Headlines Cont. – 4/10/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – April 10, 2007


Developer looking to build houses in Como
By David Howell

A Tennessee developer is looking to Como city officials for approval to develop a 145-acre residential tract of land in the city limits. Also included in the potential development area is another 45 acres located outside the city limits.

"I believe we have reached a peak in building castlettes," Robert Smith said, describing a unique development that would be in the same setting of many of the current homes in Como.

"I am looking at expanding the Como neighborhood," Smith said. He also said he had owned the property, formerly called the Pointer property, for more than a decade.

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The property is located on the northeast portion of Como, joining East Compress Road to the north, and the interstate on the east side. Smith said it joins about four city streets.

If the project goes as anticipated, Smith said there would be 220 to 240 lots developed within the city limits.

His request was tabled following a lengthy discussion – involving a large meeting audience and city officials – after Board Attorney Leigh Ann Darby recommended that the board give her time to meet with City Engineer David Evans regarding infrastructure questions – specifically water and sewage.

Alderman Richard Taylor asked for the matter to be tabled, but only for two weeks.

Before the matter was tabled, Evans told aldermen that he thought the city could handle water and sewage for the development. Smith and Evans had met prior to Tuesday night’s meeting.

Smith described new houses that would be designed like houses built in the 1800s through 1940. He presented pictures of many existing Como houses that could serve as models for the new homes. He also said the new neighborhood would have covenants restricting the style of homes to the format he described.

As Smith addressed the mayor and alderman, he also directed his comments to the large audience also attending the meeting.

"I want the community to know what it is we are attempting to do," he said.

He described Como as a unique community that was going to grow.

The question is, according to Smith, "How is it going to grow?"

His purpose for the visit to the meeting, Smith explained to aldermen, was for approval from board members before he proceeded.

An informal polling of aldermen by Smith did not get any vocal opposition for the concept, as long as the city could provide water and sewage services.

One question posed by Alderwoman Ruby Higgenbothom was the potential selling price for the new homes.

In his answer, Smith pointed to spiraling home prices in DeSoto County and said he would like to be in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $250,000.

"I would like it to be less," he said pointing out that the price of construction materials can fluctuate.

He explained that the price of lots in DeSoto now ranges between $70,000 and $90,000 which makes building a home there extremely pricey.

Smith also said that a portion of the property would also be developed commercially.

"Nolan West also owns a tract of land that fronts Hwy. 310. His property would be a part of the process," Smith said Tuesday night.

The commercial district is planned to be located next to the interstate and would be constructed to look similar to Main Street in Como.

Smith fielded several specific questions from aldermen and others at the meeting and stressed that the integrity of the subdivision would be maintained in this five or six-year development.

Smith said he had constructed six subdivisions over a number of decades. The most recent subdivision was constructed in Strayhorn.

Miss Hospitality nominees to be presented Thursday
By Rita Howell

Seven young women have been nominated by local civic clubs to compete for the title of Panola County’s Miss Hospitality. After an interview and modeling session held earlier, the winner will be announced at Thursday night’s annual meeting of the Panola Partnership.

Candidates are Brittany Boggan, Maribeth Cook, Brittany Flippo, Jessica Jenkins, Madison Kilgore, Lauren Russell and Alicia Wilson.

Boggan, daughter of Bob and Teresa Boggan, represents the Batesville Garden Club. A graduate of Senatobia High School, she is a student at Mississippi State University where she is majoring in English education. A member of Kappa Delta sorority, she was an orientation leader last summer and sings with the MSU concert choir.

Maribeth Cook, representing the Batesville Woman’s Club, is the daughter of Mary Jo Cook and the late Bill Cook.

She is a graduate of Magnolia Heights School and attends the University of Mississippi where she is studying biology.

At Ole Miss she is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Wesley Foundation. She is a Dean’s List scholar.

The Pope Woman’s Club nominee for Miss Hospitality is Brittany Flippo, daughter of James and Sheila Flippo. A graduate of North Delta School, she attends Delta State University where she is a nursing major.

Flippo was named Miss DSU and serves as president of Omicron Delta Kappa. She is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority.

University of Mississippi student Jessica Jenkins is representing the Junior Auxiliary of Batesville. She is the daughter of Joy Havens and Keith Jenkins.

A graduate of North Delta School, she has been an Ole Miss varsity cheerleader for two years and is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. Jenkins is named in Who’s Who Among American College Students.

Madison Kilgore, daughter of Don and Gina Kilgore, is the Batesville Lions Club nominee for Miss Hospitality. A graduate of North Delta School, she attends the University of Mississippi where she is studying journalism.

At Ole Miss Kilgore is a member of Chi Omega sorority and serves as the Daily Mississippian Online lifestyles editor. She is a member of the National Honor Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Lauren Russell is representing the Batesville Junior Woman’s League. The daughter of Allen and Connie Russell, she is a senior at South Panola High School where she is a member of the Hall of Fame and the National Honor Society. She has been named Vocational Student of the Year.

Russell plans to attend Northwest Community College to study elementary education.

The VFW post selected Alicia Wilson, daughter of Mike and Sandra Wilson, as its Miss Hospitality nominee. A graduate of South Panola High School, Wilson attends Northwest Community College where she studies child development technology.

She is involved in mission work , has served as an Upward cheerleading coach, and has appeared in the "Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames" drama production.

Police cars and communication problems discussed during Crenshaw meeting
By John Howell Sr.

Crenshaw alderman Keith Pride brought concerns about police cars repairs and police telephone communications to the April 3 meeting of the town mayor and board.

