The economy was the big story at the beginning of 2007 with higher than normal unemployment and lower than normal sales tax collections. Unemployment at the end of 2006 was about 8.8 percent, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Sales tax collections were down about half-a-percent, according to the State Tax Commission.
Fortunately 2008 gets off to a better start with end of 2007 unemployment figures around 7.9 percent and sales tax collections up slightly.
The first business day of the year saw a flurry of candidates seeking county offices turning in their qualifying papers at the office of Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney. A dozen candidates filed their notice of intent to run in the Democratic Primary held in August.
The Yalobusha Supervisors began their new year with the re-employment of board attorney, John Crow, who began his 28th year in the position. Sheriff Lance Humphreys told supervisors that Jerry Ferguson will serve as his chief deputy.
The Water Valley Aldermen kicked off the new year at their first meeting on Jan. 2 by taking under advisement rate hikes for water, sewage and garbage collection.
The first homicide was recorded just two weeks into the new year. Roderick Torrance, 27, was shot once in the abdomen at his house on County Road 432 outside of Coffeeville.
The Water Valley High School baseball field was beginning to make news as school officials and city officials tried to work out an interlocal agreement. Maintenance was a major issue with school trustees who would agree to maintain everything inside the fence around the field – but not the fence.
Water Valley contactor Sean Carothers pleaded guilty in federal court January 16 to mail fraud for his role in the failed Mississippi Beef Plant near Oakland. Carothers agreed to pay the state $250,000 and prosecutors recommended no prison time – instead supervised probation.
Reginald Jones, 27, of Grenada was killed Jan. 28 near Coffeeville in what sheriff’s department officials described as a robbery-gone-bad.
The state fish hatchery near Enid Lake received a pledge of $525,000 from the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board for the construction of 11 additional ponds. Also at Enid, volunteers placed cedar tree fish-shelters and stake beds in the lake and a “Clean-Up Day” was held Feb. 17.
In sports news, the Lady Devils basketball team posted a 21-2 regular season record.
The Relay for Life fundraising teams began activities for the American Cancer Society county-wide event. One of the new features was to add the Internet as a way for more people to participate.
Rep. Tommy Reynolds supported a House amendment to a Senate appropriation bill to help restore funding of $2 million for a Yalobusha County group home to be built in Water Valley. The home would be operated by the North Mississippi Regional Center and would serve people with developmental disabilities.
Yalobusha County officials passed a resolution urging state and federal officials to fund upgrading and maintenance of the Canadian National Railroad tracks that run through the county. The move was to encourage the return of Amtrak’s passenger train, “The City of New Orleans” to the Memphis to Jackson run.
The City of Water Valley agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed in 2003 by five firefighters. The settlement also included institution of a new work schedule. The suit claimed that the city violated the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act.
The Herald announced the addition of two new staff members to bolster coverage of area news and sports. Writer Alexe van Beuren became a regular with her “Talk Of The Valley” features and Photographer Mark Anthony brought his skills – especially in the area of sports – to the newspaper’s pages.
The Herald provided a preview of the Lady Devils softball season, which opened with a game against Calhoun City Feb. 19.
An escapee from the county jail only managed a few hours of freedom before being recaptured at a roadblock on the west end of county. Calvin Davis, 19, was driving a stolen van when stopped at a roadblock.
Mike Williamson was named Farmer of the Year at the eighth annual Yalobusha County Agriculture Appreciation/Recognition Banquet held Feb. 22 at the Multi-purpose Building at Coffeeville.
Water Valley native Brigadier General Roger Shields, commander of the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, served as the first Director of Mobility Forces – Surface during multi-national military exercises in South Korea.
The Water Valley Lady Blue Devils basketball team was knocked out of post-season competition with a 39-38 loss to Mooreville Feb. 22.
Former Yalobusha County Sheriff Steve Shuffield pleaded guilty in federal court Feb 23 to knowingly and intentionally acquiring and obtaining possession of controlled substances by misrepresentation.
At qualifying deadline on March 1, a field of 38 candidates had qualified for the 15 seats in county government.
The board of aldermen passed a motion March 6 stressing the city’s garbage pickup ordinance which states that all garbage will be bagged and in containers. Also, the city wants citizens to remove containers from the side of the road on non-pickup days.
A portion of Highway 7 between Coffeeville and the Yalobusha-Grenada County line was closed for four hours March 8 due to heavy smoke, which contributed to a five-vehicle accident injuring four people. The United States Forestry Service had burned off 3,000 acres in Holly Springs National Forest the previous day.
BorgWarner corporate officials visited the Water Valley Plant to praise local employees for their million-hour safety record. However, by ceremony time, the number of hours had reached 1,351,824 without a lost-time accident.
