miss-loumagazine.com

Natchez, Miss.
Postings Daily

Sheriff David Hedrick    See our CPSO Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CPsheriff.

Wilkinson County supervisors noted that most of their departments are under budget in terms of spending this year. A few are over-budget and will be contacted by County Administrator David Wilkerson to cut back on expenses.

Because the town of Vidalia has an excellent employee safety record, it received a $293,000 rebate on its workers’ compensation insurance premium.

Drug testing

Consistent with Louisiana school and athletic association rules, Concordia Parish schools will start testing athletes for illegal drugs. If the student athlete tests positive, he and his parents will be “counseled” that using such drugs is illegal and unhealthy. The parent and child will sign a form saying they’ve been counseled. Of course, the real reason for the for signing the form is to release the district from legal responsibility from liability for the kid’s dependency or addiction. The drug using child will still be allowed to play as long as the counseling session is completed and document is signed. 

The Concordia Parish Police Jury is more than a year behind in providing its CPA audit to the state. When some parishes and towns are now reporting their 2023 figures, Concordia has yet to report on its 2022 figures. The jury has been careless about its bookkeeping and accounting in the past. In the last year reported, the CPA said the Concordia jury 1) Lost track of a $100,000 certificate of deposit, not knowing it had the funds. 2) Allowed checks to be signed by just one person, increasing the chances for fraud, theft or error. 3) Didn't prepare a timely audit as required by law for several years in a row. 4) Committed many errors in bookkeeping: account balances, cash, certificates of deposit, receivables, capital assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses were incorrectly stated. 5)  Posted revenue transactions to expense accounts and expense transactions were posted to revenue accounts. 6) Posted inter-fund transfers to the incorrect fund or the wrong general ledger account .7) Did not record $1,00361 of current year receipts to revenue accounts. 8) Bookkeeping personnel do not have the knowledge or skill to actually do the job of bookkeeping and accounting. 

Centreville police said Jerome G. Young , 40, of Biloxi, was shot and killed in a hail of bullets while he sat in his car at the B-Kwik in Centreville. Witnesses said a group of men in one car shot many times. Police recovered 33 shell casings in what they believe was a targeted hit. The store’s front window was shattered by the gunfire. No one else was injured. 

Fishing with fathers and friends

Earlier this month, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks reopened Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park Lake for fishing and boating, following extensive improvements made during its closure in 2023. To celebrate the reopening, Natchez Parks and Recreation, in partnership with Natchez Alderman Benjamin Davis (Ward 5), invites local children and their guardians to the "Fishing With Fathers and Friends" event on Saturday, June 15, at Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park. This event is free and open to the public. Event Details: - Who: Local children and guardians - Where: Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park, 230B Wickcliff Road, Natchez - When: Saturday, June 15, 2024 from 8:00 a.m. to Noon - Cost: Free for kids, $5 for adults. Adults must have fishing license. Natchez Parks and Recreation is committed to ensuring that all kids can enjoy this outdoor experience. If your child doesn't have a fishing buddy, Natchez Parks & Rec will provide one. Fishing poles and bait will also be available to ensure everyone can participate. Additional Information: - Lunch: Provided - Transportation: Free transportation offered by Natchez Transit. Meet at the National Guard Armory in Liberty Park. The bus leaves at 7:30 a.m. sharp. During the lake's temporary closure, MDWFP focused on significant improvements, including the replacement of boat ramp courtesy piers, the addition of new courtesy piers at cabins, and the redecking of fishing piers. Habitat enhancements, such as gravel spawning beds, stake beds, and brush piles, have been added to popular bank fishing areas to benefit both fish and anglers. For more information, contact Ryan Porter, Director of Natchez Parks and Recreation at (601) 597-4495, email at rporter@natchez.ms.us or visit their website at natchezparks.com.

