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county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Alcorn County purchase clerk William “Paul” Rhodes was placed on indefinite administrative leave with pay this week by the Board of Supervisors.

The board met Monday in executive session after its regular meeting to consider action with regard to Rhodes, who was arrested last week and charged with hindering prosecution in the first degree, a class 1 felony.

The charge is related to an ongoing investigation by the state auditor’s office concerning public corruption in the county.

Rhodes was charged Thursday with hindering an investigation after representatives of the state auditor’s office allege he shared documents with an elected official who is being investigated for embezzlement.

During an unofficial information meeting before the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors, State Auditor Stacey Pickering said during the investigation, which has been ongoing since December, Rhodes, 54, went through investigation files, copied documents and shared them with Alcorn County District 2 Supervisor Jimmy Dal Nelms.

The affidavit charging Rhodes reveals the auditor’s office has been investigating Rhodes and Nelms, along with several Alcorn County vendors, for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy “designed to embezzle and/or convert money, equipment and property from Alcorn County,” since December.

A hearing for Rhodes is set for Sept. 17, and county attorney Bill Davis said the board will review its decision once the outcome of the hearing is known.

Deputy purchase clerk Jill Goodwin and accounts payable clerk Debbie King will assume most duties of the office in Rhodes’ absence.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

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J.B. Clark contributed to this report.

county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Almost a year after plans for a Corinth park expansion were first discussed, the financing plan is moving forward to make the project a reality.

Alcorn County supervisors voted Monday to proceed with a proposed bond issue, approving a resolution of intent and setting a public hearing for 9 a.m. Aug. 18.

Attorney Sam Keyes of the Butler Snow law firm reported to the board that details of using a financing arrangement that draws on the tourism tax funds available to the Crossroads Arena have been worked out.

The board approved a second resolution to use Butler Snow for the public financing arrangements, financial adviser Demery Grubbs and board attorney Bill Davis to manage the details.

Butch Carmichael, park commission chairman, and park director Ray Holloway presented the final drawing from Cook Coggin Engineers that incorporates more than 25 additional acres along Droke Road on both sides of Clarke Street.

Holloway’s background includes leading several park expansions in previous jobs, and since assuming Corinth’s directorship about three weeks ago he has given input on the new design.

The plan consists of five new ball fields, with a concessions building in the center, 650 new parking spaces and 12 RV spaces. The property (4.4 acres) on the west side of Clarke Street will be soccer fields.

There will be two new restroom facilities on the original side of the park; two of the older three tennis courts will be rehabilitated and the northernmost tennis court will be converted into a multiuse court of a variety of different games targeting all age groups.

The gravel parking lot beside the tennis courts will be paved and Clarke Street will be widened. A new playground will be added to the Northwest corner of the new ball fields and sand volleyball courts will be located beside the playground.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

town_corinth_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Corinth park and tourism officials are now armed with ideas how to improve the Crossroads Regional Park renovation and expansion.

Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center gave design feedback last week from MSU School of Architecture student Hannah Waycaster, with oversight by Carl Center Director John Poros. Waycaster has been working on design ideas based on feedback from survey responses of park users.

Working from the park’s current design and usage, Waycaster presented two design ideas – one designated a maximum softball plan and the other a maximum soccer plan.

The two designs – which Poros said are not for public dissemination but for consideration by the decision-makers – incorporate the additional property which the park is clearing for a planned $5.3 million renovation and expansion.

Waycaster presented the designs to Butch Carmichael, chairman of the park board; newly-appointed park director Ray Holloway; Russell Smith, chairman of the tourism council and Christy Burns, tourism executive director.

Holloway, whose background includes leading several park expansions in previous jobs, said he was pleased with the concepts, particularly allocating more space for soccer. However, he noted that the balance of programming in parks ebbs and flows as to popularity of various sports that attract children through teens, whether it’s baseball, soccer, football, softball and so forth.

The priority always should be attending to the needs of the base constituency, he said: senior citizens, walkers, young children and other regular non-sports users.

To that end, Holloway said he favors including a water activity, a splash pad or spray park rather than a pool; more playground space; and a multipurpose clubhouse that would more effectively serve senior citizens. Clearing of the expansion property is almost completed, and supervisors have on the agenda for today an item to move forward with funding for the expansion and renovation.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

HOOD

HOOD

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

IUKA – Pickwick Pines Resort and owner David McMeans have agreed to pay the state of Mississippi a total of $260,000 as settlement of a consumer protection lawsuit brought by Attorney General Jim Hood in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

McMeans agreed to pay $10,000 to the attorney general’s office within 30 days of the June 6 order, and agreed to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and expenses totaling $250,000.

The maximum civil penalty of $10,000 per violation will be paid to the Mississippi Attorney General‘s Consumer Protection Fund to be used for consumer education, the cost of consumer protection equipment, investigations, and litigation, and any other legal purpose relating to the Consumer Protection Division.

Hood initially filed a civil complaint against McMeans and multiple Pickwick Pines business entities for unfair and deceptive business practices that included misrepresentation of fees charged to resort property owners and people leasing properties.

