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Stories Written by Lena Mitchell

BOONEVILLE – Three Booneville police officers were fired in connection with an internal department incident during a special meeting of the Booneville Board of Aldermen Tuesday.

Capt. Bryan Mays, Patrolman Eric White and Patrolman Clay Koon were terminated effective immediately, said city attorney Daniel Tucker.

“There was nothing in connection with the public involved,” Tucker said. However, the board held discussion of the personnel matter in executive session and no further information about the incident is being released.

The precipitating incident happened about three weeks ago, and an internal investigation was conducted, Tucker said.

Though the police department remains fully staffed, Tucker said the three positions will be posted by police Chief Michael Ramey at an appropriate time.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Jan Mattox, postmaster for the city of Tishomingo and administrative officer over the Village Post Office in Dennis, shows customer and Dennis resident Jimmy Nunley boxes and envelopes the village post office offers. It is located inside Dennis Discount Grocery.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Jan Mattox, postmaster for the city of Tishomingo and administrative officer over the Village Post Office in Dennis, shows customer and Dennis resident Jimmy Nunley boxes and envelopes the village post office offers. It is located inside Dennis Discount Grocery.

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

DENNIS – The U.S. Postal Service concept of a Village Post Office is taking a firm hold in Northeast Mississippi with opening of the state’s second village post office site in Dennis, on Highway 25 south of Tishomingo.

A ribbon-cutting at Dennis Discount Grocery on Tuesday announced the availability of some post office services in the privately owned business to help extend local residents’ postal access.

“We’re mainly here to serve the people of our community,” said Scott Eubanks, who owns the store with his wife, Tracy. “We want to do anything we can to help.”

The store will offer first-class mail Forever stamps, prepaid Priority Mail Flat Rate products and a mail collection box.

Public officials joined in helping with opening ceremonies, including Sen. J.P. Wilemon of Belmont.

“Dennis has always been a little special to me,” Wilemon said. “My father was a sharecropper, and when I was 16 he rented a farm there and we lived there for a few years. Back then, Dennis had a school, a cotton gin, four grocery stores – two that sold gas – and a post office. Miss Kate Campbell was the postmistress, and she knew everyone, even people who lived on the rural routes.”

Although technology has drastically changed delivery of postal services, Wilemon thanked the postal service for providing a way for people in rural communities to receive more services when it is not affordable to have a full-time post office.

Eubanks said he first learned about the Village Post Office concept in a mailing from the U.S. Postal Service, and he began the paperwork about 18 months ago.

Adding the Village Post Office service is also a way to bring additional traffic into his store, Eubanks said.

The Dennis post office is open only limited hours, 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday, while Dennis Discount Grocery is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Mississippi’s first Village Post Office opened in May at the Knox Grocery in the Prairie community of Monroe County. Officials said a third Village Post Office soon will open in Northeast Mississippi in Vardaman, probably within weeks.

There are 708 such business-post office partnerships nationwide as the Postal Service seeks to cut costs.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

news_court_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Attorneys have filed a response to a lawsuit brought against the Alcorn County sheriff by a former employee who claims she endured sexual harassment, a sexually hostile work environment and retaliation against her in the workplace.

Documents filed in federal court in Aberdeen by the Jackson law firm of Daniel Coker Horton and Bell deny all allegations made by Michelle Cohoon-Loyd in her lawsuit reinstated by the court in July.

The law firm is representing Sheriff Charles Rinehart and also Alcorn County.

The filing says both Rinehart and the county:

• “had legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons for making any employment decision(s) regarding (Cohoon-Loyd).”

• “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any sexually harassing conduct of which they were aware, and (Cohoon-Loyd) unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventive or corrective measures or to avoid harm otherwise.”

• “alleged conduct was not malicious, willful and wanton, or grossly negligent, and was neither objectively nor subjectively offensive, and was neither severe nor pervasive, and was not unwelcome.”

Defendants’ attorneys further say that Cohoon-Loyd:

• “was never subjected to adverse employment action, as she voluntarily relinquished her employment from the Alcorn County, Mississippi Sheriff’s Department.”

• “has failed to mitigate her alleged damages and/or alternatively, any interim earnings received … (including but not limited to unemployment compensation and benefits) are a setoff to any attempt to secure an award of back pay or other form of damages; and to the extent (Cohoon-Loyd) has failed to mitigate her damages, there can be no recovery for damages that could have been mitigated.”

Several other responses and defenses listed in the court filing refer to matters of state law.

Cohoon-Loyd had worked in the sheriff’s office for about six years, until Aug. 23, 2012, as administrative assistant to the sheriff.

Her lawsuit, which is one side of a legal issue, claims that Rinehart – her direct supervisor – on two specific occasions in June 2012 and August 2012, tried to kiss her by force and otherwise sexually harassed her, subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliated against her in the workplace.

