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New Albany, MS Second Amendment rights

We had yet another incident earlier today, in Texas, in which a lone gunman with a firearm killed innocent people.

It seems few weeks go by without a solitary gunman killing people in some public place in America. Each of these shocking events causes every thinking individual to wonder what should be done or could have been done.

The shrill anti-gun lobby always responds with demands that would seriously abridge the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Second Amendment absolutists, many represented by the National Rifle Association (NRA), predictably oppose any measures that would take away guns, except from their “cold dead hands.”

Is there a sensible middle ground that would be a sound basis for public policy in the 21st century?

We often think of early American history as a time when people carried guns and used them without any hint of gun control. That ignores the fact that gun control was rather strictly enforced some places on the frontier.

On October 26, 1881, Tombstone, Arizona, had laws on its books that required visitors to disarm, leaving their guns either at a hotel or with law enforcement authorities, when they entered Tombstone. Yet, that same day, Tombstone Marshall Virgil Earp deputized his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and their friend, John Henry “Doc” Holiday, to deal with a violation of the town’s gun regulations. Billy Clanton and brothers Tom and Frank McLaury were carrying guns illegally. The three lost their lives when they went up against the Earp brothers and Holiday at the O.K. Corral.

Then, as now, having gun control laws on the books did not assure that illegal guns would not be used for senseless killings.

One thing is certain, and was proven again today in Tarrant County, Texas: non-criminals – responsible, law abiding people – must always have the right to possess firearms and other weapons.

Two armed citizens killed the mad gunman at the church. Had they not been armed, he would have been free to kill even more innocent worshipers.

dog bite graphic

An older woman was treated and released from the hospital after being bitten by a dog on the Tanglefoot Trail shortly before noon Thursday.

Police Chief Chris Robertson said a man and woman were walking their dogs along the trail when a stray dog came up to them and began playing with their dogs.

Eventually the stray was becoming more aggressive when the woman tried to separate the dogs but was unsuccessful. When she tried to spray the dog with pepper spray it bit her, he said.

She was treated for bites along her arm at the Baptist Memorial Hospital Emergency Department but not reported seriously injured.

The animal control officer took the dog, which was wearing a collar but no tag, into his custody.

No other information was immediately provided, pending any further investigation.

The incident apparently happened in the vicinity of the welcome center and plaza, the chief said.

New Albany MS Hosemann's local option gasoline tax

News and Commentary:

What about Delbert Hosemann’s “local option” gasoline tax?

Would a local option gasoline tax help fix neglected streets and rural roads and dangerous – or closed — rural bridges in northeast Mississippi?

What are the chances local voters would approve such a tax in a local referendum?

Those questions became more relevant last week when Lieutenant-Governor-Elect Delbert Hosemann appeared to favor such a scheme in a news conference right before the Christmas holiday.

It was not the first time Hosemann had floated the idea of a local option gasoline tax.

He discussed it during the fall campaign. Published reports in September 2019, said Hosemann’s plan would allow Mississippi county boards of supervisors to place a local gas tax on a referendum ballot. Voters in those counties could then vote to impose a gasoline tax of from two to six cents per gallon.

The county would have to share the gas tax revenue with the municipalities within is borders. The money might be earmarked for specific road or bridge improvements.

Will a local option gasoline tax really address all the problems?

Details of Hosemann’s gasoline tax plan have yet to be published as proposed legislation.

The devil, as always, is in the details. Old Satan would certainly have a grand and gleeful time crafting Hosemann’s skeletal idea into a fleshed-out, working program to fix Mississippi’s neglected roads and bridges.

At first blush Hosemann’s idea might be helpful – if voters approve – in fixing local roads and bridges, those owned by counties and municipalities.

But what would it do for the state-owned roads and bridges that are in sad shape?

A Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) study in 2015 said there were 38,000 miles of roads and highways needing work. About two-thirds of those were state roads, not city or county roads. The MEC study said that of the thousands of Mississippi bridges needing repair or replacement, about 900 are on state-owned roads.

Those who know him say Hosemann is the smartest guy in state government. When he moves, after 12 years as Mississippi’s secretary of state, into the lieutenant-governor’s chair, he also becomes the most powerful guy in state government. His powers of appointing committees and setting the agenda in the state senate make him far more powerful under the state constitution than the governor.

