Online Edition                                         Natchez, Mississippi                                       


Natchez News

       by Peter Rinaldi


Couple nabbed: A pair of burglars were arrested in Kingman, Arizona, after they fled the Franklin County area. Stephen Smith, 35, of Brookhaven, and Jade Wells, 34, of Smithdale, allegedly robbed a Smithdale residence of $10,000 worth of items. After warrants were issued, the couple fled out West. Both have criminal records. Once they are extradited to Mississippi, Sheriff James Newman’s deputies will question them about other burglaries in the area.


Jobless rates: Southwest Mississippi and East Central Louisiana still report high unemployment percentages. Adams County has 7% jobless, Jefferson 12.1%, Claiborne 11.6%, Franklin 8%, Amite 8.1%, Wilkinson 9.5%. Concordia Parish shows 11.6% jobless, Catahoula 7.6%, and Tensas 9%.


Mississippi elections: U.S. Senator Thad Cochran is expected to win victory in November over Democrat Travis Childers. Congressman Gregg Harper is forecast to beat his three opponents. In Adams County, six candidates battle to fill the seat left by County Judge John Hudson’s retirement. They are Walt Brown, Lamar Bullen, Patricia Dunmore, Brandi Lewis, Scott Pintard and Scott Slover.  In a special election, Adams County Election Commissioner candidate for Dist. 5 Alma Fletcher is unopposed, as are Circuit Judges Lillie Blackmon Sanders and Al Johnson and Chancery Judge George Ward. A state amendment guaranteeing citizens’ right to fish and hunt is expected to pass.


Louisiana elections: Early voting runs Oct. 21-28 for the Nov. 4 elections. Louisiana voters face hotly contested races for U.S. Senator and 5th District Congressman. Locally, three men want the seat of retiring Seventh District Judge Leo Boothe. They are Jack McLemore, Ronnie McMillin and John Reeves. The district serves Concordia and Catahoula parishes. Other Concordia races on the ballot include: School Board District 3 (Damon Knapp, Ricky Lee Raven, Sr.), School Board District 4, Place A (Ronnie Bradford, Ron Walter), School Board District 4, Place B (Jeffrey Goodman, Betty Johnson), Justice of the Peace District 1 (Justin Conner, Benja Russell), Justice of the Peace District 4 (Harvey Burns, Jerry Stallings), and Constable District 5A (John Cowan, Jerry Emfinger). Voters will also consider a series of constitutional amendments.


Catahoula candidates: Also on the November ballot are races for Catahoula Parish School Board District 4 (John Wayne Albritton, Laura Kiper) and Constable/JP District 2 (Dean Cannady, Ricky Morris). 


Municipal battles: In Jonesville, three men battle for the mayor’s post (Bill Bullock, Hiram Evans and Andrew Fisher.) Seven hopefuls have signed up to run for Jonesville aldermen: District 3 (Josie Bullits, Detra Johnson); District 4 (Catrina Branch, Loria Hollins, Curtis Shavers); and District 5 (Tommy Branch, Freddie Smith). In Harrisonburg, two are running for mayor (Becky Kimbrough Mize, Mike Tubre) Three Harrisonburg aldermen will be selected (Judy Cotton, Kelly Eustis, Louis Hatten, Lisa Ford Sikes or Greg Terry.) Those on the Nov. 4 ballot for mayor of Sicily Island include Walter Krause and Margie Price. Three will be chosen for aldermen (Donald Ashley, Derrick Frazier, Donna Hilliard or Mark Krause.)


Sales improve: Natchez Pilgrimage Tours reported that ticket sales for Fall Pilgrimage increased by 6% over last year.


Three resigned: Lionel Steptor resigned from the Natchez Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees in mid-summer. Two others, Lee Martin and John Serafin have followed suit. Supervisors will not make new appointments to the board, as Community Health Systems now owns Regional. Regional’s remaining trustees have little work to do, other than acknowledging the progress of their bankruptcy trustee.


