Headlines – 4/6/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 6, 2007

  From the 04/06/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

City hopes lowering water bill raises chances for new industry
By Jason C. Mattox

Batesville aldermen voted Tuesday to offer preferential water and sewer rates to an industry considering a Highway 35 North location.

The initial offer of a reduction of about six percent in sewer and water rates for the high water volume user was reconsidered in a called meeting Wednesday when aldermen voted to offer an additional reduction.

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City leaders were made aware of the prospect by Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons, who appeared before the board to make the request.

Simmons told the board that Batesville is on the company’s short list which also includes three other towns in Mississippi that were not named.

If the industry locates to Batesville, it would employ 125 people on the opening date, with more hires coming thereafter, he told city leaders.
"We have a major industry looking at 100 acres in the area of the Panola County Airport and the Industrial Park," he said. "They are talking about constructing a 600,000 square foot building."

Simmons said representatives of the company flew into Batesville, looked at the site and left happy about the potential.

"We have been told that our site is well talked about by the company," he said.

Simmons went on to say the company would need a power and water and sewer provider.

"[Tennessee Valley Authority] and [Tallahatchie Electric Power Association] are looking at the power request," he said. "They are asking the city for support on the water and sewer."

According to Simmons, the company has asked all four semi-finalists to submit their best possible water and sewer rates for consideration.

"They are also asking that you figure the sewer on 60 percent of the water volume used," he said. "The remaining water will evaporate off and not actually go into the sewer."

Should Batesville make it to final two consideration, city officials will have to look at extending a 10-inch water line that is presently stubbed near the property.

"Right now there is only a four-inch water line that can serve the property, and that will not meet their volume needs," Simmons said.

McBride Engineering representative Blake Mendrop said the city would need to examine cost estimates and added the expansion of the line could be paid for using a Community Development Block Grant.

"Once we make it to the final two, we will definitely need to look at the line expansion and cost estimates," he said.

When discussing the water and sewer rates, Simmons informed the board that other towns in contention would be offering discounted rates.

"While I am not sure how much they will offer, I know some of the communities involved will offer discounts on the water to remain competitive," he said. "They need to know the absolute best you can do."

Simmons said Batesville’s proximity to Interstate 55 was a plus for the city’s candidacy.

"Logistically speaking, we are in a better position because of our access to I-55," he said. "Some of the others are in more rural areas.

"So the interstate access would provide them with easier access to their providers," Simmons added.

Bill Crawford of Will Polk and Associates, proposed a six percent discount on the water and sewer rates during Tuesday’s meeting but the rate was further reduced Wednesday.

With the six percent savings, the company would save nearly $15,000 per year.

"This company will use a lot of water," Simmons said. "Based on their estimates they could use a minimum of 900,000 gallons during the cooler months and up to 3 million gallons during the summer months."

Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow suggested the city look at creating an industrial rate.

"The city’s code presently states that you will look at rates for high-volume users on a case by case basis," assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders reminded her fellow aldermen that the city did not make money on water.

"We all know we don’t make any money on water, but we need to do whatever we can to get this project," she said.

Simmons added that the company was looking to invest $60 million in the project.

"That will mean a lot of new money coming into Batesville that will circulate three to five times before it gets out of town," he said. "That is a substantial investment."

Simmons was to submit a proposal to the company by noon on Wednesday. The final two sites will be announced on Friday.

Energy firm sees power in local lakes
By Rupert Howell

Four North Mississippi flood control reservoirs are the focus of a company who wants to harness the power from the outlet channels and make electricity according to legal advertisements published in local newspapers on north Mississippi.

But attorney James H. Hancock Jr., who represents the interested company, warned that this is only a preliminary move to buy the company time for feasibility studies and planning.

While a similar application was sought during the 1970s when fuel prices spiked, U.S. Corps of Engineers Operations Project Manager Jimmy Carver says new technology may make the proposal more feasible than before.

A news release from Hydro Green Energy, LLC states that company’s patented kinetic hydro power technology . . . can generate 300 percent higher power output than a standard turbine of the same size.

"The big news would be the next step," Hancock said stating that there were hundreds of these applications filed with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) on a regular basis.

The company has made application with FERC to obtain preliminary permits for Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada and Sardis Lakes which would allow that company to perform studies and planning on the project, but does not authorized construction, "…nor warrant comment at this stage," according to Hancock who noted that should the project get past the feasibility stage, Hydro Green would be then be looking for input from the areas’ citizenry.

The four proposals are similar as the legal notices state that they would utilize Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs and appurtenant facilities.

Each project would include, "powerhouses with turbine(s), water conduits, hydrokenetic generators, and a switch yard.

The Sardis plant would generate 124 giga watt hours annually while the Enid proposal would generate an estimated 86-gigawatt hours annually.

According to Carver the new method used by Hydro Green would be less "evasive" than traditional turbine type generators and should not have much impact on fisheries.

"We will just have to wait and see what they propose to install and evaluate the engineering aspect of whether we can approve such an installation," Carver said.

MDOT Trash Bash
     Jason Ware and Mike Ware were two of many local volunteers of the Miss. Department of Transportation (MDOT) who turned out in force Thursday to remove litter from state highways. The local group focused on Highway 315 east of Sardis Thursday morning.
     Trash Bash is held annually to raise awareness of the negative impact that litter contributes to the state’s image. MDOT spends over $2 million each year on litter removal.
Concert tonight kicks off Easter weekend
By Billy Davis

The monthly concert series on the Downtown Square, First Fridays, continues tonight with a Good Friday worship service led by Hosanna Family Worship Center.

