohol," Locke told the land commission.

Francis Ashcraft, who co-owned the former Eureka bar and grill in downtown Batesville, described the trouble of dealing with "buzzed" and drunk customers, and vices such as gambling and drug dealing that are prevalent.

"I pray you’ll consider some other business," Ashcraft told Clendenon.

Prefacing her statement, Ashcraft also asked the assembled crowd for forgiveness for having served liquor as co-owner of The Eureka.

Other attendees who voiced opposition included several Carlisle Road residents who described an ongoing struggle with drunk drivers who endanger their community.

"There’s already enough liquor sold at the convenience store," said resident Louise Smith. "This new business will only add to what’s already going on."

Panola Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright also attended to voice opposition. He told the commission that a 1972 county ordinance forbids the consumption of alcohol on the same premises where the alcohol is purchased.

When commission chairman Danny Walker pressed Bright about the technical aspect of the ordinance, such as buying beer elsewhere and bringing it to the pool hall, the sheriff responded that the pool hall is a bad idea regardless of any technicalities in the ordinance.

"I just want the board to understand we believe it will be nothing but trouble," the sheriff said.

After listening to the overwhelming opposition, Clendenon responded that convenience stores sell beer, too, and a pool hall in Batesville enjoys a good reputation in the community.

After the public hearing was closed, the land commission discussed the issue fewer than five minutes.

"I want to know, what’s the difference between a pool hall with beer and a bar with pool tables?" asked commission member Danny Jones.

"There’s no economic benefit, no benefit to community, and there’s an ordinance already in place to forbid it," Jones later said.

Jones then made a motion to deny Clendenon her application.

Sardis scrap business signs up for round two
By Billy Davis

Sardis scrap metal business Martin Bros. has applied for a second time to operate a business on family-owned property located in north Panola County.

Martin Bros. applied Monday, March 12, for a special exception to operate a commercial business in an area zoned agricultural, confirmed county permit clerk Diane Stewart, when contacted by The Panolian.

A public hearing will be held April 9 at the monthly meeting of the Panola County Land Development Commission.

The family-owned business wants to move its operation from Sardis to a 30-acre site on Holston Road.

Reached about the latest effort, Martin Bros. co-owner Henry Martin would not say if the family is again planning to operate a scrap metal yard.

"We’re just looking and exploring our options," Martin said, adding that he is trying to recoup the loss he incurred by developing the site while the matter was entangled in court.

A public notice that ran March 15 in The Southern Reporter stated the intended use as a "scrap metal business."

Martin Bros. learned last week that the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned three earlier decisions – two by county boards and one by a circuit court judge – that gave the scrap business permission to pursue its plans.

The appeals court ruling favored Dr. Mike Cockrell and his family, however, whose high-end home adjoins the would-be scrap metal yard.

Stewart said the latest application varies from the first, namely that Martin Bros. is now asking for a special exception that if approved will keep the area around its business zoned agricultural.

The first application, which came before the commission in 2005, asked for 105 acres along Holston Road to be reclassified as industrial. The reclassification included a 30-acre scrap yard.

The Martin family asked for the reclassification in anticipation of selling the acreage to industrial prospects.

The new application is in the names of Linda B. Martin, Henry Martin’s wife, and Sheryll Martin, wife of co-owner Benny Martin. The land is owned by both women.

County’s canines a heartache for some, headache for others
     A mixed-breed pooch with a hurt leg seems to be guarding his owner’s driveway in east Panola County. When an animal shelter is built in Batesville in the coming year, Panola County government must decide how to deal with the great number of dogs in the county.
(Editor’s note: this story is the second in a series).

By Billy Davis

On Hendrix Road in the Mt. Olivet community, resident Susie Sullivan wants to know if Panola County will ever draft an ordinance that addresses the roaming dogs that invade her yard.

Sullivan said she has contacted the sheriff’s department about the numerous dogs, which she says belong to a neighbor, but was told no ordinance exists to address the problem.

"We need some kind of county enforcement desperately," she said.

Half a county and a river away, Lucius Taylor Road resident Kim Talley is saying much the same thing.

Earlier this week, Talley made a surprise visit to the "second Monday" meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors, asking supervisors to consider adopting a leash law to help prevent dogs from roaming near her home.

After the meeting, Talley told The Panolian that she appeared before the supervisors as a spokesman for the West Como Neighborhood Watch.

