Panola city, county enact new burn bans

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Lingering drought stressing volunteer departments

Both the Panola County Board of Supervisors and the Batesville mayor and board of aldermen this week approved indefinite burn bans. The city’s conditions for approved burning were less stringent, allowing commercial burning under the supervision of licensed contractors, as recommended by Fire Chief Tim Taylor at Tuesday’s meeting of aldermen.

In the county, Emergency Operations Director Daniel Cole asked supervisors at their Monday meeting to ban all burning except in cooking grills.

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“As dry as it is, there needs to be no burning right now,” Cole said. “We’ve been warning folks for 30 days and it’s my personal opinion we should be sending them before a judge for burning at this point.”

Cole said the small amount of rain predicted for later this week will do little to help the situation. A significant amount of rain will be needed before lifting the ban can be safely considered, he said.

Supervisor Chad Weaver questioned Cole about citations, noting that reports come every day of citizens ignoring the ban resulting in an increase in calls to county volunteer departments. Cole said after a summons to court is issued, Justice Court judges may impose fines of $100 to $500.

On the matter of volunteer departments answering calls, Supervisor Cole Flint said he had calls about departments in west Panola responding to requests for assistance in Quitman County, and had recently been unable to answer a call within their district because all volunteers were helping in neighboring counties.

“I’m all for helping any way we can, but we need to make sure we stay within the law and for sure don’t take the whole crew and leave part of Panola County uncovered,” Flint said. Cole said he would discuss the matter with county fire chiefs and coordinator.

In a related subject, Cole informed supervisors that the annual fire rebate check from the state of Mississippi had arrived and was ready for distribution. Each of the county’s 15 departments was scheduled to receive $9,471.98, Cole reported.

Weaver asked other board members to consider putting $7,900 from the county’s general fire fund with the rebate checks to make an even $10,000 for the volunteer departments. 

“We spend a lot more money than that in the wrong direction,” Weaver said, drawing the agreement of fellow supervisors.

Most of other business covered by the supervisors at Monday’s meeting was mundane, except for a question asked by Supervisor Ear Burdette about line items on the claims docket.

Burdette noted that Cole’s Transmission had been issued purchase order numbers for the exact amount, $4,150, on two invoices dated two weeks apart. “It looks suspicious to me for there to be two charges for the same amount in the same month,” he said.

County Administrator Kate Victor told the board she would look into the invoices submitted and report her findings at the next meeting of the board on Monday, Nov. 13, at the Batesville courthouse.

The invoices were for purchase orders submitted by the sheriff’s office.