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Progress, unexpected marked start of ’04

The first quarter of 2004 was a busy one – filled with triumphsbut also with some shocking events.

Among the top stories in the busy first quarter were progress inBrookhaven’s annexation attempt, the trial of a McComb attorneyaccused of selling drugs in the Lincoln County Jail, the killing ofa local businessman, the resignations of several city and schoolofficials, the arrest of a Lawrence County judge on drug possessioncharges, and several academic and athletic championships by areastudents.

January

Lincoln County supervisors continued to grapple with aschool-funding controversy surrounding the new industrial park.Supervisors wanted revenue generated by the park to be splitbetween the Brookhaven and Lincoln County school districts, despiteits location on Brookhaven Separate School District lands. City andcounty officials both filed intents to issue bonds later in theyear for the site on Brookway Boulevard near the interstate.

In Brookhaven, aldermen continued to grapple with a differentissue – whether or not to privatize garbage service. Aldermen alsoconsidered changes in service. Both were efforts to reduce therising cost of garbage collection. In late January, after months ofstudy, aldermen voted to privatize garbage collection but maintaincity-run trash services. That decision was vetoed by Mayor BillGodbold on Feb. 1.

Soldiers of the Army Reserve’s 296th Transportation Company werewelcomed back home Jan. 10 from service in Iraq during a homecomingceremony held at the armory. During the ceremony, Spc. BrandyTaylor of Leakesville was pinned with a Purple Heart medal forinjuries received during a mortar attack on the unit’s first day inthe combat zone. Taylor was the first female soldier in the stateto receive the medal.

Kendall Burnett, a 14-year-old Colorado boy with cysticfibrosis, bagged a doe on his first deer hunt Jan. 10. The hunt wasmade by possible by the Catch-A-Dream program and theGeorgia-Pacific Monticello mill.

Remaining plaintiffs in a lawsuit over alleged health problemsrelated to Chevron’s oil field activities suffered a setback Jan.12, when they were dismissed from the legal action. In 2003,approximately 800 of the more than 1,100 plaintiffs agreed to a$5.5 million settlement in the decades-old suit. More than 200plaintiffs rejected the settlement, citing fairness issues andinsufficient financial compensation. Those plaintiffs who had theircase dismissed.

A Lincoln County businessman was shot and killed Jan. 16 duringan apparent robbery at the Airport Pik & Pak on old Highway 51.John Deere was shot three times. An arrest was made in the case inJune, but the suspect has not gone to trial.

Lincoln County supervisors gave their approval Jan. 20 for thesheriff to pursue opening a jail kitchen to serve inmates as acost-saving measure.

The Lincoln County School District voted Jan. 20 to permanentlyclose Eva Harris Alternative School and move the alternativestudents back to their respective campuses. The alternativestudents would be placed in separate isolated classrooms but wouldbe taught via video monitors. The program is slated to go intoeffect during the 2005-2006 school year.

Former Deputy Superintendent Carl Holloway was appointed to theBrookhaven School District board of trustees Jan. 20. Hollowayreplaced Gwendolyn Sartin, who resigned after 15 years on theboard.

Brookhaven Academy announced Jan. 22 that Dr. A. Miller Hammillwas selected by the board of trustees as headmaster of the school.Hammill replaced former Headmaster Dan Boyce, who accepted aposition at a school near Jackson to be closer to his family. Boycecompleted the school year, and Hammill, a Brookhaven native, tookover during the summer break.

Lipsey Middle School Principal Rita Rich, with more than 30years of service with the Brookhaven School District, announcedJan. 27 that she would retire at the end of the school year. Sheremains active in several civic organizations.

Following an extended recess over the Thanksgiving and Christmasholidays, Brookhaven’s annexation trial resumed Jan. 28. The citywas requesting to annex more than 16 square miles of territory, butobjectors questioned its ability to meet expansion-relatedobligations. The trial ended Jan. 30, but it would be severalmonths before Lincoln County residents learned that a majority ofthe annexation had been approved by Special Chancellor JohnRoss.

February

The Brookhaven High School cheerleaders proved to be one of thebest squads in the nation when the won the mid-size varsitydivision and placed fourth in the nation at a competition sponsoredby the National Cheerleaders Association in Orlando, Fla.

The Lincoln County School District opted to sell the Eva HarrisAlternative School property Feb. 3.

Wesson acting Police Chief Steve Carlisle was named chief Feb.3.

A state of emergency was declared Feb. 5 by county and cityofficials after a storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain on thearea. The rain storm closed flooded roads and stranded motorists.One man was reported injured after being struck by lightning.

The second trial of a McComb attorney accused of selling drugsin the Lincoln County Jail began Feb. 9 in Liberty. John Jackson’sfirst trial ended in a mistrial. He was found guilty Feb. 12.Jackson was disbarred, sentenced to three years of house arrest sohe could continue to care for his father and fined the maximumamount of $25,000.

Mary Wilson defeated businessman George Faust in a specialrunoff election Feb. 17 to be elected Brookhaven’s Ward Threealerwoman. She filled a position left vacant when her husband, theRev. Jerry L. Wilson, took office as the Lincoln County DistrictOne supervisor in January.

Canadian National Railroad employees began dismantling andclosing the Seventh Street railroad crossing in Wesson Feb. 26. Theclosing of the crossing was a source of controversy for more than ayear.

The Brookhaven Academy Lady Cougars won the Mississippi PrivateSchool Association’s Overall Tournament title Feb. 28 in Clinton towrap up a perfect 43-0 basketball season.

Brookhaven aldermen Feb. 3 overrode the mayor’s veto 5-1 andreinstated their decision to privatize garbage services.

March

Former WorldCom CEO and Brookhaven native Bernie Ebbers wasindicted March 1 on federal charges stemming from themultibillion-dollar accounting scandal at the telecommunicationsgiant. Ebbers pleaded innocent, and a trial was scheduled forNovember but was delayed. Ebbers did not go to trial in 2004.

Gov. Haley Barbour joined Brookhaven and Lincoln Countyofficials March 1 in celebrating a $7.2 million facilityimprovement project at McLane Southern.

The BHS Science Bowl Team won first place in the MississippiRegional Science Bowl Competition, defeating the Mississippi Schoolfor Math and Sciences. It was only the second time in 13 years anMSMS team had not won regional competition and the first time theyhad been defeated by a non-specialty public school.

A March 10 shooting in Monticello left two injured and one dead.Arnold Lee Ball Jr., 44, of Oak Grove Road broke into his wife’ssister’s home and shot his wife, Tina Bridges Ball, and a friend,Andrew Owens, both of Monticello. Ball later committed suicide athis residence. The sister was unharmed.

Lawrence County High School Principal Dr. L.C. Firle announcedhis retirement March 12. He finished the school year.

Dr. Sam Bounds, superintendent of the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict, also announced March 12 he was leaving his post. Boundsleft to become the new executive director of the MississippiAssociation of School Superintendents.

Brookhaven Mayor Bill Godbold announced his resignation March16, citing medical reasons. Godbold left office April 1 after sixnonconsecutive terms as mayor.

City Clerk Iris Rudman Smith surprised the board of aldermen andthe public on March 16 by announcing that she also intended toresign after 19 years in office. She continued to serve until April12.

Lawrence County Justice Court Judge Post 2 Bobby Fortenberry ofNew Hebron was arrested March 25 and charged with possession ofmethamphetamine with intent to distribute and conspiracy todistribute. Fortenberry, a 16-year veteran of the bench, pleadguilty in winter to a possession charge without the intentenhancement. He was removed from the bench as part of hissentence.