Cohoon-Loyd requested a jury trial and award of attorney fees, expert fees, court costs, damages and other relief as the jury may decide.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

other_crime_alt1By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

IUKA – Two suspects have been released on $10,000 bond each after being arrested by the Tishomingo County narcotics unit on drug charges related to methamphetamine.

Ross Woodward, 33, of 201 Watts Barr, Sheffield, Alabama, and Cyndalla “Cindy” Badalucco, 32, of the same address, were arrested after an Aug. 21, traffic stop by Tishomingo County Narcotics Agent Jeff Palmer.

Palmer said he obtained consent to search the vehicle and found precursors to the manufacture of methamphetamine. He arrested both suspects and charged them with possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

Badalucco is out on bond from Cullman County, Alabama, for sale of methamphetamine, Palmer said, and Woodward is out on bond from Colbert County, Alabama, for possession of methamphetamine.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Hospital volunteer Mary Stafford looks at items in the Magnolia Regional Health Center gift shop Thursday afternoon in Corinth.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Hospital volunteer Mary Stafford looks at items in the Magnolia Regional Health Center gift shop Thursday afternoon in Corinth.

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – One of Corinth’s newest gift shopping venues is a little off the beaten track.

It’s the gift shop at Magnolia Regional Health Center, located in the lobby of the hospital’s main entrance A.

A grand opening is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’ll have light refreshments and everyone is welcome,” said Pink Lady Ruth Ann Phillips.

Phillips and “Khaki Gent” Benjamin Smith – the designation for the hospital’s male volunteers – were staffing the gift shop this week, becoming familiar with the wider array of merchandise they can offer in the expanded space.

Phillips has served more than 500 hours as a Pink Lady hospital volunteer since retiring from working many years in the office at Alcorn Central High School. Smith has been a Khaki Gent since moving to the Corinth area about two years ago, and all of their volunteer time is in the gift shop.

“We’ve added more clothing, pottery, a new line of candles, new monogrammed note cards and a new line of greeting cards,” Phillips said.

The gift shop is beside the lobby waiting area, separated by a wall of glass, so is much more visible and the items inside more enticing to passers-by.

“People sitting in the waiting room have a beeper, so they’ll come in a browse while they’re waiting for it to go off,” Phillips said. “All of the merchandise moves pretty good, but we have our everyday candy people.”

Shopper Marilyn Dodd of Corinth bought gifts for her newborn twin granddaughters and even early Christmas gifts. Dodd said she loves shopping in hospital gift shops.

“You find unique gifts you cannot find in other shops,” Dodd said. “They must have a unique market, and this one is a beautiful place.”

Among the gift items available are handbags, jewelry, angels, crosses, canvas paintings, flowers in bud vases and much more.

“Our buyer Gail Shepherd and gift shop supervisor Peggy Treadway go to different markets to find the merchandise we offer,” Phillips said. “Traffic has been good for everything, and lots of people come in for baby gifts.”

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

HOLLOWAY

HOLLOWAY

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – The new parks director presented a budget for Corinth parks operations to the county and city boards this week with a higher bottom line based on a planned park expansion, additional staffing and new programs.

The budget for the 2015 fiscal year presented by Parks and Recreation Director Ray Holloway is $904,277, which includes seven employees, department operations, supplies and capital equipment to operate the Crossroads Regional Park on Parkway and the E.S. Bishop Park on John Street.

The parks are supported by ad valorem tax revenues of 2 mills in the city and 1.6 mills in the county, which has brought in about $445,000 per year in recent years.

Holloway told Alcorn County supervisors and Corinth city aldermen during his budget presentations that the expanded park and programs will require increased management and upkeep. Crossroads Regional Park is jointly owned by the city and county.

The budget request includes hiring five new park employees to replace contract positions and also includes funds to replace several pieces of equipment and a vehicle.

The budget request was taken under advisement by both boards. Supervisors are set to finalize the county budget after a 9 a.m. Sept. 15 public hearing. Corinth plans a second budget work session for 10 a.m. Aug. 28. State law requires that budgets be finalized by Sept. 15.

In late 2012, when discussions began about expanding Crossroads Regional Park, both the county and city boards agreed they would allocate about $175,000 – $112,500 from the county and $63,000 from the city – to the parks budget for ongoing operations and maintenance that was previously allocated for Crossroads Arena operations.

For the past two fiscal years the Crossroads Arena has received $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, from the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for operations.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

town_corinth_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Six applicants were awarded $63,000 in grants during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A $25,000 grant was awarded to the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission to assist with work to prepare the Veranda-Curlee House Museum to open for visitation. Commission board members submitted the request last month that includes new interpretive signage and other innovations, marketing brochures, as well as handicap-accessible restroom facilities.

A $25,000 grant will go to the Corinth Coliseum to help with capital improvements that will make the facility more marketable and accessible for more tourism events.