Water Valley High School senior Whitney M. Hodge was named STAR Student by the Mississippi Economic Council’s M. B. Swayze Edctational Foundation. Hodge selected history teacher John Mistilis as STAR teacher.
Water Valley school officials accepted a proposal by Superintendent Sammy Higdon to eliminate most fees at the district’s schools including lab fees, book fees, arts fees, and registration fees. This move came after state lawmakers voted to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) during the General Session earlier this year.
The ceiling of MovieTyme on Main Street fell down Tuesday, April 10. One person inside sustained a broken thumb and other bumps and bruises after he was trapped. A second person inside the building was able to make it to the door after hearing the boards creaking and groaning. The building is located between Varner Printing and Midtown Auto Parts.
Mississippi’s first national Queen of the Hobos, Charlotte O’Briant of Amory was honored at the fifth annual Water Valley Hobo Gathering held at the Casey Jones Railroad Museum, April 18 through 21.
The twenty-fifth annual Watermelon Pageant was held Saturday, April 28, in the Water Valley Civic Auditorium. Margaret Ruth Black was crowned Watermelon Queen.
Two divisions of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) in Yalobusha County were looking for a new home in early May, after the building they shared on Main Street was sold and scheduled to be torn down. The Family and Children’s Division and Child Support Enforcement Divisions were located in a building at 318 South Main Street that will be the site of a new Sonic Drive In.
Yalobusha County voters received notices during the first few weeks of May from Election Commissioners and Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney instructing the proper place to vote. Since the implementation of the Statewide Election Management System (SEMS), each voter must be entered into SEMS at their current address and vote accordingly.
May 17 the Herald reported that Water Valley High School students Christine Tidwell, Amber Boyles, Stephen Singleton, John Rue, Klye DeHetie, Jeffrey Bell and Dustin LaCook earned first place in Jackson for a three-month project mapping 238 city fire hydrants using global positioning technology. The win earned the East Lab a $2,800 GPS system, a brand new laptop computer for the lab and GPS computer software.
Memorial Day ceremonies held Monday, May 28, at the Veterans Monument in Railroad Park were covered by Memphis television station Fox 13 and included an interview with World War II veteran John Ashford about his experiences serving on one of the first ships to enter Tokyo harbor as the Japanese prepared to surrender.
During their regular meeting June 5, the city board heard from Mayor Bill Norris about the possibility of constructing a skateboard park for the town. He quoted potential prices ranging from $25,000 to $44,000. Also, the board took in a presentation from Sheriff Lance Humphreys and Deputy Eddie Foster concerning a new county-wide Crime Stoppers program. The county law enforcement officers asked the city to tack on an additional $2 to traffic tickets and fines issued inside the city limits.
Oxford attorney Ray Garrett told the supervisors June 4 that his firm, Garrett & Friday, P.L.L.C, could collect outstanding fines at no cost to the county. Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney said there is $330,00 in outstanding fines owed Circuit Court. In Justice Court, there is another $77,500 in old fine money on the books, dating back to 1989.
Katie Anne Dickey was selected Miss Casey Jones for 2007-2008 on June 7. She will act as hostess for the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum during the Watermelon Carnival, Christmas Parade, Hobo Gathering and at other events. She is the daughter of Nancy and Jerry Dickey.
Guy Dale Shaw, former Yalobusha County Tax Assessor, won his first golf tournament the Herald reported on June 7. He and his team finished first at the third Annual Transplant Fore Life Golf Classic. Keith Blackburn, 29, was charged with capital murder, kidnapping and rape following a shooting Saturday evening, June 16, occurred on the southbound on-ramp of I-55 at Tillatoba. Margaret Henderson, a 64 year-old long-time BorgWarner employee, was shot three times, allegedly by Blackburn, according to Yalobusha County Sheriff Lance Humphreys. Henderson, who lived in Oakland, was the mother of Blackburn’s estranged girlfriend.
The Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries set new regulations on crappie fishing at Grenada, Sardis and Enid Reservoirs and Arkabutla lakes. The creel limit was modified from 30 to 20 with a 12-inch minimum with no more than three poles per angler.
Dennis Steinbock of Klamath Falls, Oregon was making a cross-country trip in a Zodiak plane, piloting himself from Alabama to his home state June 18 when he did not show up for an expected fuel stop in Helena, Ark. He was found 50 hours later by volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol, pinned in the wreckage in a heavily wooded area in southeastern Lafayette County. One of the rescuers was Water Valley rural mail carrier and CAP Captain Richard Albee.