The Silas Simmons CPA audit for Vidalia (year ending 6/30/23) shows the town continues to handle its bookkeeping and accounting properly, with no negative findings. Vidalia is the only town in the Miss-Lou to compile such a positive record, year-in, year-out.For the year ending 6/30/2023, the town showed $49 million in revenues and just $35.8 million in expenses. The surplus enabled the town to rebate customers' electric bills, keep property tax millage the lowest in the state and reduce debt by $4.6 million. Utility revenues increased as did hydro revenues. Hydro revenues topped $23.5 million, giving the town more resources it needs to run local government. Town government is able to provide more services, employ workers, rebate utilities and keep property taxes very low because of the hydro revenues.If net revenues of the hydro fund would decrease due to a low water/low production year, the town has established reserves and has reduced operating expenses, which will help to support the general and utility fund activities without cutting services to citizens.Vidalia has $5.3 million in cash immediately available and $20 million in reserve, plus significant accounts receivable that more then cover its short and long term accounts payable and other liabilities. It spends $5.5 million on public safety, including police, fire and ambulance, another $2.4 million on public works. Each alderman has a salary of $8,849. The mayor earns $87,078.You can find the audit online: https://app2.lla.state.la.us/.../$file/00003d75.pdf... 

Natchez Water Works Has Launched a New Online Account Management and Payment Portal

VISIT natchezwaterworks.com and register today to obtain access to the following features: VIEW your statements online; RECEIVE email and phone notifications; ENROLL to receive text notifications; ENROLL in automatic payments; SCHEDULE future payments and/or GO paperless. 

Creating an account is easy! Simply follow the few steps once visiting the new payment portal website. Click "Register Here" under the "Quick Pay" button and use your customer number. After you register and log into your account, please verify all contact information was transferred over from the old billing software correctly. If there are any inaccuracies, please update them on the portal. 

Contact Numbers: Office (8a-5p): 601-445-5521. After Hours (Emergency): 601-445-5521 press 8. Pay by Phone: 601-445-5521 press 3 or call directly at 601-864-1725150 North Shields Lane.

Repeat offender nabbed

Edward D. Wells, 52, of Natchez has been arrested by Adams deputies for failing to register as a sex offender. In 2001, he was arrested for beating his girlfriend and throwing her down a 25-foot cliff in Vicksburg. She suffered serious injuries and was paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair. Because of her injuries, she had to live in a convalescent home, where she died two years later at the age of 32. Wells was not charged with her death. But he was sentenced to five years for the aggravated assault against her and another five years for separate robbery he committed in Adams County. When arrested in Mississippi, authorities found out he was wanted in Texas for drug possession, aggravated assault and theft. In 2016, he performed an armed robbery and aggravated assault on a man at a c-store in Ridgecrest. He was sentenced to eight years in jail. He is being held in jail on a $1,000 bond. Failure to register as a sex offender in Mississippi can result in up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.  

Sabrena Bartley is retiring June 1 as Natchez senior citizens director and director of transit services. She has served in the posts for 24 years.     

District Attorney Brad Burget has decided not to prosecute Junior DeRozan. of Vidalia, for the previously filed charges of abuse, neglect and the negligent homicide of his mother, Elizabeth Clay, 93, after she died from burns while under her son's care in Nov. 2023. The Vidalia Fire Department responded to her home when the mother suffered burns from her hairline to her hip. The elderly woman, suffering from dementia, had been left alone. 

Victims not talking

Ferriday Police Chief Sam King said three adults were wounded and one teen during a shooting on Montgomery Street on May 9. They received minor wounds and were treated at Trinity Medical and released. King said his investigation into the shooting has been hampered because the victims aren't talking.  

A No Wake Zone order is in effect in Catahoula for Bushley Bayou, Tew Lake and Wallace Lake because of high water. Vessels are required to travel at a slow speed, also known as idling speed, to create minimal wake. 

James Gove, 26, of Brookhaven, surrendered to Adams County deputies, after a warrant was issued for his arrest for rape with intent to ravish. No additional details have been provided by law enforcement concerning the attack or the arrest.