Although we do not know Hosemann, we have trusted the judgement of friends who say he’s the smartest. We supported him in the primary and general election.

We expect of him really meaningful improvements in the state’s public education system, its health care system and its roads and bridges.

– Jerry Shiverdecker

Here’s why citizens need to keep a close watch when the state juggles local funding sources.

NA garden at dogwood

New Albany Garden Club’s December meeting, themed “Celebrating Christmas,” was spent with residents at Dogwood Assisted Living. Garden club member and program leader, Rheta Ann West, who participates in regular garden therapy activities with the clients at New Haven, felt that local seniors would benefit from such an activity. “Social participation and garden therapy both have such positive outcomes of well-being for older people,” she said, “and we were honored to spend the afternoon here at Dogwood.”

Garden club members created a fresh greenery candle holder, visited, and enjoyed refreshments with residents.

NA garden dogwood

bell and family

 County employees held a reception Friday to honor Johnny Bell, who is retiring after 35 years in law enforcement.

Bell has served as chief deputy and jail administrator under Sheriff Jimmy Edwards the past eight years. Before that, he was an auxiliary deputy for sheriff Joe Bryant, and investigator, worked for the Mississippi Department of Corrections and district attorney’s office.

Bell was presented with several gifts and some of his awards and photos were on display in the packed justice courtroom.

Bell’s wife, Nancy, works as dietitian at the jail.

Sheriff Edwards presents gift to Bell.

Bell chats with well-wishers at the reception

Bell with the first and last sheriff he worked for, Joe Bryant, left, and Jimmy Edwards, right

New Albany MS Washpot Ham Steve Patterson

The sun peeked out quietly over the fallow cotton fields and surrounding woods, slowly spreading its warmth over the entirety of Cotton Plant. Winter had closed in much more quickly and severely this year in Union County, cutting short autumn’s glorious shocks of brilliant colors, while also curtailing my beloved outdoor activities when the school day ended. This made the cold march to Christmas seem all the longer and duller to this active, eight-year-old little boy.

At long last it was Friday, December 24, 1959. It was the last day of advent, and with those first gleamings of Christmas Eve, I awoke with one overwhelming thought in my head. And no, my inventive mind wasn’t fixated on toys and other presents – those would come the next morning. My interest was squarely on today’s mystical, magical once-a-year event! This Eve was the day for the annual family ritual of cooking the celebrated washpot ham for Christmas dinner. It was a day, indeed an event, that was now shared with the community at large. Over time, its popularity had spread over the countryside of the entire county, and even crept into many of the social calendars of “city folks” in the close-by small towns.

This Christmas family tradition had been passed down for at least three generations. For the last 35 years it had been under the care and custody of my grandfather, Monroe Patterson. Everyone knew him, and he was known to all as Mr. Monroe; he was respectfully called by that name by all ages. Now, I have been greatly blessed to have known many “larger than life” characters, and have read and been told about a number of others, but my memory of his character, vision, leadership, benevolence and positive influence on individuals and families across his entire community exemplified how my grandfather truly personified that description as much as anyone I’ve ever known.

“In my several years as a way-underage apprentice cooking the ham, I had soaked up much about the heritage and lore of this big event.”

–Steve Patterson

In simplest form, he just had an indescribable presence about him – and everyone he met could just sense, apprehend and appreciate it. Although he stood an impressive 6’3”, he was not a big man. Yet he was markedly rangy, limber and strong from hard work and long days. His demeanor, intellect and the way he carried himself with infinite confidence and rock-solid self-assurance gave him an air of strength, substance and reliability. One didn’t need outstanding intuition or inordinate intelligence to see that, for this youngun’, he was exactly what a uniquely special man looked like.

His pale blue eyes, grey hair, wire-rimmed glasses and broad-brimmed felt hat perfectly framed those big smiles. He wore colorful, homemade flannel shirts, khaki pants, usually, but sometimes overalls, and dutifully carried both his pipe and Bull of the Woods chewing tobacco. His gold Elgin pocket watch, and more often than not, a handkerchief in his pocket completed his outfit.