In addition to the attorney general’s action, a group of homeowners acting together as the Pickwick Pines Association of Homeowners have been in legal battle with McMeans in federal court as well, over multiple issues including escalating annual fees.

Agreements the resident consumers signed with Pickwick Pines indicated the mandatory annual fee of $600 when the resort opened in 2003 would be locked in as long as the purchaser owned the property. However, the annual fee escalated to $1,800 and has remained at that amount since 2007.

In the intervening years since original complaints were filed by the attorney general and homeowners, McMeans and his Pickwick Pines properties have gone into bankruptcy, and all claims against him have languished there for a couple of years.

In December 2013, PPAH won a temporary injunction that barred McMeans from collecting their annual fees until the attorney general’s case was settled, and they obtained a 90-day extension of that injunction in April.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

town_corinth_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – The Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded grants on Wednesday totaling $12,000 for upcoming events expected to draw audiences from across the region.

A $10,000 grant was awarded to the steadily growing Alcorn County Fair.

Danny Joe Turner and Zane Elliott, fair board members, presented the year’s schedule of the five-day event planned for Sept. 16-20.

The featured event is a sanctioned professional bull riding competition on Friday and Saturday nights that is expected to draw riders from a number of different states, Turner said.

The company producing the show – Ranchey Productions of Robertsville, Alabama – also provides an anti-bullying program at the schools, with clown Carson Citais presenting the program to the children. Free tickets to the fair will be given to the children in third grade and younger.

A new event for Corinth, a gospel stage play titled “Oh, My Child!”, was awarded $1,000 to assist with advertising.

A Corinth native and high school standout football player of the 1960s, Charlie Williams, will be part of the production, said producer and writer Rosie McGee of Austell, Georgia.

Her nonprofit organization has presented the play at many venues in Texas, Georgia and other states, and about 100 people involved with the production will be coming to Corinth from Georgia, McGee said.

The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 27, at the Corinth Coliseum, which has a seating capacity of 980, so McGee is working to extend advertising to a regional market. The program also includes music by local artists preceding the play and during intermission.

An independently produced “Back 2 School Summer Jam” received an advertising grant award of $1,000.

Corinth native DeWayne Sorrell, now retired from the Navy, is repeating an event he brought to Corinth in 2011, said spokeswoman Patrice Morrison.

The Sept. 6 event will be held at the E.S. Bishop Park on John Street, and will feature stage entertainment by musicians and dance groups from the local area and other states, as well as a variety of activities for children.

Tourism board members said they were excited to be reaching out to audiences they haven’t served before.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

other_green_newsBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Ways to turn trash into environmental treasure is on the curriculum teachers will study at Thursday’s workshop, “Waste in Place.”

The free workshop is being held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Corinth campus of Northeast Mississippi Community College, and will earn participants .5 CEUs or five contact hours, said Andrea Rose, Keep Corinth Alcorn Beautiful coordinator for The Alliance.

The Keep America Beautiful curriculum can be taught across many subject areas.

“They’ll go home with a binder filled with complete lesson plans,” Rose said.

The Waste in Place curriculum help students learn about litter prevention, beautification and community greening, recycling and managing solid waste.

“The workshop is open to any educator in the area,” Rose said, “but they will need to register by calling or emailing me.”

Some ways the concerns of reduce, reuse and recycle are addressed in the curriculum include:

• Helping children understand the benefits of reducing waste, recycling and finding ways to keep the community clean and eco-friendly.

• Identifying the many items in one’s environment that can be recycled, including aluminum and steel cans, all kinds of plastics, all kinds of paper, cardboard and food through a compost pile.

• Finding ways to reduce the amount of waste with reusable shopping bags, finding new purposes for empty containers and thoroughly using up products rather than leaving some portion in a container that is thrown away.

•Using as many chances to conserve energy as possible.

• Helping keep the community litter-free, and showing how recycling contributes to the energy economy.

“The curriculum is targeted to pre-K through sixth grade, but teachers in some of the older grades have been able to get some useful information as well,” Rose said.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

Thomas Wells | Buy at PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM Syble Pinson Mitchell unviels the new road sign dedicating a portion of Hwy 364 to her brother, Oliver Wendell Pinson, who was killed in action on May 3, 1945 while serving onboard the USS Little.

Thomas Wells | Buy at PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM
Syble Pinson Mitchell unviels the new road sign dedicating a portion of Hwy 364 to her brother, Oliver Wendell Pinson, who was killed in action on May 3, 1945 while serving onboard the USS Little.

By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CAIRO – Almost 70 years after she watched her big brother go off to fight in World War II, Syble Pinson Mitchell, 82, saw one of her most ardent wishes fulfilled.

On Friday a stretch of Highway 364 in Prentiss County was dedicated as the “Oliver Wendell Pinson Memorial Highway.”

“I don’t have the words, it is so great,” Mitchell said following the dedication ceremony. “I just wish my parents were here.”

About 100 people, including several World War II and other veterans, Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, many family and church members, attended the ceremony held at New Lebanon Free Will Baptist Church in Cairo, Mitchell’s home church.

