County cuts aid to city

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, December 12, 2017

County cuts aid to city


By Rupert Howell
Panola County supervisors voted 4-1 to discontinue moving dirt from Batesville’s Civic Center in answer to the Batesville board’s unwillingness to pay a portion of ambulance service currently provided by the county.
“I make a motion we stop moving the dirt at the civic center. . . I’m sick of this crap,” Supervisor John Thomas said Monday after Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar got approval from that board to have a joint meeting with city and county representatives, attorneys and administrators to hammer out issues that have been brewing between those boards’ members.
Supervisor James Birge quickly seconded the motion to not move the Civic Center dirt. It passed 4-1 with board president Cole Flint stating that he wanted to give the issue a little more time and was the only dissenting vote.
The county has in the past assisted the city by removing dirt from the floor with county equipment and labor from Batesville Civic Center when it is used for rodeos, livestock shows and other events requiring the soft dirt floor and then moves it back outside the arena for events that require the concrete floor. It began with a once a year floor turnover from dirt to concrete and back but has since become more regular.
County supervisors have complained over a period of years that they are doing more for the city than the city is doing in return and cited a cost of $500,000 for materials and labor used in readying a roadbed for House-Carlson Road that was a joint city/county project.
The county negotiated additional coverage when they advertised for ambulance service proposals knowing the additional service was going to cost additional funds and then looked to the City of Batesville where a large share of calls originate to assist with the additional costs.
City officials have argued that they may not be legally able to charge city residents tax on a service for which the county is already taxing them.
Thomas’ motion was an apparent spill over from last week’s Batesville board meeting where urban planner Mike Slaughter is guiding the city towards annexation that includes the county properties such as the industrial site, airport and Panola County Jail

Sheriff Dept. Major Willie Harris received his official insignia from Sheriff Dennis Darby and Chief Deputy Chris Franklin Monday denoting his promotion from captain to major effective December 1 over the PCSO Enforcement Division.
The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell

“I would like for my board to be involved in this (annexation),” Supervisor Board President Flint said at last week’s city meeting and later brought up a hand delivered letter from supervisors to the city about the city’s lack of response that prompted members of his board to task him with seeking answers from the city.
The August letter included a request from supervisors to the city about helping fund a subsidy for ambulance service. He said that the city’s lack of response prompted members of his board to task him with seeking answers from the city.
The meeting resulted in Flint asking that board to attend his board’s meeting Monday, but Panola Partnership CEO Azar, feeling the tension, sought to have a meeting with both entities’ representative board members, administrators, attorneys and a reporter, to air grievances on neutral ground.
Azar accomplished that task Monday, but Thomas’ motion came after the agreement of supervisors to meet with city representatives.

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