Most prominently, he walked and talked with a great sense of purpose. Same way with his hands, which were always moving in a nuanced accord with the task at hand. I’d heard he could show a firm temper, but I never saw it. Most often, I had people tell me that, while on occasion he could be quick to make a judgment, he was equally quick to acknowledge when he was wrong. He could be as serious as a judge at sentencing, and the next moment show his mischievous, witty side. He loved to tease, and knew how to take it as well. He and his guys always worked hard, but you just knew a little levity was somehow going to be worked in. Repartee, friendliness and kidding were staples of his personality, and a hallmark of his good-natured, caring ways.

He was well thought of by so many. He could truly relate to everyone-their situations, concerns, fears and opinions. His ability to connect and empathize was amazing. He was generally a man of few words, and typically direct and on-point. But he just knew the best and right way to speak to different folks. His regular, day-to-day prose was plainspoken, but often profound and powerful.

He generously poured his attention on me, and I drank it up. I was the apple of his eye and I knew it. He was my mentor, guide, confidant, constant companion- and my best pal. He could do just about everything that was worth doing. He taught me how to ride horses, shoot guns, fish and hunt, and nearly everything about being a boy, and a whole lot about becoming a man. He taught me how to treat others, especially those who were sick or in any need, the responsible way to respect and care for animals and to be kind and nice to every living thing- even Republicans- if you should you ever run across one. I learned about the ways and means and importance of love and family and friends and responsibility and community and duty. It wasn’t a crash course- he lived by all of this every day. I was blessed to have 48 years of shared love and attention, and his patient instruction and guidance.

I was an only child, and the only grandchild who lived close by, so I had the run of everything on the farm. I walked around and got involved (read nosed-around) with everything and everybody, asking questions and chatting them up! While I was very curious, the largest part of it was just being around all these folks and learning their personalities and perspectives on things. I actually thought of myself as “one of them” and fit right in. Was I spoiled? Well maybe (probably!), but even so, I would like to spoil my grandson in the same manner. You see, while I did receive a ton of attention, and as their “pal” maybe a little more leeway here and there, every single adult also treated me as they would a son or grandson. I was the only youngster around, so I became everyone’s “project.” They took care to discipline me and see that I was “raised right.” I know I loved them all, and I believe they felt an extra-special attachment with me. I loved whenever I could “hang out” and enjoy a little horseplay now and then with everyone!

In my several years as a way-underage apprentice cooking the ham, I had soaked up much about the heritage and lore of this big event. Now, at the advanced age of eight, I already knew by heart the ingredients (except a couple of the most secret), the ins-and-outs of prep work and the overall cooking regimen. And I dearly enjoyed every minute of it.

The fire was situated in its customary spot on a flat area next to the barn, a spot where you had nearby access to the wood pile, water, necessities from the house and plenty of room for the crowd of visitors whom would soon begin gathering. The trusty cast-iron washpot was the vessel that would hold the ham and fixins. It would be suspended above the fire by a rig of chains connected to its tripod of legs, by which it could be raised and lowered over the fire.

And then, right there it was, the object of everyone’s full-day of attention: a gorgeous and perfectly-sized green (fresh) ham, just patiently waiting to get the show going. It was strategically placed on the old wooden picnic table, which on this day served solely to facilitate the task at hand. Here, also, were the additional ingredients for preparation for the cooking, including one additional partially-cured ham, 20 gallons of water, five pounds of white sugar, a heaping portion of brown sugar- and then a little more, a gracious plenty of cloves and netted bags of oranges that still had to be quartered. Of course, there were other specialty “secret“ spices and rubs that will not be found listed here. Much like the files of Area 51, the still-classified JFK records, and my 4th grade comportment report, that proprietary list has a high likelihood of never being fully revealed.

An ice pick was used to thoroughly puncture both the hams so the fragrant brew of seasonings could flavor every morsel. Once all the ingredients were ready for the washpot, the hams were wrapped into a pillow case and loaded into the washpot, which in turn was lowered to the fire, which had been ablaze for a while, readying for the task. Seasoned hickory and water-soaked corn cobs provided the kindling and perfect bulk to cook and smoke the delicacy. Carefully attended to, it would cook all day and then that night be covered with plywood so it would simmer all night. Christmas morning would yield the sublime, sumptuous and perfectly done masterpiece! There was nothing to compare to a huge platter of sliced washpot ham surrounded by whole pickled peaches!