After Pride cited parts and maintenance needed on police cruisers he said, "I understand we sometimes don’t have long distance on police department telephones."

"That’s two different subjects," Mayor Sylvester Reed replied.

Reed said that Pride was naming "things that have already been ordered. … If there was a requisition filled out; we have to go through a chain of ordering," Reed added.

The discussion of police equipment prompted remarks about the visibility of officers in Crenshaw.

"There is a lot of citizens who complain that they don’t do enough," Reed said.

"Some of the citizens say they don’t move enough," Pride said, directing the discussion back to the police car repairs.

"There are reports that they are called but they don’t arrive," the mayor said, adding a remark about the cars: "Right now they are moving and decent."

"I’m going to make a suggestion that we look at new cars bought at the state contract price," alderman Shirley Morgan said.

"I have looked at a grant that we would match; the city would provide 30 percent," Mayor Reed replied.

The mayor said that the problem with outgoing long distance calls from the police department "was already like that" when he took office. Restrictions had apparently been put in place to curb abuse of the service, Reed said.

Three Crenshaw residents took advantage of the mayor’s policy of allowing questions near the meeting’s end. Cornelia Gates questioned locks not being placed on the meters of water customers whose service has been suspended for non-payment.

Crenshaw generates revenue through its water system, but the system has come under scrutiny in recent months, including a Mississippi Department of Health inspection which gave the town a 0.7 score out of a possible 5.0.

According to the MDH report, " … there are several customers that have not paid their water bills for the last few months but continue to receive water. Enforcement is necessary for the cut-off policy to be effective. Mr. Cotton [Crenshaw Maintenance Department worker Larry Cotton] stated that a purchase order was submitted for some meter locks a few months ago, but nothing was ever ordered. The system is losing revenue on these accounts," the MDH report continued.

"Water meter tampering is being looked at right now; we are ready to push such issues," Mayor Reed replied to Gates’ inquiry. "We do have some [locks] and some on order," he added.

Gates also challenged the town officials about their support for maintenance of the Sam Lapidus Memorial Library building, asking, "How many of you go to the library and see what goes on, what an asset that it is?"

"You of all people, being a teacher, should realize the value of that library," she told Mayor Reed, who is an instructor at Crenshaw Elementary School.

Mayor Reed replied that some children, "take the library as a recreation area."

"We have an excellent staff," Gates responded, adding that the staff disciplines the children who patronize the library and that the library benefits the town’s youth.

Bob Bryant followed Gates, directing his question to town attorney Mary Brown about dilapidated housing.

Abandoned buildings and unsightly, overgrown lots in Crenshaw have been a source of concern for a group of citizens who regularly attend meetings of the mayor and aldermen. Aldermen Alberta Bradley and David Whitsell regularly bring up the issue during meetings in an attempt to expedite action on tearing down old homes and cleaning up the lot. Mayor Reed just as regularly resists their efforts, citing the cost of cleanup to the town.

Earlier in the meeting, the mayor had cited the attorney’s fee of $300 for legal work in connection with a dilapidated structure that had been removed.

Bryant asked the attorney if the town clerk could initiate the proceeding by first sending a letter to person listed in her records as the owner of the targeted property. The clerk’s letter "might cut down the cost," Bryant said.

Sam Presley followed Bryant.

"I asked the same question last month," Presley said. "Does the town have a disclosure clause that would prevent certain conflicts of interest?" he asked, referring to a request during the March meeting from mobile home owner Lizzie Mae Jones who needed to relocate her trailer.

Dodson Trailer Park, the town’s one legally designated area where mobile homes can be placed, was filled, Jones told town officials at the March 6 meeting. Mayor Reed recommended designating an area on Levee Street as a trailer park and rezoning it to allow mobile home placement there.

During Jones’ remarks, it became evident that the mayor owned at least a portion of the Levee Street property he advocated, prompting Presley’s question.

"You don’t need a policy or procedure because state law requires disclosure," Brown said, replying to Presley’s question.

"Shouldn’t it be known?" Presley asked of the mayor’s interest in the land he was recommending for rezoning.

"It was brought up," the mayor said.

"After the fact," Presley responded.

"It wasn’t after the fact, it was during the meeting," the mayor said.

City leaders consider establishment of historic district in Sardis
By Jason C. Mattox

City leaders in Sardis are considering the establishment of a historic district that would consist of Main Street and McLaurin Street where the old Sardis High School building is located.

Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said he had met with a group in Jackson that informed him of the steps to take to create a historic district in the town.

"Towns all around the state have been doing this," he said. "Como did it with their Main Street and it has worked well for them.

"I know I’m not the only one hearing this, but people are always coming to me asking why we can’t be like Como," Dye continued. "I think what they don’t seem to remember is that the Como Steakhouse stood alone up there for many years."

Dye said the creation of a historic district would draw attention to the downtown area including potential businesses.

"This would really enhance the look of our downtown and it wouldn’t cost the city any money because it can be paid for with a matching grant," he said.

The mayor said the city would apply for the grants on behalf of businesses in the proposed district and the business would pay the matching money.

City attorney Tommy Shuler said the one concern people of the city might have is the committee that would oversee the renovations in the area.

"People might not like having a group of people telling them what they can and cannot do to their property," he said.

Dye countered by saying that it would be important for properties to have similar designs.

"You don’t want to have some buildings that look new and some that try to go to the older architecture," he said. "But this is all something we can discuss further."

Dye said he would get more information and present it to the board during the next meeting.


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