June 1 storm not disaster grade

Published 9:02 am Friday, June 15, 2018


By Jeremy Weldon

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The June 1 thunderstorm and heavy rainfall that damaged more than 30 homes and businesses in Panola County did not produce enough monetary loss to qualify for state or federal relief supervisors learned Monday.

Daniel Cole reported that while 28 homes and six businesses were damaged by either fallen trees, straight line winds, or flash flooding, the damage did not rise to the level of “disaster” for either Mississippi of U.S. officials.

Such a designation would have made available a variety of low-interest loans and some grants for affected property owners. As a result, homeowners and businesses in the county will have to rely on their insurance policies for repair and renovation.

Additionally, many received immediate help from the Red Cross and other organizations well-equipped to respond to weather-related disasters. The Southern Baptists’ “chainsaw teams” from DeSoto and Yalobusha Counties were also here for several days helping move trees and large limbs off houses and property.

Cole, coordinator of the county’s Emergency Operations Management office, also gave the Board of Supervisors an update on the clean-up of the hazardous material spilled onto Pine Lodge Rd. when an 18-wheeler carrying 25,000 pounds of sulfur wrecked and later exploded on I-55 two weeks ago.

Cole said recent rains delayed the clean-up but it was finished this week. The project included removing all the spilled sulfur and several inches of topsoil in the contaminated area. The dirt was hauled away and replaced with topsoil trucked in from around the county.

Readings taken by the U.S. Department of Environmental Quality have indicated that the clean-up plan was executed properly, and no dangerous levels of the chemical is present in the soil, Cole said.

In other business, the supervisors:

• Heard the monthly ambulance and EMT response report from Cole. His office recorded 576 calls that required LifeGuard services with 275 of those generated from inside the limits of the City of Batesville. Of those, 175 were transfers from Panola Medical Center to another hospital outside Panola County.

• Denied a number of homestead exemption claims the county believes to be fraudulent. The Tax Assessor’s office used the services of the LexisNexis company to determine that some homeowners were falsely claiming to live at an address and claiming the homestead exemption thereby paying less real money in taxes.

LexisNexis software is used to research city, state, and federal files to determine which people may be defrauding the Tax Assessor’s office by comparing their listed addresses with other addresses used for daily business.

Homeowners with denied claims are afforded an appeal process.

• Gave permission to Chad Meek, the county’s Land Development Office administrator, to purchase a 2018 crew cab F-150 4×4 for $38,879.44. Meek said the payments will be made from Land Development Office money not generated from tax collections.

Meek said the truck he had been using will be passed down to Hunter Lawrence who splits time between his department and the Emergency Operations Management department. Lawrence has been using an older flatbed 1-ton truck that isn’t feasible for his work.

Cole said the EOM office will also be able to help with pay for the truck from next year’s budget because the two departments work closely together and share an employee.

The Board of Supervisors will have its next scheduled meeting on July 2 at 9 a.m. in the Sardis Courthouse.