Vernice Avant fundraiser

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2011

Supervisor holds fund-raiser at  Rolando factory

By Billy Davis

Panola County Supervisor Vernice Avant held a political fund-raiser Saturday at the still-unopened Rolando plant in Crenshaw.

Flyers circulated around town advertised a “fun filled carnival,” with a $2 admission fee, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

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The event advertised hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn, music by D.J. “Manish Guy,” and free health screenings.

“The people that came had a good time,” Avant said of the fund-raiser.

Avant is serving her first full term as District 2 supervisor after the death of husband Robert in 2008.

Mrs. Avant, a Democrat, faces two fellow Democrats in the August 2 primary. A Republican will be on the ballot in November.  

Mrs. Avant’s Saturday fund-raiser came a day after The Panolian reported Rolando has failed to pay taxes for 2008, 2009, and 2010.

A Meridian company, High Sierra Tax Sale Properties, Inc., paid the 2008 property taxes. The company is set to obtain a tax deed to the plant when the taxes mature in August.

Avant said Monday she was unaware of Rolando’s past-due property taxes.

The cavernous plant at 101 Jones Street in Crenshaw remains a sore issue for some in Panola County government — and for taxpayers — after the Board of Supervisors gave the plant to Rolando CEO Roland Butler, after he had promised hundreds of jobs to produce bottled water, juice and other products.

Rolando gained ownership of a factory that had housed the Plumley rubber company and was Crenshaw’s sole industrial employer until it shuttered its doors.

Robert Avant had urged other supervisors to donate the land and property to Butler for job-hungry Crenshaw, then defended the businessman as promised opening dates came and went.

The Panolian later learned Butler had used the factory as collateral to obtain a $1.4 million loan from a Colorado-based financier.

Butler told The Panolian in 2008 that he had promised Mr. Avant, then on his deathbed, that the plant would open within a few months.

Mrs. Avant has also defended Butler. In 2009, during a special election for the seat, she said Butler’s personal investments had increased the value of the plant and property.

That same year, when in office, Mrs. Avant was the sole Panola supervisor to say she backed Butler’s failed attempt to obtain a loan from the Mississippi Development Authority, the state’s economic development agency.  

Mrs. Avant said Monday she chose the Rolando plant for a fund-raiser because the facility is fenced and the event was charging an entry fee.

She said the gates were unlocked by a Crenshaw resident who is still in charge of the upkeep of the grounds.

The fund-raiser flyer advertised Saturday’s location as the “The Old Plumbly [sic] Building” at 101 Jones street.