Though not open to the public as of June, the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid Dam has already produced crops of bass, triploid crappie, walleye and triploid grass carp. The fish hatchery, built between the Enid outlet channel and its emergency spillway channel near Interstate 55, is fulfilling its primary mission of replenishing gamefish populations in north Mississippi waters plus the added responsibility of helping to rebuild stocks of fish lost from Hurricane Katrina’s damage.
Water Valley Aldermen formally approved allowing a farmer’s market to operate on Main Street during July and August on Saturdays. That decision, as well as a vote to adopt an ordinance allowing a portion of tickets issue to fund Yalobusha Crime Stoppers were the topic during a recessed meeting held on June 29.
Starting July 1 anglers and hunters had to renew their Sportsman License to fish and hunt. The 2006-07 license year ended June 30.
At the City Board meeting held July 3, aldermen voted to raise garbage rates from $9 to $10.50 in order to offset a $23,000 deficit in the city’s sanitation department. As for reasons for the deficit, the board cited the rising cost of diesel, increased labor and equipment costs, and the fact that the city now has to pay $5,000 a-year to dispose of its garbage.
Water Valley School Superintendent Sammy Higdon was appointed July 9 to serve on the Northwest Mississippi Junior College Board of Trustees.
Registration began July 16 at the Water Valley High School. Enrollment numbers at the high school were similar to last year’s numbers, according to Principal Glenn Kitchens. “We have right at 600 enrolled,” Kitchens said. The incoming sixth grade class accounts for less than 100 students, a smaller class than usual, according to Kitchens.
Edward Bryan Johnson, 28, of Water Valley was killed July 24 in a one-vehicle accident on Highway 315 North in Lafayette County. Johnson, who was from Winona, had recently moved to 1608 Central Street in Water Valley. A passenger, 20 year-old Steven B. McCartt, of 1635 County Road 215, sustained moderate injuries in the crash. McCartt was transported to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford.
Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney said in the July 26 Herald that he anticipated 6,000-to-6,500 voters to turn out for the Aug. 7 Democratic Primary. “That’s about 60 percent voter turnout,” Burney said, adding there are approximately 10,000 registered voters in Yalobusha County. Almost 500 new voters had registered.
A public hearing was held on Monday, August 6, at the Water Valley Courthouse and Wednesday, August 8, at the Coffeeville Courthouse. The hearings allow citizen input on personal and real property assessments prior to supervisors accepting the tax rolls. The hearing follows a state-mandated property assessment in Yalobusha County as properties across the county were evaluated.
The 2007 Watermelon Carnival began August 2 in the Civic Auditorium with the Watermelon Carnival Music Festival. The fun lasted through Saturday evening as temperatures soared.
Oakland citizens complained to Mayor Riley Swearengen and his board of aldermen in early August that dogs were being reared in the small town for the sole purpose of dog-fighting. The dogs in question are pit bulls, and the Oakland board considered adopting an ordinance – similar to one on the books in Grenada – that would require citizens owning pit bulls to have liability insurance
In Yalobusha County’s most hotly contested political race, with six candidates vying for the sheriff’s seat, incumbent Lance Humphreys and candidate Jamie Caldwell headed for an August 28 runoff. Humphreys tallied 1,924 votes while Caldwell pulled 975 in the August 7 Democratic Primary. In the Circuit Clerk race, incumbent Daryl Burney received almost 63 percent of the votes against challenger Tina Stevens.
All five of the current Yalobusha County supervisors were voted into four more years of service. No runoffs were needed, as the five incumbents each garnered over 50 percent of the in the August 7 Democratic Primary.
Hours after the North Mississippi Herald hit the streets Wednesday morning, August 8, with a plea from Water Valley Police Captain Roger Thomas asking for public help to catch an indicted sex-offender, Curtis Sea was arrested. Thomas said law enforcement officials received several calls Wednesday morning concerning the whereabouts of Sea.
Chancellor Mitchell M. Lundy, Jr. of Grenada issued a temporary restraining order Aug. 9 that prohibited outside sports-related activities in DeSoto, Tate, Panola, Grenada, Yalobusha and Montgomery counties. The order was to hold from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day until further notice. The restraining order’s language cited National Weather Bureau’s heat. However, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the order the next day.
Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association (TVEPA) customers were asked to reduce consumption of electricity as generating demands on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) rose to record highs during the hot weather.
Failed beef plant operator Richard Hall was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. to eight years imprisonment August 17. Hall was also ordered to pay more than a half million in restitution and given five years probation after his release. Hall pled guilty in Jan. 2006, and had been out on a $100,000 unsecured bond since that time.