Meanwhile, my grandmother Patterson and her sister, Myrtle Carr, were the benevolent charge chefs at these holiday cookathons. These lovely, loving ladies were as close as could be, like two sister turtle doves dropped from on high. They never called each other by their given names; it was always, “Yes Sister, two more cups, please. “Well of course, Sister; coming right up.” They, along with all the other women in the family, were the “queens de la queens” of country cooking, and could even make Betty Crocker blush and shy away from a good old cook-off! They spent much of this day cooking all the main dishes such as turkeys and hams, pots of cornbread dressing, candied yams, greens, sweet potatoes and such, each from their family-favorite recipes that were nonpareil. But no self-respecting Christmas dinner was complete without the “Sweets.” That was the finishing act of the meal, and a fine finale it always was! There were citrus fruits sent all the way from Florida, ambrosia, buttermilk pie, chess pie and the most moist, show-stopping and dreamiest of them all, that heavenly “heavy” coconut cake!

Our “neighborhood” was truly as special as a snow day in April. I always thought if you had an apple for every relative who lived near-by to us, certainly within a few miles, you could generously over-fill a couple of bushel baskets. Of course, for perspective, you have to understand the meaning of a “country mile,” and back in that time it was much longer than it is today! Yet they weren’t just close in proximity; we were truly close in all ways, and shared feelings closely in times of illness and hardships, as well as in all the blessed occasions and events of daily life. In times of need or any overwhelming moments, right nearby one could find not only a good listener, shoulder to cry on or arms to hug, but advice on most anything, as well as food, medicine, clothing, a helping hand for tasks and so on as needs arose.

And all of this was essentially the same for all our neighbors. They were all cherished and trusted; a good many of them we actually called “Uncle” Junior or “Aunt” Dorothy and such. Many times I truly wasn’t at all sure which ones weren’t actually related by blood or marriage, and it really didn’t matter at all. Many times I would shop around this “network” to see who was having the best supper, and somehow miraculously got “invited” to dine there, and maybe even stay over if breakfast sounded particularly fetching. (Got caught on this a couple of times, and my mother’s reaction-well, it was memorable as well).

And suddenly, somewhere around 8am- it began. Folks began arriving, at first just a few, with greetings and booming cheer; many brought modest gifts, mostly food or homemade specialties of some sort. There were uncles and aunts and cousins, neighbors and friends- just folks from all over Union and neighboring counties. It was always an eclectic blend of all races, religions, creeds, backgrounds, income, range of ages . . . just a true cross-section of the community. For this day and time this was not typical of social or sporting events, schools, clubs, etc. Yet, it was standard fare at my grandfather’s house.

There were many folks who worked with my grandfather, including my three uncles. They, along with a good many others in the crowd, made their living “off the land,” as this was a rural area. But there was no shortage of occupations represented: preachers, bankers, truckers, horse trainers, lawyers, sheriffs and deputies, farmers, lots of furniture makers and teachers- visitors spanned the entire range of vocations! Politicians from all areas of “gov’ment” were there shaking hands and “politicking”- 1960 was about on us and it was already set to be a huge election year. It was an ideal occasion to catch up on everything: gossip, births, deaths, marriages, new trucks, high school basketball- all and more. There was small talk, jokes, raucous laughter as well as short little stories and long, winding tales. They talked Ole Miss football, politics, crops, county and city happenings, health issues, who’s dating who (or no longer!). I made every effort to hear as much as I could! I wanted to see and know about everything going on. Most apparent, the folks mingling there exhibited a special spirit and camaraderie that was indescribable, one that even a little boy could feel and appreciate.

Some folks would stay for thirty minutes or an hour, some for several, but a great many made a day of it. It seemed the biggest fuss by everyone was made over friends, family and others from all over who had come “home” for Christmas and knew this was the spot to see and be seen, and to have a big reunion with everyone. Over the course of the day, this was the place to get together with nearly everyone within an enormously wide area encircling my grandparents’ home.

