Rupert Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 1, 2009

Rupert Howell

Proposed gravel pit? ‘I’m for my friends’

Things are a little tense out our way these days.

It seems that a couple of landowners, more specifically Boss and Slick, want to sell rights to mine property in our area for gravel.

Before the deal can go through, Memphis Stone and Gravel must get a special exemption for the property that is currently zoned agricultural.

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While the Panola County Land Use Commission will make a recommendation to the Panola County Board of Supervisors, it will be supervisors who make the ultimate decision.

A group of opponents, some neighboring residents in the Eureka and Good Hope Road area, are petitioning the board of supervisors. Reasons of their objections range from dust, noise and traffic to road safety, changing the pastoral setting that agrarian communities usually possess, and home devaluation.

It has been estimated that as many as 100 trucks per day may make the round trip during peak use to the location approximately six miles south and east of Batesville on Eureka Road.

Proponents say that the facility provides jobs and income. They think hauling material from the facility should be given the same status as hauling logs to the mill, cotton to the gin and crops to market. Some also hint it may be discriminatory as residents have long been accustomed to the Cosby family’s business. They anchor a portion of the area and have been driving trucks on the aforementioned roads for three or four generations. They also mention the Memphis Stone and Gravel Company follows all laws concerning the mining operation and reclaims the property once mining is complete.

A sign was placed at the proposed site and a legal notice was published in this newspaper to notify citizens of the upcoming hearing. Apparently not many opponents paid much attention.

When a reporter from this newspaper questioned some of the adjacent home and landowners prior to the hearing, not many were concerned and few wanted to go on record being against it. We considered it a non-story — at least until the public hearing, where we send a reporter each month.

It wasn’t that many years ago that our road, Pittman, was a one-lane gravel road with three houses. Other than the mailman and school bus, there was little traffic — maybe a few extra pickups during hunting season.

When neighboring acreage was sold and subdivided, our little world changed. No longer could my wife walk down the road with the yard dogs singing to her heart’s content. No longer did we know every vehicle that went by and where they were going.

It was around the same time that Wal-Mart moved to Highway 6 and I-55 and not long after a shiny bright convenience store moved just a few miles from us on Eureka Road.

The nights weren’t the same as the outside lights polluted our darkness. Traffic increased — many going to the new subdivision on our road. Dust was constantly stirred so we couldn’t keep our windows open during nice weather.

But that road is now paved and the dust is gone. Nice neighbors moved in and the community water system put a line to the once remote road.

Life on Pittman Road will not be the same after the changes, but I can’t say that it is bad — just different.

As residents of our community debate the pros and cons of this matter, they need to keep their focus on the issues and not personalities. When it’s all said and done we’ll all have to live among each other and make do with the situation that’s left to us.

Repeating wiser men’s words: “I have friends for it. I have friends against it. And I’m definitely for my friends.”

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”