Performance indicators

The State of Mississippi says Natchez-Adams student math and English proficiency district-wide is 27-33 percent, way behind state averages. College readiness is at 16 percent. While the state labels Natchez a C district (it had been a D), the district spends more than $14,000 per pupil, much above the state average. 

The Miss-Lou Memorial Day walking parade will be held May 27. It starts tarts at 9 a.m. at Vidalia’s Zion Baptist Church and continues to Natchez City Cemetery at 11 a.m., followed by prayer and a ceremony. Rev. Louis Banks and Sheriff Travis Patten are Grand Marshals.

Circuit Judge Carmen Drake held court in Wilkinson County. Alvin Jackson Sr. plead guilty and received five years suspended for introducing contraband into a penal facility. Frances M. Payne plead guilty and received five years suspended for grand larceny. She will participate in the court's accountability and recovery program. Aaron Nettles pled guilty. His grand larceny charge was dismissed. He also plead guilty of two counts of burglary and another count of grand larceny. He was sentenced to seven years on Count 1, seven years for Count 2 and five years on Count 3, with all sentences to be served concurrently. An escape charge was dismissed. Nettles also plead guilty to simple assault on a police officer and received five more years, which will be served consecutively after his first seven years from the first three Counts have been completed. Elmontre Williams plead guilty to possession of marijuana and possession of a weapon by a felon. The marijuana charge was dismissed. For the weapons charge, he received five years suspended plus five years on formal reporting. Jewel Faulkner plead guilty to simple assault on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence. On Count 1, Faulkner was sentenced to five years and on Count 2 six months, terms to be served concurrently. Brittany Gooch plead guilty to grand larceny and malicious mischief. The mischief charge was dismissed and she received six years with three years suspended for the larceny conviction. Defendants were given credit for time served, as applicable, and ordered to pay court costs.

ONE SOUTH FEDERAL CREDIT UNION: If you live or work in Adams County or Concordia Parish, enjoy the benefits of membership in our credit union. Free checking for seniors (age 62 and older) & students. Free checking for adults with $100 minimum balance. Debit cards linked to checking accounts. 24-hour banking at www.onesouthfcu.com. Electronic statements, direct deposit, notary, payroll deduction services, ATM on premises. Checking accounts subject to ChexSystems approval. 70 years of service and still growing! 148 North Shields Lane, Natchez, 601-442-4382. 

Mayor Brown honored

Natchez aldermen will honor the late Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown by naming the flyover on Hwy. 61/84 after him. Brown spearheaded the project and was mayor for three terms. He also served as MDOT director. He died last year at the age of 79. 

Natchez-Adams County has hired Sharika Miller to run the city-county pool. 

CPSO’s  Criminal Investigation Division began investigating a rash of burglaries in the Ridgecrest area in early April. On May 5, a resident called 911 to report that their house was being broken into. The caller was able to give a description of two male subjects and was able to accurately report the direction that the subjects were traveling. Due to the detailed description given by the caller, CPSO deputies were able to quickly locate and apprehend the suspects. Both subjects were found to be in possession of pistols hidden under their clothing. The subjects were identified as: Kevin Ray Thomas, 18 and a 15-year-old juvenile. During the initial interview, Mr. Thomas fully confessed that he had burglarized several residences in the area, and that the firearm removed from him was stolen from the first home the pair had burglarized. The juvenile was questioned, with a legal guardian present, and also admitted to his part in all of the burglaries. He also admitted that the gun removed from him was stolen from a previous burglary. Arrested was Kevin Ray Thomas, 18, of Ridgecrest, for Aggravated Burglary (6) Counts, Contributing to the Endangerment of a Minor (6) Counts, Home Invasion, Illegal Carrying of Weapons and Illegal Possession of Stolen Firearm.