As was the custom, many of the menfolks would now and then take a sip or swig of cheer from the bottles that had been holed up in pockets either in their coats or pants-or both! Bourbon was the drink of choice. Small brown paper bags served to “hide” their contents in plain sight. This was the polite and accepted way of doing it (if there was any political correctness in this bunch, I guess this was their nod to it!). At this most wonderful time of year, these spirits were known simply as “Christmas Cheer”; it assisted the body in staying warm in the cold, made everyone smile, loosened their tongues and promoted congenial relations, while it also served to drive away the aches and pains accrued from hard work, tough breaks and mounting age. If they caught me looking as they indulged, they would generally give me a sly smile or a wink of their eye, and I would smile back and nod my head knowingly.

Some of the crowd that stayed for a good long while sat for a spell when they could find a vacancy in the mish-mash assemblage of outdoor chairs. Now, many of these didn’t start out as outdoor chairs, but were culled over a period of many years from the house as they lost “respectability.” Now, calling this accumulation eclectic would be putting on airs; perhaps the term “diverging characteristics” will suffice here. At any rate, about anything that was around the barn or yard that could give a fellow a rest was pulled around the fire. The most memorable were various sizes of stools, two wooden rockers, multiple outdoor folding chairs (rusted too much to fold), at least four good-sized buckets turned upside-down, and an Oriental patterned settee. (don’t even ask!)

And if you wanted characters, we had ‘em. One of the gentlemen, Mr. McAlwain, always ended his fancy tales or long-winded diatribes with the question, “you know what I mean? I saw it for myself, you know what I mean?” (I kinda did, but sometimes I just didn’t!) One of my grandfather’s three uncles, Millen Patterson, still had a wee bit of “the old country Scottish brogue” – he wore faded overalls and starched white shirts buttoned up at the neck – he was loud, boisterous and the life of the party. He was famous for saying, “I ain’t scotch! Scotch is mighty fine whiskey and I love it, but I’m a Scot, by God!” He was also prone to break out in loud song after a few trips to the barn where the Old Charter bourbon was hidden in the corn crib! After a nip or two, he gleefully belted out his favorite tunes, including one I’ll always remember that went a little like this, “In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines.” He was unmistakably a merry old soul. Another stalwart card was Mr. Daniels, who was known for saying “it’s a good day for the races, ain’t it?” And no matter how many times he asked it, the proper reply was “what races?” His gleefully yelped reply: “the Human Races!” Every time he told it he slapped his knees and let loose his lilting laugh. And “Old Man” Jones always had chewing tobacco spit running out of both sides of his mouth in equal proportions – which my grandfather always said proved him to be a level- headed man! And almost right behind him was Mr. Knox, who quoted poetry at length, but primarily Kipling. Folks would get him started and he wouldn’t stop – until all his longtime friends (especially uncle Millen!),would tell him to shut up and “stop your showing off!” I believe Rudyard himself would have been plum pleased. Then you had Mr. Henderson, who was always said to be “so slick freckles would slide right off him.” I never saw it happen, but I ain’t saying it wasn’t so!

“…the “ham get-together”…gave one a strong sense of belonging, of having a place among these special people, a commonality across many and various connections.” –Steve Patterson
Most all of these folks and a good many others were great storytellers, and all were in rare, joyous form- after all, it was Christmas time! The talk of hunting and fishing were staples. If they had shot as many quail and rabbits and reeled in the huge stringers of trophy bass to the extent described, all would have been long since extinct! And the tales they told of the brilliance, stamina and loyalty of their dogs was fantastical, humorous and sentimental. Neither Lassie nor Mr. Bo Jangles’ magnificently talented dog had anything on these canines! As evening approached and bottles emptied, storytellers always seemed to eventually turn their focus to womenfolks long passed; also semi-bittersweet sentimentalities always set in when discussions turned to the “love of their life” that didn’t work out right; even more heartrending were the stories of departed mothers, wives, sisters and the like- they could make you grieve and tear up for a woman you never even knew. But fortunately, there was a contingency of folks that could offer solace; they would soothe and comfort, and then lure them back to the celebration at hand.

