Billy Davis’ column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to wind up $4 million spree?

You can add another issue to Panola County’s four supervisor races.

Word is out that a bank account at First Security Bank contains $1.2 million, the remains of the $4 million Panola County pocketed from its share in the 2005 sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center.  

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Of that amount, $3.5 million was quietly spent in 2006 on road paving, leaving $1,235,119 still in the bank.

The question asked here at the newspaper office last week was, “How should our county supervisors spend that remaining $1.2 million?”

Among the newspaper staff, publisher John Howell Sr. suggested spending some of the remaining money on our public libraries.

At just the Batesville branch, the public has checked out more than 89,000 books and other materials, and sat down 23,397 times at a computer, since the fiscal year began October 1.

The Panolian news editor Rita Howell suggested putting some of the hospital funds toward a Panola County museum.

Other suggestions from our newspaper staff ranged from constructing a county park, with playground equipment for the kids and a walking trail for mom and dad, to spreading money among our underappreciated volunteer fire departments.

Panolian bookkeeper Debbie Parker suggested taking just a small portion of the money to improve the look of our interstate interchanges with shrubs and trees, and a welcome sign.

“We just don’t seem to care about what visitors see when they come here,” she said. “It’s like we have no pride in how others view us.”

Building an animal shelter and investing more money in job training were other ideas tossed around here.

According to managing editor Rupert Howell, however, he sadly expects supervisors will spend most – if not all – of the $1.2 million on more roads.

Supervisors probably believe they are pleasing at least 50 percent of the voters, and therefore helping ensure their re-election in two weeks, by paving more and more roads with the hospital monies.  

“Billy, it’s been like this every election year,” said Rupert, who would be the one person in Panola County to know, since he’s reported on the Panola County Board of Supervisors ever since he had facial hair.

The Panolian receptionist Terri Howard, who lives in the Red Hill community, knows firsthand about supervisors’ longtime habit of wooing voters with election-year road work.

“I know it’s an election year because my water meter gets broken,” she told us, “because that’s the only time they Bush Hog the roadside.”

And that should be the end of the political drama over how supervisors will spend the remaining $1.2 million of the taxpayers’ money.

But I just can’t help it. I believe that the times – they are a changin’.

I believe the average Panola Countian – that’s pretty much everybody who’s reading this – believes there’s more to improve in Panola County than just our roads.

The impromptu interviews here at The Panolian were purely anecdotal, but notice that not one employee — and they hail  from the Eureka, Courtland, Central Academy, Pope and Tocowa communities — suggested paving a road.

Why? The first reason roads were not mentioned is a practical one: because most of us now live on a paved county road.  

The second reason is this: because Panola Countians yearn for a place they can be proud to call home, and to be represented by elected officials whose vision for our future stretches farther than two weeks until election day.

(How do you believe our county supervisors should spend the $1.2 million? Go to the, click on “Opinion,” and send us your suggestion).