Hosanna’s praise and worship team will lead in worship and has invited musicians from Crowder Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church to participate, said Hosanna worship pastor Jay Johnson.

Hosanna is a non-denominational church located near Pope.

The worship service begins at 6 p.m. at Memorial Park, located on the west side of the Square near Stubbs.

"We want to start the Easter weekend with a wonderful, worshipful experience," Johnson said.
Batesville’s Main Street Program is sponsoring the concert series.

Main Street manager Colleen Clark said a May 4 act for First Fridays has not been booked. Local county group Southern Country has been booked for June 1, she said.

Clark advised concert goers to bring a lawn chair.

Challengers await returning legislators
By Billy Davis

With the ending last week of the state legislature’s 90-day session, Panola County’s state representatives are touting their records and preparing to defend their state seats.

State Rep. Warner McBride said he will tout support for public education as he seeks re-election to a fourth four-year term. He was first elected in 1992.

McBride, whose District 10 seat represents parts of Panola, Tallahatchie and Lafayette counties, is facing an August 7 Democratic primary challenge from Gregg Hodges, a Tallahatchie County supervisor.

Batesville restaurant owner Wally Pang, who is campaigning as a Republican, will face the primary winner in the November 7 general election.

Pang is running on a theme of lobby reform.

McBride said the full funding of the Miss. Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is among the greatest accomplishments of the current session as well as the last four years of his term.

MAEP is a formula that distributes public funds among the state’s public school districts. McBride said legislators’ votes to fully fund MAEP means South Panola is set to receive $589,000 in the coming fiscal year while North Panola will receive $618,000.

"When the state doesn’t fully fund (MAEP), then the schools continue at the same level or must find a way to make it up," explained Dr. Joe Gardner in an interview this week.

Gardner, a former South Panola trustee, was elected in February to finish the four-year term of late state Rep. Leonard Morris.

Morris’ term would have ended this year, and Gardner plans to retain the seat after facing challengers in a special election and a subsequent runoff.

Gardner, who spent only weeks in the state capital before the session ended, said he spent most of that time observing the goings-on of the legislative process and learning names.

"There’s a lot to learn," he said.

Gardner said his most important vote was the full funding of MAEP.

According to the state Democrat Party election listing, Gardner’s opponents in the August 7 primary are Kay Buckley-Houston and Steve Richardson of Tate County.

State Sen. Nolan Mettetal of Sardis is facing a primary challenge from Mona Pittman of Batesville and James Johnson of Como. Republican challenger Shelly Turner of Batesville will face the winner in November.

Mettetal, whose seat includes parts of Panola and Tate counties, has served in the state senate since 1996.

Pittman is running as an ally of public education and accusing Mettetal of failing to vote in past years for MAEP, an accusation Mettetal denies.

Student arrested for making bomb threat
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Police Department has arrested a 19-year-old Job Corps student for phoning in a bomb threat to the facility.

Police officers went to the Batesville Job Corps Center at approximately 7 a.m. Thursday morning following the threat, said Deputy Chief Don Province.

Jayanta Thomas, 19, of Columbus, has been charged with making a bomb threat, a felony offense.

"We conducted a short investigation and made an arrest within an hour of arriving on the scene," Province said. "He was just doing this as a practical joke, but it got him arrested."

Province said Thomas phoned in the threat from a dorm room on campus.

Aldermen question audit deal
By John Howell Sr.

County Administrator David Chandler said Thursday that town officials in Crenshaw apparently misunderstood the language of a proposal he gave them for accounting work in November, 2005 and February, 2006.

Chandler, who provides consulting services to Crenshaw as David Chandler Consulting, had proposed a fee of $2,000 per year for two years for providing a compilation audit required by the State Department of Audit. The fee would be in addition to Chandler’s monthly fee for the budget consulting and accounting assistance he and Lygunnah Bean have provided since they were contracted in November, 2005.

When the proposal was presented at the March meeting, of Crenshaw’s mayor and aldermen, the town officials questioned whether Chandler’s proposal had included the cost of preparing the audit. The confusion continued at the April 2 meeting of Crenshaw’s mayor and aldermen when town attorney Mary Brown said that she would contact Chandler and tell him it was the town’s position that his proposal had included the cost of the audit.

"I presented that I could get the records into an auditable condition," Chandler said in an interview Thursday. Chandler said that he had agreed in November, 2005 to assist the Town of Crenshaw after town officials, at the request of District Two Supervisor Robert Avant, asked him to help the town.

"There was not any records being kept," Chandler said. Such records as existed were kept on a ledger, Chandler continued. The town was "two years behind when I started; it’s now on our system," he said. "My plans were to get them to a system and let Renee do it," he added, referring to Crenshaw City Clerk Renee Ward.

Chandler said that after he began to bring the town’s financial records into his budgeting software, he learned that the town had not been audited and had not been paying into the State Employees’ Retirement System.

"I didn’t even know that there was a compilation at that time," Chandler said. He said that he had assumed that the town would require the same type of full audit as is required of the county, which requires preparation by a Certified Public Accountant. Chandler said that he was informed that the town could be eligible for a compilation by Crenshaw resident Bob Bryant.

State Department of Audit spokesman Eddie Smith said that municipalities with less than 3,000 population could apply for a compilation when an audit or review would create a hardship. The compilation consists of a statement of cash receipts and disbursements, Smith said. An additional "Agreed Upon Procedures Report" is required of municipalities using compilations, he added.

Chandler said that he had provided record-keeping and budgeting beyond the scope of his original proposal at no extra charge but that he would not compile the compilation without being paid for it.

"I’m not begging," Chandler said. "If they want to get someone else to do it, they are welcome."


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