As the afternoon wore on, this cold day grew ever cooler. The already brisk, chilling wind also picked up. The warmth of the fire drew the assemblage of menfolk closer to the fire and closed the spacing between each other. This also seemed to make everyone speak louder and more boldly. When these same winds swept in a particular fashion around the house and barn, they conspired to torment all by wafting wonderfully sumptuous streams of luscious scents that were almost irresistible. These delicious smells emanated from a melding of the fragrances created in the kitchen by the aroma of roasting turkeys and hams being combined with the overwhelming and all consuming olfactory bliss of the baking of pies and cakes. It so permeated their clothing that when they returned home the lingering scents would keep them awake and hungry all night. Some wags even claimed their dogs licked their jackets and hats for the next several days.

My young-man’s take on all the celebrants was that deep-down inside many, if not most of the adults here-in their own way- felt just as I did on this occasion. To wit: the “ham get-together” was a welcoming place to participate in a truly jubilant celebration. It gave one a strong sense of belonging, of having a place among these special people, a commonality across many and various connections. You had a unique personal spot amongst all these people that you felt was yours, and yours alone. The festive atmosphere seemed to weave a unique kind of bond that brought us all closer in the spirit, good will, joy and cheer of Christmas. This kind of connection could only bring more harmony and good will to all. Also, it was well known that a fair number of these attendees no longer had much or even any family left. This get-together in fact, may have been the highlight of their celebration of Christmas. With that in mind, they were treated with a caring specialness befitting this season of love.

Stepping up onto the back porch, I looked down the hill that held the underground storm shelter, then past the garden and on to the barn and clear across the cotton and corn fields to the surrounding woods, finally settling my gaze on the still lively and joyous gathering around the beautiful blaze surrounding the washpot ham. As sparks from the fire flew up, I followed their path upward until they fell apart into the sky as shadings of dusk began to win the day. I vividly recall an urgent desire to capture this precious juncture of time and place, just as it was in all its splendor. I gently rolled it around in my head to better remember it all, mentally framing and filing snapshots.

Time marches on, but this magically suspended moment danced and sang, and Life glowed and glittered, and was reflected in all those faces down below. And as for me, on my family’s little piece of Union County here in the northeast corner of Mississippi, on this glorious night, the fire was bright, all was well, all was right.

michael and pam

New Albany Middle School students are routinely honored for academic and sports achievements – but not so often just for being good citizens.

Michael and Pam Brown, along with State Farm Insurance and Renasant Bank, are trying to fill that need.

They have reinstituted their Paw Prints program at the school.

In Paw Prints, middle school teachers nominate students for simply going out of their way to do something good, whether it is helping someone or taking care of some classroom task.

The Browns sponsored the program a dozen years ago and decided this year it was time to bring it back.

The awards program is held every nine weeks and this past week they recognized 40 students each from grades six, seven and eight. Each winner received prizes such as a T-shirt, $10 cash and candy.

Michael Brown told the students that at the next program one of the winners in each grade will have his or her name drawn at random. That student will be allowed to choose four friends who will be driven to lunch and around town in a limousine with a police escort.

The Movie Reel has also donated prizes in the form of movie passes and the Browns hope that other businesses will want to help sponsor Paw Prints so more and even bigger prizes can be given.

Due in part to their work with Paw Prints, the Browns were named middle school parents of the year when they were first sponsoring the program, and were runners-up for the state title.

paul henry

Middle School Principal Paul Henry gives a high five to one of the winners.

Pam Brown tosses a prize to a winner.

These are all the winners from all three grades.

Students listen to see who the next prize winner will be.

Union County is losing two long-serving administrators this month.

Steve Coker announced his resignation as Union County Fire Coordinator and Johnny Bell is retiring as Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator. The announcements came at the meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors this past Monday.

Coker has served as fire coordinator since 2008 and works with the county’s 10 volunteer fire departments as well as the New Albany department, of which he is chief.

Coker will remain as New Albany chief. No replacement for Coker as county coordinator was named.

“I’ve had a good time doing it and we have accomplished a lot,” Coker said. “We’ve saved a lot of money getting rates down.”

During Coker’s tenure each of the county department has improved its fire rating, sometimes reducing fire insurance costs as much as 40 percent, he said.

