Headlines – 3/23/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – March 23, 2007

  From the 03/23/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Alderman questions cable co.
By Jason C. Mattox

Cable One general manager Pete Peden told the Batesville board of mayor and aldermen on Tuesday that supplying cable service to Tri-Lakes Medical Center was cost prohibitive at this time.

Peden was present for the meeting at the request of the board after Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders brought up service to Tri-Lakes Medical Center during a work session March 15.

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"We want to know what the status is of getting service to the hospital and residents east of town," said Pounders, who is employed by the hospital as a physician recruiter.

Peden said the matter was still being considered and that the company has always considered expanding service along Highway 6 East to accommodate residents such as those in the Hunter’s Trace area.

"But, there’s only about 40 homes out there now and that will not be enough return on the $175,000 investment we would have to make," he said.

Pounders interjected that those numbers do not include Tri-Lakes.

"To me, the hospital would be a big help to that potential investment," she said.

Peden said, when the hospital was originally planned for construction, Cable One met with the administrators and worked on a deal, but it fell through when the hospital changed direction.

"We spent a lot of time out there doing engineering work and even went as far as preparing them a rate structure, and they backed out of the deal," Peden said.

Pounders told Peden she would get a letter from the new administration at Tri-Lakes requesting the service.

"If you get the letter for the hospital requesting the service, will that make your decision?" she asked.

Peden said that would still not be enough to make the decision.

"You have to understand that that people are not moving across the highway because they cannot get cable," Pounders said. "And you know there is development coming in that area that could include a hotel."

Peden acknowledged that future development in the area, including the proposed Covenant Crossing area, would make the company’s decision to expand more possible.

State rep’s wife appointed trustee
By Rupert Howell

Ella Gardner was appointed to fill her husband’s former seat on the South Panola School Board at the monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Joe Gardner has recently been elected to serve in the Mississippi Legislature and remaining school trustees are obligated to appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election in November.

Ella Gardner retired from teaching after a career of more than 30 years. The last school where she taught was Green Hill Elementary in Sardis.

She is a Panola County native, attended Patton Lane High School, graduated from Mississippi Valley State University in 1972 with a B.S. in biology and was re-certified to teach elementary education at Ole Miss.

Asked if she would be a candidate for the remainder of the unexpired trustee term and the five-year term in 2008, Gardner replied, "Let me get my feet wet first."

Kim Renfro was elected by fellow board members to serve as vice president of the board also at Tuesday’s meeting. Rep. Gardner had previously served in that position and Renfro was the most senior member in years served and reluctantly accepted the position.

She will preside at the April 17 meeting when Mrs. Gardner is scheduled to take the oath of office as board president Lygunnah Bean will be away.

Mrs. Gardner was one of four people considered for the position, according to trustees who said that they were individually contacted by people interested in being appointed to the position.

Others considered besides Gardner were Jerry Cooley, Belinda Faye Morris and Guy Walker.

Bean said others had shown interest but were either ineligible because they did not live in the proper sub-district or had spouses employed in the school district who would have to resign so that they could legally serve.

Statutes prohibit a family member living under the same roof of a board member from being employed by that board with certain exceptions.

State law also prohibits members of the legislative branch of government from serving in executive positions, such as school board members, causing Rep. Gardner to resign upon his election.

Potential candidates who wish to qualify to run for the remainder of the trustee term, which ends December of 2008, will have to qualify between August 1 and September 7 to run in the November, 2007 election. Those wishing to qualify for the full term would run for election in November of 2008.

Trustees are elected to staggered five-year terms.

Abner’s will move into prime Batesville locale
By John Howell Sr.

Abner’s Restaurant will soon open a Batesville restaurant in the old Boonie Mae’s location, according to J.W. McCurdy of Oxford.

Application for the sign permit for Abner’s was recently filed with the Batesville Code Enforcement Office, administrator Pam Comer said.

McCurdy said that Abner’s offers quick service in casual dining featuring "Famous Chicken Tenders?." He said that he hopes to be open by mid-May or early June.

McCurdy is the grandson of Mrs. J.W. McCurdy of Bay Springs, formerly of Batesville, and the late J.W. McCurdy who commanded Batesville’s National Guard unit in the 1960s.

On another economic development front, construction of a Walgreens drug store will soon begin at the intersection of Highways 6 and 51. The construction permits have been applied for and are nearing completion, Comer said.

Plans for Starbucks are currently under review and are expected to be approved soon, Comer said. The gourmet coffee restaurant, which announced its plans last year, will build on House-Carlson Drive near Highway 6 East.

Yalobusha County supervisors and board attorney John Crow were negotiating at presstime with representatives of Windsor Foods about the former Mississippi Beef Processors facility at Oakland. The meeting is part of ongoing negotiations involving the potential purchase of the Oakland facility that formerly housed Mississippi Beef Processors LLC.

Windsor Foods produces high-quality frozen foods for the consumer market, restaurants, and food service operations. The company operates 27 production lines and nine manufacturing plants in six states.