Sen. J.P. Wilemon introduced Senate Bill 2327, to honor Seaman 1st Class Oliver Wendell Pinson, killed aboard the U.S.S. Little on May 3, 1945, after the ship was attacked by a kamikaze plane and took heavy fire, sinking in the waters about 70 miles west of Okinawa, Japan. The bill was passed in the 2014 legislative session.

Pinson left a family that included his parents, three sisters and a brother, Mitchell said. She was about 9 or 10 years old when he went into the Navy, and 12 years old when he died.

“It changed our family,” she said.

She first thought of getting the highway dedicated in his honor many years ago during a trip to Washington, D.C.

“I visited Senator Trent Lott’s office and the secretary there told me what I needed to do,” Mitchell said.

However, her husband fell ill and her focus turned to caring for him. He died, and she moved back to Cairo from where they lived in Michigan about 17 years ago. Soon after that Mitchell began efforts toward Friday’s culminating event.

One of the first people she approached to begin the process was the Prentiss County Board of Supervisors and Chancery Clerk David “Bubba” Pounds.

Pounds said during the dedication ceremony that he wished the casualties of war were not a reality, but that paying tribute to individuals who gave their lives and memorializing their tremendous sacrifice through highway dedications, renaming buildings and constructing monuments was appropriate.

State Representative Tracy Arnold of Prentiss County also championed the legislation, and along with Wilemon spoke of the gratitude for Pinson’s service and sacrifice. He presented Mitchell with a U.S. flag that had flown over the state capitol, and a copy of the bill.

By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Alcorn County supervisors acted this week to continue with two justice court judges to handle appropriate cases in the county.

The county board passed a resolution to opt out of increasing the number of justice court judges from two to three, based in a new law that went into effect July 1.

“The law section 9-11-2 sets out how many justice court judges each county should have,” said board attorney Bill Davis. “For a county with population 35,000 to 70,000 it had to be three, but an amendment was passed in the 2014 legislative session that gave counties an option.”

The law said each county should have a “competent number of justices to adequately handle the needs of the citizens.” Supervisors, in consultation with current justice court judges, feel they do not need another judge at this time, although the county population according to the 2010 census was 37,057.

Based on the 2000 census, which had the county’s population at 34,558, the previous board of supervisors anticipated the population crossing that 35,000 threshold and included office space for a third judge in planning the Alcorn County Justice Center.

However, they worked with state Representative Nick Bain, a primary sponsor of House Bill 1226 that gives counties the option, and the legislation passed this year, said third-term District 4 Supervisor Gary Ross.

Adding another justice court judge at this time would have added unnecessary cost for the county, he said.

Each justice court judge district also has a constable, and now the district lines for two districts will only need to be tweaked for small population shifts as the county prepares for countywide election qualifying in January 2015, Davis said.

The Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District will be asked to prepare the new district map in preparation for that election.

When the NEMPDD redrew supervisor district maps last year, the board delayed acting on justice court judge and constable district maps while waiting to see if the proposed legislation would pass, Davis said.

county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – The first budget request to the Alcorn County board on Monday for Fiscal Year 2015 included an increase in the tax collector’s budget of almost $40,000.

Tax Collector Larry Ross said the increase primarily originates in state law that requires all collectors be compensated for certifications they receive for gaining additional training and expertise in their work.

“I have four collectors who each received a certification that requires a $2,000 increase each beginning Sept. 1,” Ross said.

The certifications each of these staff members received is the first of three levels of additional education and training available to them. Ross himself has achieved all three levels, qualifying for a $2,000 increase for the first level, $2,000 for the second level and $2,500 for the third level.

“Senate Bill 2505 passed in the 2014 regular legislative session allows this salary supplement to tax collectors completing valid certifications,” Ross said.

The number of tax collectors also is set by law based on the number of land parcels in the county. At 21,365 parcels in Alcorn County, a minimum of three collectors of revenue is required, Ross said.

The new law allows the fund that accrues from 50 cents per car tag for an interstate allotment fee to be used for education and training as well as for the current purpose of computer updates and support, he said. In 2012-2013, the fund accrued $17,138.

Ross said other expenses that have been high-cost line items in the tax collector’s budget are postage, at $18,475 for a 12-month period, which represents mailing of three tax notices, return of mailed car tags and so forth.

Fiscal Year 2014-2015 also will include an increase in the county’s matching fund to state employee retirement accounts, as well as in the employer portion of Social Security, he said.

EASTPORT – Authorities are investigating whether the death of a man at Eastport late Saturday was an accidental drowning or the result of a medical condition.

The body of David Wesson, 56, was found floating in a slip at the marina about 7 p.m., said Tishomingo County Coroner Mack Wilemon. Wesson lived in a cabin at Eastport but was from Baldwyn.

Wesson had been out on a pontoon boat and came in to the slip, witnesses said.

“Whatever happened, he went in and his pontoon floated out,” Wilemon said. “He was found by someone walking along the boardwalk.”

Wilemon said he is taking the body to Jackson for autopsy.