Calvin Davis, 19, ducked out of church services, climbed a fence topped with razor wire and escaped from the Yalobusha County Jail Sunday morning, August 19. Initially Davis was able to elude law enforcement authorities, but they captured him at 6:15 that afternoon.
The Water Valley School District maintained a Superior performance rating with the announcement Aug. 20 that Davidson Elementary School and Water Valley High School each retained Level 5.
The Water Valley Blue Devil softball team will finally get a home field following a unanimous vote Monday night, August 20, by the Water Valley School Board. The decision was made after Jerry Holt detailed plans to construct the field.
Appointed Sheriff William “Lance” Humphreys will see a full four-year term after taking the majority of Yalobusha votes August 28 in the Democratic Primary runoff. The sheriff’s race was the only county position on the ballot. Humphreys defeated former Highway Patrol trooper Jamie Caldwell in a hard-fought election that began with six candidates. Humphreys received 59 percent of the votes cast.
Water Valley photographer Jack Gurner joined the Herald staff as of the first week of September.
The 2008 budget for the City of Water Valley was the topic of a short – very short – public hearing held before the regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night, September 4. The hearing lasted around a minute.
A three-inch stack of papers said to contain more than 2,800 signatures signed by Yalobushians in favor of having a county-wide vote to determine the future of beer found its way to the supervisors’ table in Coffeeville on Tuesday, September 4. Oxford attorney Andy Arant presented the petition on behalf of the Yalobusha Progressive Association (YPA). The petition was certified and handed to Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn at 8:30 Friday morning.
A vision that has been over a decade in becoming a reality culminated with the dedication and blessing of the Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic Sunday afternoon, Sept. 12. Although located just outside of Oxford on Hwy. 7 South, the clinic will serve Lafayette, Yalobusha and surrounding counties and is designed to provide free healthcare for working adults, ages 18 to 64, who meet income and work-hour requirements. The property and building were provided as a gift from Vallians Brownie Crawford and Sean Carothers.
Although the millage rate decreased slightly in Yalobusha County, many property owners will see an increase in their taxes following a state-mandated reassessment, the Herald reported Sept. 13. Tax Assessor Linda Shuffield and her staff traveled the county reassessing each parcel of land in Yalobusha. State law requires this process each four years.
Supervisors voted 3-2 to set a special election on Dec. 11 to allow Yalobusha voters to determine the fate of beer and light wine in the county. Beer and light wine has been banned in Yalobusha County since 1937. The date of the special election falls just a month after the Nov. 6 general election. The decision was made Friday, September 21, with Supervisors Frank “Bubba” Tillman, M.H. “Butch” Surrette and Amos Sims voting in favor to push the vote past the general election after hearing legal advice from Board Attorney John Crow.
Mississippi’s new motor vehicle license plate, which went on sale beginning October 1, features the Biloxi Lighthouse. The design celebrates the survival of the Gulf Coast landmark during hurricane Katrina, according to Linda Shuffield, Yalobusha County Tax Assessor and Collector.
Water Valley Main Street hosted a “Remember When” Homecoming Pep Rally in Railroad Park at the Pavilion Thursday, October 11.
A one-vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon, Oct 2, claimed the life of a Yalobusha woman. Annie M. Smith, of 1239 Teasdale Road in Enid, was killed when she lost control of her 1988 Ford Crown Victoria.
Terry Cobern said he was going to sell his property and move out of town. But, if that didn’t work out, he may stay and run for mayor. Cobern, who lives at 1517 North Central Street, appeared in Water Valley municipal court Thursday, Oct. 11, and pleaded no contest to a zoning ordinance violation. He was cited under section 102.12 for improperly parking a major recreational vehicle on his property.
It took two-and-a-half weeks and several attempts to get a quorum, but the Water Valley Board of Alderman finally met Friday, Oct. 11. Well, at least they almost met. The special meeting was called to discuss the sale of 2.7 acres of land behind the Big Yank building. After waiting for just over 20 minutes, Mayor Bill Norris called off the session when only Aldermen Lance Clement and Tommy Swearengen showed up.
The Yalobusha County Health Department held two special flu vaccination clinics on Thursday, October 18. The clinics were at the Multipurpose Building in Coffeeville and at the health department in Water Valley.
After just over four decades of doing business at 500 North Main, the Herald moved several doors down over the weekend of Oct. 27 and 28. The new building at 416 North Main is located just south of the current building in the same row of structures. It previously housed Top Dog frame shop.
An early morning traffic stop Sunday, Oct. 28, resulted in the arrest of an Oxford man and a Memphis man. Keven Stingley, 29 and Johnale Smith, 34, were stopped by James Bonds on Hwy. 7 for a traffic violation. The men faced drug charges.