A new band competition planned to take place Oct. 18 at the Corinth stadium is being promoted as a tri-state event and expected to draw 10 to 20 bands, said Tommy Thompson, director of music education at Corinth High School. The event was awarded $5,000.

The 24th annual barbecue cookoff on Oct. 2-4, also was awarded $5,000, and is expected to draw about 40 cooking teams for the sanctioned event of the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

The Corinth Area CVB will support the Oct. 4, Rotary 5k Run with a grant of $2,500, and printing of flyers for the March 8-9, 2015, Corinth Civil War and Militaria Show with a grant of $500.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – The Alcorn County Board of Supervisors took under advisement a recommendation that the salary of the county’s veteran service officer be increased by $1,000 per year.

The board met in executive session after the regular county board meeting Monday to discuss the salary recommendation as well as a personnel issue in the veterans service office, said board attorney Bill Davis.

Veteran Service Officer Pat Ray presented her budget request during the meeting, but asked if she might submit a revised budget request.

Two veterans who attended the meeting recommended that supervisors give Ray a raise based on her value to the county and the funds she brings into the county on behalf of veterans and veteran survivors.

In submitting her budget request, Ray reported veterans in the county received more than $12 million in benefits: $7.567 million in direct monetary benefits; $4.413 million in medical benefits; $321,000 in vocational rehabilitation services; $188,000 in remodeling payments for veteran and survivor homes; and $138,000 in life insurance benefits.

Alcorn County has a total of 2,271 veterans drawing benefits, she said.

Ray’s current salary is $32,000 per year and if approved a raise would increase her salary to $33,000 per year, Davis said.

A public hearing on the county’s budget will be held at 9 a.m. Sept. 15, the next regular board meeting.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

county_prentiss_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

BOONEVILLE – The summer-long project to upgrade every aspect of computer systems for the Prentiss County School District is nearing completion, and 40 new computers will be installed throughout the district to give students improved access to the new network.

New Internet connections for district administration and at each campus website will be supported by a fiberoptic network that takes the district “from a two-lane road to an eight-lane highway,” said Luke Ledbetter, the district’s technology coordinator.

“We have seven sites that have been built from the ground up,” Ledbetter told the school board during its regular meeting Monday.

The board also recognized testing coordinator Brenda Bolen with a certificate of appreciation for her work over the summer securing a $20,736 grant to purchase 40 new computers.

The Appalachian Regional Commission grant, with a $5,184 match from the district, for the district’s technology improvement project will allow 10 computers to be installed in each of four programs: health sciences, business fundamentals and marketing, auto services technology and teacher academy.

One final campus site awaits fiberoptic installation before the new websites go live at www.prentisscountyschools.com, Ledbetter said. Completion is expected in the next few weeks.

The main administrative website will include links for parents to look at student attendance and grades on Active Parent, read news from the district, see calendars and more.

Each school website links to the main district website and also contains school news; a school calendar; capacity for each teacher to have a webpage for homework and other information; and capacity for clubs, organizations and sports teams to have a webpage.

The school board on Monday also approved a Twitter and Facebook presence for the district website only, where one-way outgoing communications would be posted, but which would not accept posts.

Ledbetter thanked the webmasters for each site who have helped develop the project and who will maintain the sites: Danielle King, Marietta; Lori Taylor, Hills Chapel; Chris Butler, New Site; Amy Moore, Jumpertown; Deanna Arnold, Wheeler; Michael Johnson, Thrasher; and Bill Glover, Vo-Tech.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Alcorn County supervisors approved a resolution to proceed with a bond sale to finance as much as $5.75 million to be used for expansion and renovation of Crossroads Regional Park.

The vote came after no formal protests to the bond issue were filed by the Monday deadline.

A formal protest of the bond issue required at least 1,500 qualified electors in Alcorn County to sign a petition.

However, county resident Jon Newcomb lodged a verbal protest during Monday’s county board meeting, saying his views also represented other county taxpayers.

Newcomb said he did not oppose any effort to improve sports and athletic facilities, but felt the amount of the bond issue was too high for approval without being put to a vote, and there were other priorities more important to county taxpayers.

Board attorney Bill Davis said the notice of how voters could protest the bond issue had been properly published in a newspaper legal notice four times and no petitions had been received.

Board of Supervisors President Lowell Hinton, District 1 supervisor, gave Crossroads Regional Parks Director Ray Holloway a chance to respond to some of Newcomb’s concerns.

Holloway said the Corinth park ranks among the lowest in the state – even in the region – for its park budget.

He said there are a number of opportunities the park would have for bringing in more tourism resulting in an economic boost for the city with the park upgrades that are planned.

While the park’s current facilities are geared toward many types of athletic events, Holloway said his goal is to expand park services to include more services for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Administrative procedures to conduct the bond issue probably mean the bonds would not be sold before early 2015, Davis said.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com