Johnny Bell

Johnny Bell

Bell has worked in law enforcement since 1984 when he served as auxiliary deputy for sheriff Joe Bryant. Since then he has worked for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, as a parole office, as an investigator for the district attorney’s office 15 years and the past eight years as chief deputy and jail administrator for Sheriff Jimmy Edwards.

Bell’s wife, Nancy, serves as dietitian for the jail.

Baron Baker will be the new chief deputy and jail administrator.

Also Monday, supervisors approved moving two more voting locations in the county. This is part of an effort to move polling locations away from schools in the county.

Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said a consultant recommended the change for safety and logistical reasons, to keep from having people in and out of the building during school and for security.

One changes Monday was to move the West Union location to the office of Greg Conlee’s construction company in a building that formerly held the Morrisson Feed Mill.

The other was to move from Ingomar Attendance Center to Ingomar Baptist Church.

Approval had previously been given to move voting from Myrtle School to Temple Baptist Church and from East Union School to Ellistown Baptist Church.

In a somewhat related move, voting is being moved from the Northeast Mississippi Community College campus to Watson Grove Church. This was attributed to providing more parking as well as having more space without interfering with classes.

On the agenda Monday was a public hearing on closing a section of County Road 260. At a previous meeting it was said that the landowners adjacent to the section were in favor of the closing but Fifth District Supervisor Steve Watson asked that the matter be taken under advisement. He only said that the road is in his district and he wanted to do more investigation before voting.

In other agenda items supervisors:

  • Approved a quote of $49,801 for a sign at the Martintown North Industrial Park, which is being developed. Industrial developer Gary Chandler said this is something the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is helping fund the project, wants.
  • Accepted a low bid on an air handler for the Union County Courthouse. This is for a section that has seen little public use but that will change so adequate heating and cooling will be needed.
  • Accepted low bids on cold mix, limestone and liquid asphalt for road work next year.
  • Voted to advertise for five new single-axle dump trucks to be purchased through a reverse auction.

In personnel at the sheriff’s department, supervisors approved:

  • Changing Chris Swords from corporal to lieutenant.
  • Changing Adam Fitts from sergeant to lieutenant.
  • Changing Jeremy McLarty from lieutenant to investigator.
  • Changing Brent Baker from corporal to sergeant.
  • Changing Baron Baker from investigator to chief deputy and jail administrator.

Before the board adjourned, president Chad Coffey resigned effective Dec. 31. A new board president will be voted on at the next meeting Jan. 6. Board members agreed early on in their terms to rotate the office of president among all the supervisors. That would prevent anyone member gaining excessive power and also allow each member to gain experience.

All county offices will be closed Dec. 24 and 25 but garbage collection will not change next week.

Fred's sign

It appears likely that the city will be able to purchase the former Fred’s building from the businessman who bought a number of the buildings in bankruptcy court.

It’s lucky the building became available but it was up to New Albany officials to act on the opportunity, and they did.

The purchase would solve some problems aldermen, the mayor and department heads have been grappling with for several years, and it prevents the likelihood of having a large empty building downtown slowly deteriorating, if unsold.

The general plan is to move the light, gas and water department to the front of the building, utilizing the drive-though window for utility bill payments.

The police department would go in the back and use the upstairs area for evidence storage and other needs.

More or less in the middle would be a needed municipal courtroom, which could also serve as a meeting for aldermen or other city groups.

In addition to interior modifications, the building exterior would be made to be more in keeping with other municipal and city buildings.

Granted, renovation will be fairly expensive.

However, the alternative is to purchase land elsewhere and construct at least two buildings from scratch. The cost, estimated earlier at $2 million per building, now looks like it would be closer to $3 million or $4 million so savings to taxpayers will be enormous.

The location of the building will be a boon as well.

It looks like the two departments and courtroom might require no more than two-thirds or so of the available space, which opens other opportunities.

I would like to see that available space used for small convention-type meeting rooms because now the city has only the Magnolia Room at the civic center. Having more space could provide the opportunity to attract larger business meetings and small conventions to the city, bringing welcome revenue. Such space is needed by local groups as well.

If the sale goes through, officials would then have to decide what to do with the present light, gas and water and police departments.

That may require some thought.

One suggestion for the utility office has been to open it back up and let the fire department use it for training all city and county departments. Another is to move some other city offices there.

