Como Police Chief

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

Como picks interim chief to replace Gale

John Howell Sr.

Como aldermen named Mike Davis as interim police chief Tuesday night.

The action came after Police Chief Cleve Gale was fired in a called meeting Sunday, September 21. Mayor Judy Sumner had said that Gale was dismissed due to incidents brought before the board and having to do with job performance and the future of Como.

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Tuesday night’s meetings opened at 7 p.m. with about 20 citizens joining town officials in the meeting room of the Como library. At least six law enforcement officials, including Panola County Sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright, also attended.

Sumner said that she had interviewed the three certified officers on the police department and that two told her they were not interested in the job. Davis said that he would be willing “for a short time” while the town seeks a permanent administrator for the position.

Alderman, at the suggestion of town attorney Parker Still, voted 3 to 0 to accept the mayor’s recommendation. Aldermen Forster Ruhl, Bill Mitchell and Clark Gregory were present for the 7 p.m. meeting, called ahead of a meeting called for 7:30 to present the town budget.

Aldermen Ruby Higgenbotham and Everette Hill were absent at the first called meeting and did not vote. Both arrived during the budget meeting.

Davis was formerly police chief in Sardis and is a deputy with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

The mayor and aldermen also heard from Barbara Williams, 105 West Compress Road, Como, who voiced objection to plans by Tri-County Farm Services to build a structure next to her property.

“It’s just too close; I’m not trying to stop anybody from expanding but for me its just too close,” Williams said. She said she feared in influx of rats, roaches and snakes onto her property from the proposed structure.

Como has adopted a moratorium on new building permits until town officials can codify existing building regulations into a uniform building code. During the moratorium, anyone who wants to build must come to the mayor and aldermen for a building permit.

When Tri-County owner Rex Adair sought the permit at the September 2 meeting, the mayor and aldermen told him he needed a letter from Williams stating her approval of the construction and a map showing its location.

At the opening of Tuesday meeting, town officials had received the map but no letter.

Adair arrived at the meeting as Williams completed her remarks. He described his attempts to negotiate an agreement with Williams and her husband about the letter of approval but said that they failed to reach an agreement.

The farm supply owner said that structure he had begun is located 29 to 33 feet from the property line and that it has “been a commercial lot for decades.”

Alderman Clark Gregory asked Williams, who said she had lived at the location for 12 years, if the farm supply business had been located there when she first moved in. She replied that it was.

“Legally, in my opinion I don’t think I need the letter,” Adair said. “What I’ve done is not get the permit,” he continued. “I can’t move the building, it wouldn’t be worth anything to me,” he added.

The dialogue between Williams and Adair rose in volume until Mayor Sumner restored order with sharp raps of her gavel. She set up a meeting with the Williams, Adair and herself at the mayor’s office for 10 a.m. Thursday.

Over 10 percent of Mayor Sumner’s proposed budget of $1,158,004 for fiscal 2009 is directed at past due debt. Town officials have attempted to cope with a staggering financial crisis for over a year, during which new overdue debts have surfaced from meeting to meeting.

The debt service amount budgeted for next year totals $131,181.

The town had difficulties adopting a budget for fiscal 2008 and many payments were made under emergency provisions of state law.

The 2009 budget anticipates revenues of $284,444 from inter-governmental sources, the largest of which is sales tax returned to the municipality, $275,044.

An additional $91,600 is anticipated to be collected through the sanitation department, police department and from rents and royalties.

Como’s largest generator of income is its gas, sewer and water departments which expects revenue of $615,760 during the fiscal year starting October 1.

An additional $164,000 is anticipated from ad valorem tax collections and another $2,200 income is expected from the sales of licenses and permits.

Como’s largest 2009 expense category has been budgeted for the gas department — $448,599, of which $370,207 will be passed through to Senatobia to pay for the gas.

The town’s second greatest expense is its police department, for which $234,606 has been allocated.

Other expense items and amounts are finance and administration, $82,825; fire department, $26,650; court, $2,900; waste or sanitation, $42,075; library, $16,500; water department, $50,825; maintenance, $48,443; and Waste Management, $73,400.

Copies of the budget are available for review at the town hall and the library. A meeting is set for Tuesday, Sept. 30, to allow public comment and for final adoption of the budget.