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Drug Task Force

City could withdraw from drug task force

By Rupert Howell

The proposed animal shelter and the Panola County Drug Task Force both took cuts if preliminary figures for Batesville’s budget remain intact following a Friday night meeting of the board of mayor and aldermen.

Board members tentatively agreed to withdraw funds from the task force that is presently funded through Panola County, the City of Batesville, grants and recovered vehicles and drug money.

The city of Batesville currently provides $80,000 per year plus one officer.

Batesville Police Chief Tony Jones and Assistant Chief Don Province said by opting out of the current agreement, their department could better use assets and personnel to crack down on  violators within the city’s limits.

The chief said that the majority of 90 drug-related cases brought to court were brought by the city of Batesville. He assured aldermen that the city’s force would work with Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics as well as local and federal agencies involved in the so-called war on drugs.

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey offered that he had met with federal officials in Oxford who he said were not happy with the current amount of cooperation from the  existing task force.

Alderman Stan Harrison recommended that $50,000 be taken from the $100,000 currently budgeted for a animal shelter, instead using those funds for the Panola Partnership and to purchase entrance signs to Batesville and street signs around the Batesville Square.

In an earlier budget meeting board members had discussed taking $10,000 from each Panola Partnership and the Batesville Main Street program. Harrison’s recommendation would put the Partnership’s funding back to last year’s level.

Harrison then recommended using the $40,000 to put welcome signs coming from the north and south on I-55 and from the east on Highway 6. Also he recommended putting decorative street name and stop signs around the Batesville Square.

An animal shelter has been proposed for several years with the local Humane Society working with city and county government to provide a shelter for stray animals.

Now that Panola County supervisors backed away from the maintenance agreement to assist with the annual upkeep for the proposed facility, city officials are not too quick to take on the entire project themselves.

“I think we all know about the dog pound,” Harrison said.

“It’s a good idea,” Alderman Teddy Morrow said asking, “But under these circumstances?”

City officials will meet again this Friday morning to discuss unfinished business and to continue the budget meetings.