The city makes a fairly good first impression on first time visitors. However, there are definitely some areas in the community that need improvement, according to the First Impressions report presented Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Courthouse. Julie Jordan, project manager for the Mississippi State Community Action Team, presented the report that was the result of a recent visit by a team of volunteers.
Yalobusha Sheriff Lance Humphreys received approval to purchase three new patrol cars after meeting with county supervisors during the “first Monday” board meeting in Coffeeville on Nov. 5.
The newly appointed nine-person board representing Yalobusha County’s economic development interests went to work Monday morning, Nov. 5, following an informal meeting with supervisors. The diverse group includes five appointments from supervisor representing each beat, an appointment from each municipality in the county and an at-large representative.
The Water Valley School District was among 12 recipients recognized Tuesday, November 13 in Jackson as a part of the Mississippi School Boards Association’s Lighthouse School Leader Awards Program. The district earned one of six Lantern awards in the program, in honor of its all Level 5 (superior-performing) schools.
Yalobusha’s largest employer received the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association’s (NMIDA) 2007 Industry Of The Year Thursday, Nov. 15. BorgWarner was selected from nominations in the 33 counties in northeast Mississippi that compose NMIDA’s geographical area. The distinction was based on the company’s role and support of the community.
Over the weekend of Nov. 17 and 18, Water Valley Police investigated malicious mischief at the City Park gazebo, the Everdale Baptist Church, and the car wash on South Main Street, according to Lt. Rick McCuan.
Dr. “Bo” Bojan Milicevic, M.D., age 49, passed from this life on Monday, November 19, 2007 at the Baptist Memorial Hospital – N MS in Oxford, Mississippi. He had been a dedicated physician for 26 years. He was a member of the A.M.A. Association and Serbian-American Association.
Citing a tight fiscal year for the county, three supervisors balked at a salary increase for Yalobusha County deputies during a recessed supervisor meeting held last Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Renovation of the Baker Street Park is a step closer to reality after a public hearing held Tuesday, Nov. 27 at City Hall. The park is located in the eastern part of the city and is bordered by Baker, Lee and Mills Streets. According to Mayor Bill Norris, the park will have new playground equipment, concrete basketball courts, and a six-foot cyclone fence with six entrance gates when the project is completed.
The Town and Country Garden Club and the Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce jointly sponsored a tree lighting ceremony at the Railroad Park Pavilion Thursday, Nov. 29. Coordinated by the Water Valley Main Street Association, more than a dozen Main Street businesses remained open until 8 p.m. to assist with Christmas shopping.
A dedication ceremony for the new flagpole at Blackmur Memorial Library was on Friday, November 30. The flagpole was donated by the Water Valley Literary Club. Jan Ward, spokesperson for the Literary Club, explained the city’s help with the project.
The annual Christmas parade was held Saturday, Dec. 1, with “Snooky” and Mary Lou Williams as Grand Marshals. On Sunday, Dec. 2, the Water Valley Community Band held their Christmas Concert at the Civic Auditorium.
The Board of Alderman voted Tuesday night, Dec. 4, to sell 2.7 acres of surplus land on Railroad Street behind the Big Yank building to Carothers Construction, Inc. The vote finally came two months after the deal first surfaced at the October meeting.
Following several months of intense politicking, Yalobushians voted soundly on Dec. 11 to make beer and light wine legal in the county – the first time since 1937. The vote carried 2,915 to 1,474, with 42 percent of the county’s registered voters participating, according to Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney.
The Board of Aldermen met at a hastily called meeting Tuesday, Dec.18, night at City Hall to discuss a proposed ordinance to regulate the sale of beer and light wine in the city. In a four-to-one vote, aldermen passed a regulatory ordinance. With Alderman Fred White casting a dissenting vote, the ordinance did not go into effect immediately.
Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps traveled to Water Valley Dec. 19 to discuss the possibility of locating a regional/county correction facility in Yalobusha County.
The Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday, Dec. 19, to place additional restrictions on the sale of beer and light wine in the county beyond those imposed by the state. The ordinance went into effect as soon as it was adopted, at 2:45 p.m., according to Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn and will affect areas outside of the three municipalities of Water Valley, Coffeeville, and Oakland.
Tracy Jenkins, 34, was killed Dec. 31 when her vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer driven by James Robinson of Philadelphia, Penn., at the intersection of Hwy. 32 and the Hwy. 7 bypass. When the crash occurred, the truck was headed north on Hwy 7 and the automobile was headed west on Hwy 32. After impact, the vehicles crossed the median and came to rest in the southbound lanes of Hwy.7.