The North Mississippi Herald newspaper in Water Valley broke the story of Windsor’s involvement in its Wednesday, February 21 edition. The Clarion-Ledger newspaper followed the Herald with the news on the front page of its Thursday edition.

     Regions Bank hosted an open house on Tuesday to introduce its city president, Dave Smith (right), and other new staff members to Batesville customers. Shown talking with Smith are (from left) Annie-Glenn Howell, Rufus Manley, and Lenny Bennell.
‘Yokels’ show hits year four
By John Howell Sr.

When Ricky Swindle started his Local Yokels Show on radio station WBLE, he envisioned it as an eight-week venture, an advertising gimmick for his business, Batesville Tire and Muffler.

With this Saturday’s Local Yokels’ broadcast, listeners will join Swindle and co-host Johnny Pace to celebrate the show’s fourth anniversary.
"Hey, man, we’re having a ball," Swindle said this week in anticipation of Saturday’s milestone.

Through the Local Yokels Show, Swindle promotes local musicians, local benefits and causes tempered with his own local sense of humor occasionally seasoned with a tinge of sarcasm. For Swindle, local is loosely defined. The music comes from musicians "mainly from folks around here," and then "Mississippi in general," he said.

But primarily, "a Local Yokel Show connection will get you played," Swindle continued.

The format has allowed air time for a number of musicians either from Panola County or with "connections" here. The quality ranges from very good – "people who could play with anybody" whose records are regular Top 40 features to some that "probably don’t need to get played," he said.

But get played they do, all of them – at least once. Swindle’s criteria is that they must be studio-recorded.

From among local song submissions, the most requested are those by J. W. Luttrell, Swindle said. Others often requested include recordings by Randy Boyette, Beth Aldridge, Ladd Rogers and Larry Hall.

Those requests come in by phone during the program’s air time from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. "We’ll average 40 phone calls on a show;
Leigh just gets plumb worn out," Swindle said, referring to his wife – "Leigh-Leigh," who has worked a full week at the Tri-Lakes Medical Center emergency room by the time Saturday mornings roll around.

Occasionally, Swindle and Pace shift to "sho-nuff locals" – Elvis Presley, Tammie Wynette and other world-renowned Mississippi-born singers and song writers. But most shows revolve around strictly local musicians, many of whom grew up in Pentecostal musical traditions in western Panola County and eastern Quitman County.

Swindle said that the idea for his show is a "spinoff of the original Pentecostal Hour with Preacher Newsom." That program was broadcast live from WBLE featuring John Waldo and his family, the "Weaver girls, Martha Blackmon and her girls," and others all of whom gathered at the radio station for the live Sunday morning broadcast.

"I even sang on that show when I was six or seven years old," Swindle said.

The part-time broadcaster said his show is live, also. The music comes from CDs, but when they skip or when baubles arise, "for 60 minutes, it’s all out there," he said.

"I’d rather play at the Local Yokels’ on Saturday morning than at a honky tonk on Saturday night," Swindle continued. "I don’t have no desire to play in a bar again."

Join Swindle, Pace and assorted guests Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m., at 100.5 FM.

Slow-moving Rolando shows hiring progress
By Billy Davis

A plan to bring Maryland-based Rolando Foods to Crenshaw is still making progress despite being months behind schedule, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said this week.

"It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be bigger than we thought," Avant told The Panolian.

Coincidentally, Avant said Rolando CEO Roland Butler may speak to the board of supervisors today when the board meets for a 9 a.m. bid opening.

That update could include an explanation from Butler about why the food company has fallen short of several announced dates, beginning as far back as October of last year, to begin production of food products such as juices and coffee.

To lure Rolando to Crenshaw, the board of supervisors handed over ownership of the former Dana plant, which was owned by the county. That transfer took place last July.

Butler has repeatedly placed all blame on the delayed building and delivery of stainless steel machinery that will form the production lines.

Butler told The Panolian in February that the July closing delayed the ordering of the equipment. He told the newspaper for its February 2 edition that the equipment would be delivered "in the next week or so."

Reached this week, Avant said he was told by Butler that the production equipment had to be reconfigured at the factory in order to fulfill new food orders.

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons said he was told a similar story from Butler, specifically that Rolando was changing the equipment to satisfy a request from casinos for individual coffee packets.

Simmons also reported a more positive development, namely that he met with Butler and the company’s new president three weeks ago.

Simmons said the president, Jeffrey Carl Harper, has been in communication with him via e-mail with questions about job training for Rolando Foods employees. Simmons said he directed Harper to Northwest Community College and the WIN Job Center.

At Butler’s request, the board of supervisors agreed in November to give a 90-day deadline through February 15 for the hiring of hourly employees.

Avant said he was unaware of any hirings locally, though he added that he has met management staff that is planning to relocate to Mississippi.

Cindy Martin, customer operations supervisor for the WIN Job Center, confirmed the employment agency has been in communication with Harper in recent weeks.



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