Panola County government has plans to tackle the overpopulation of stray dogs by partnering with the City of Batesville to help build and fund an animal shelter in Batesville.

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey has said in recent weeks that he hopes to break ground on the shelter in 2007.

The city will operate the shelter, Autrey also said, but city officials and supervisors must still work out details, namely the funding.

Still another detail to work out is how Panola County will benefit from contributing tax dollars to a city-operated animal shelter.

According to District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, he envisions the sheriff’s department employing an animal control officer to pick up stray dogs.

Avant, who serves as board president, also suggested the county may clamp down on "loose dogs," which are dogs whose owners allow them to run free beyond their property.

"I think you have to keep a dog close to home and in a pen to maintain control of the animal," Avant told The Panolian. "I think the safety of the public is important."

District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins envisions a crackdown only on stray dogs, however, and suggested a "collar law" may be a possible compromise.

"A dog that doesn’t have a collar looks like a stray," he said.

Perkins said the board of supervisors "tossed around" the idea of a collar law in years past but, as best he could remember, encountered legal problems when the idea was researched.

"The problem I see out my way are stray dogs. It’s not dogs that people own," Perkins said. "We need to get the stray dogs under control first."

Perhaps no one in Panola County is more anxious to see an animal shelter in operation than the Panola County Humane Society. Though few in number with six active members, the organization has been a leading voice for the construction of a shelter.

The City of Batesville currently operates a pound located east of the city limits that consists of two fenced runs. The coming shelter will be a brick building with enclosed pens, an examination room and office space.

The design will allow the shelter’s dog pens to be expanded in the future.

Humane Society member Jana Burnham said she expected a "fun" time when she joined the organization two and a half years ago, but the romanticism faded away into a heart-hurting reality.

"It’s gratifying when an animal finds a home, but I see a lot of sadness and hardship," Burnham said. "I had no idea there were so many abused and neglected animals."

The Panola Humane Society maintains a help line, a cell phone that gets swapped among members at their monthly Tuesday night meeting.

Humane Society member Suzan Graves said she passed the phone last week after having "phone duty" during February and March. Asked about the frequency of calls, she reported receiving fewer than when she took phone calls last November.

The reason? She changed the voice message two weeks ago from simply "leave a message" to a more direct statement: the Humane Society is trying to help build a shelter but right now is not equipped to pick up stray dogs.

"Even after I changed the message I heard things like, ‘I’m going to shoot this dog unless you pick it up,’" Graves said. "When I hear that, I can’t sleep at night."

Aldermen set hearing for vicious dog law
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville aldermen on Thursday voted to hold a public hearing as they grappled with the town’s existing animal ordinance and growing concern among some citizens regarding vicious dogs.

Aldermen voted to hold a public hearing on May 1 at 1 p.m. to discuss a vicious dog ordinance.

"I think we should discuss this, but I believe we need to hear some input from the community before we act on it," Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger told his colleagues.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley agreed.

"This is going to be an emotional subject, and we need to study it and get as much input as we can before we do anything," he said. "But I do think we need to do something."

Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said the hardest part about the ordinance will be defining the term "vicious animal."

"What we consider to be a vicious animal, other people may not," he said. "We need to handle this carefully."

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said she was unaware of a potentially vicious dog in her own neighborhood, but noticed it after the board began discussing the problem with vicious animals.

"Since we started talking about this, I noticed there is a dog down the street from my house that is chained to the front door," she said.

Pounders added that the city did not need to focus on a single breed of dogs like pit bulls.

"Teddy is right, the hard part is deciding what is a vicious animal," she said. "We don’t need to engage in canine racism."

Dugger said he believed, vicious or not, the animals should be kept in enclosed fences when outside.

Mayor Autrey said one issue that could create a problem for the city is a lack of a proper holding facility for any dogs taken off the streets.

"We know the animal shelter is coming, but we also know it isn’t here yet," he said.

Manley suggested waiting until after the animal shelter is operational before adopting an ordinance.

"I don’t think we need to put it off that long," Pounders replied.

Dugger said he believes the city should also consider the way a dog is trained or handled when defining the term "vicious animal."

"I think one of the biggest reasons these dogs act the way they do is because that is the way they were trained to act," he said. "I don’t believe any dog is naturally born to fight."


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