New development: The Brownstone Group of Jacksonville, Florida, has asked Natchez aldermen to authorize the approval of new middle and low income apartments at Martin School and the old General Hospital building. Brownstone hopes to get Section 42 credits for investors to spend as much as $10 million on the two projects. Construction could begin in 2016, if the feds and locals approve. It’s not certain what would happen to the Natchez Festival of Music, as its performing arts center would have to be moved from Martin School to some other location.


Audit findings: the Catahoula Parish Hospital Service District in Sicily Island made more than $9,700 in illegal gas purchases, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The unnamed employee who made the purchases with a gas card has been fired and is expected to be prosecuted. The state said the district’s annual audit was filed late, grant money was improperly spent and pay increases were not implemented in a timely manner. The district serves Concordia, Catahoula, and parts of Tensas and Franklin Parishes.


Natchez audit: Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and the city’s CPA firm acknowledged the city still has trouble with its bookkeeping and accounting. The annual audit is months past due. The city has received notification of loss of grant funds for the delay in filing the audit with state agencies. City officials appeared to push the blame for the problems on former employees. Yet, the problems enumerated are the same as those occurring before those newer employees were hired.


Wilkinson schools: The Wilkinson County School Board voted to transfer $250,000 from its 16th Section funds to district maintenance. Superintendent Dr. Timothy Scott said the air conditioning system at the MLK Career and Technology Complex needs replacement. Since replacement would cost $94,000, Scott said he’s repairing the current system as long as it will hold out.


Recognized: Carolyn Ridley and Dr. Chuck Borum were recognized as Natchezians of the Year at the annual Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce banquet. Ridley was cited for her work with the Guardian Shelter and Borum as the organizer for the Natchez Powwow.


Caught: Craytonia Badger, 24, of Southaven, Missisippi, was stopped by Ferriday police for a traffic violation, when an officer discovered a large quantity of prescription drugs. Badger showed signs of minor bleeding, which made the officer suspicious. Subsequent investigation revealed Badger had broken into a Gloster pharmacy and stolen the drugs. He was arrested.


Guilty: A Concordia Parish jury found Vincent Dotson, 21, guilty of the second-degree murder when he shot Derec Dobbins of Vidalia. Sentencing will be Nov. 12.


Falling river: Now at 27.4 feet, the Mississippi River at Natchez-Vidalia is expected to continue to fall, reaching 20.1 feet by Nov. 19.


“Tip” McKenzie: Former Vandy football player Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie is now on the Alcorn State University football team as a wide receiver. School officials threatened to cancel his scholarship unless he cooperated with police in an ongoing rape investigation at Vanderbilt. The Tennessee Attorney General said McKenzie, along with three other Vandy football players, sexually assaulted an unconscious female student in a dormitory in June 2013. McKenzie, a native of Woodville, was a star player at Trinity Episcopal in Natchez.


Investigation: The Amite County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of Brittany Gill, 26, of Lincoln County. Gill’s severed head was found at an oil well site in Wilkinson County and her torso at another well site in Amite County. Her remains were taken to the state crime lab to determine the cause of death. Gill’s boyfriend, Justin Whittington, 31, has been arrested and charged desecration of a body and tampering with evidence. Whittington reported to authorities that there had been an accident at an oil well site and he moved the body. Whittington has previously served time for the manufacture of illegal drugs.


Imagine the possibilities: Natchez holds its second “Possibilities Tour” Nov. 8 in the downtown area. Natchez realtors will offer guided tours of empty downtown buildings from 2-5 p.m. in hopes of landing commercial tenants. For more info, contact Aimee Guido at 601-445-0288.


Veteran’s parade: Vidalia will hold a Veteran’s Day Parade on Sunday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. along Carter Street. Line-up for the parade begins at 1 p.m. For more info, call Glen McGlothin at 601-807-4580.


School grades: Local schools received letter grades from their state departments of education. Concordia Parish earn as “C” for 2013-2014. Natchez-Adams-County earned a “D” grade.


School arrests: Police arrested four students at Ferriday High for fighting and another three students at Vidalia High for drugs. A K-9 was used to help find marijuana. Vidalia police also confiscated a knife and alcohol.


Bank merger: Catahoula LaSalle Bank will merge with the Bank of Jena on Nov. 17. All branches will carry the Catahoula LaSalle Bank name.





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