The police department and former city hall is a bit more of a problem because of its historic designation, condition and internal configuration. It has been suggested to use for meeting space also since it is close to the civic center but renovation would likely be prohibitive in cost. It could house other city offices or something related to tourism.

If the police department does move, that means all the vehicles behind it move as well, opening up that space.

I would not mind seeing the city construct a two-level parking garage in the area behind the police department. Although expensive, it would solve the downtown parking problem for some time and would not be more obtrusive than the adjoining bank parking lot.

All this can be hammered out later.

For now, the focus should be on hoping the city officials’ efforts pay off and, if successful, moving ahead as expeditiously as possible.

Losing Fred’s was a detriment to the downtown area. It will be nice if something good for the entire city comes out of it and city leaders need recognition for pursuing this.

demolished house

Union County Emergency Management Director Curt Clayton said the National Weather Service has confirmed the storm which struck the Alpine area late Monday was a tornado.

“They said it was an EF-1 with 90 miles per hour winds,” he said. “The track was five miles long and 300 yards wide.”

He added that Hwy. 9 and all county roads were now open, although a section of Hwy. 9 may be open only to one-lane traffic as MDOT crews continue to remove debris.

Apparently only one structure, unoccupied, was demolished although about 10 were damaged. The only injury reported was concerning a woman who sustained some leg lacerations.

damaged house

Photo courtesy of Curt Clayton


house in back

Photo courtesy of Curt Clayton


Clean-up was proceeding smoothly Tuesday morning from the storm which damaged parts of the Alpine community.

MDOT still had a section of Hwy. 9 just north of Alpine closed as they cleaned up debris and parts of County Road 172 and others in the area were intermittently blocked as Union County crews loaded fallen trees into dump trucks.

Emergency Management Director Curt Clayton said he believed that everyone whose home was damaged found shelter with family or friends.

The only injury reported was minor leg injuries to a woman whose house was damaged. However, one could only gain access to her home by crawling over piles of large broken pine trees and it was possible a bulldozer would be needed to clear a path.

Volunteers from the community and from the Union County Baptist Association were putting tarps on damaged roofs and helping with cleanup. Harmony Baptist Pastor Gary Yates and church members also set up their Soup for the Soul mobile food kitchen at the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department to feed victims and volunteers. The fire department was serving as a command post.

Assessing damage was still somewhat difficult because of the widespread debris blocking access to some locations. Monday night Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said it appeared about 10 homes were damaged but the number could increase as they did more inspections during daylight Tuesday.

National Weather Service personnel would have to determine whether the damage was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.

More about storm in Union County

another tornado

Several families were left homeless but no serious injury had been reported Monday night after a reported tornado hit the Alpine area in eastern Union County.

“It’s safe to say upwards of 10 homes were damaged and some are not livable,” Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said. “But it’s dark and a section of Hwy. 9 is still shut. It could be more.”

The unconfirmed tornado hit about 4:30 p.m., near the intersection of Hwy. 9 and CR 174 north of the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department, Union County Emergency Management Director Curt Clayton said.

Evaluating the situation was delayed because nearly all the roads in the area were blocked by downed trees and debris. Power lines were down as well and Sheriff Edwards said it obviously will be some time before all are repaired but most of the roads other than Hwy. 9 were cleared by about 7 p.m.

Clayton said one woman reported a leg injury and an ambulance was called out of caution but the injury was not determined to be serious. Some children who were home alone were picked up and taken to the Alpine Fire Department for safety until family members arrived.

Sheriff Edwards said they were using the fire department as a command post and planned to meet about 8 p.m. Monday to confer and make sure no home had been overlooked.

He added that the Union County Baptist Association was providing food and planned to bring their Soup for the Soul mobile food kitchen to the fire department.

He wasn’t sure how many families would need places to stay but some could stay at the department. “And Jericho Baptist Church nearby has plenty of room.”

“It’s dark and we really won’t know more until tomorrow,” the sheriff said.

The storm apparently originated in that part of the county and moved eastward toward Guntown where more damage was reported. Edwards said he was not aware of any other damage in Union County other than the occasional limb or tree down.

More on storm: Alpine area working to recover from storm