Wilkinson County accident

On the evening of May 12, Patricia Williamson, 68, of Sicily Island, was a passenger in a car heading north on Hwy. 61 from Woodville, when the car left the road and crashed. She died at the scene from her injuries. The Miss. Highway Patrol said the driver, Robin McCastle, 39, of Ferriday, lost control of her Acura, resulting in the crash. The Patrol continues to investigate the accident.

Adams County Supervisor Kevin Wilson said he expected temporary bridge repairs to be completed on the Bourke Road bridge late on Monday. The bridge washed out due to the heavy rains. 

A diesel fuel leak in the basement of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office on Friday spread fumes through the bottom of the building. Two dispatchers and their dispatcher supervisor sought ER medical treatment as a result, and all the dispatchers were moved to a temporary location. The leak has been fixed.

Joseph Smith

Adams deputies arrested Joseph M. Smith, 36, of Natchez, for aggravated assault, felon in possession of a weapon, possession of than 30-250 grams of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, and failure to appear. Bond was set at $80,000. The amount of controlled substance drugs he was carrying, 10-25 dosage units, was consistent with that of a dealer versus a user. Also, he assaulted an officer, resisted arrest and gave false ID. For all these offenses, his bond was initially set at $10,000, now raised to $80,000. In 2011, he was charged with armed robbery. When the victim refused to testify, charges were dropped. In 2013, he and another criminal committed an armed robbery of their victim in the parking lot of a Natchez c-store, hitting the man in the head with a pistol.   

The Miss. Senate has confirmed Gov. Reeves’ appointment of Dr. John Carlton of Natchez to the state’s board of dental examiners. The board licenses dentists and dental hygienists. Reeves made the appointment last year. The Senate confirmed on May 1. 

Details on the survey from the Natchez School District reorganization are available. You are invited to participate by answering a few questions. Miss-Lou Magazine recommends adoption of the plan. Here is the link. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc-mGRDZDVHe1jly9gEF_GIDt2CA3qjVlaeMkpelJCu_U3C1Q/viewform 

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CWD moving closer

Chronic Wasting Disease has been well established in Tensas Parish, with northern Concordia in a warning area. One case has been documented in Claiborne County and two cases in Warren County. Hunters in our part of the Miss-Lou and wildlife agents are concerned about the spread of this disease that infects deer and always kills them. Scientists have noted that raccoons are spreading the infectious proteins of the disease while wandering through deer plots, sometimes contaminating feeders. Hunters can possibly minimize the spread by eliminating or reducing supplemental feed. The deer congregate in closely spread corn and small feeding plots potentially increasing the number of deer that become infected. 

Raymond Huddleston, 46, of Baton Rouge, was an inmate at the Catahoula Correctional Center. Officers were transporting him to Baton Rouge for a court appearance, when he faked a seizure. When officers tried to render aid, he attacked, seized one of their weapons and tried to escape. In the melee that followed, he dropped the gun and was shot and killed by an officer, as he continued to struggle. La. State Police have opened an investigation on his death, which is normal procedure when an inmate is shot by an officer. Huddleston had a history of criminal behavior, including arrests and convictions for burglary, theft, aggravated assault, auto theft, carnal knowledge of a juvenile, possession of a stolen firearm, failure to register as a sex offender, domestic violence, battery and other crimes. 

The La. Department of Health released its latest grades for water systems in the state. Ferriday, Ridgecrest and Clayton received an “F." Vidalia. Concordia Waterworks Dist.1, and the Monterey Rural Water System scored an “A.” The Lake St. John Waterworks Dist.1 earned a “C.” The grades include evaluations of the water, operator performance, outages, boil notices, contaminants and accountability. All three failing systems “pose a public health risk over an extended period of time” and are under state order to improve performance.

Shooting at Natchez hotel

Natchez police responded to a shooting at the Holiday Inn Express in Natchez, after a hotel employee fired four shots at a departing visitor in the parking lot. The visitor was a local man who argued with the employee inside the hotel. James Billing was arrested for aggravated assault with extreme indifference to human life and shooting into unoccupied vehicles. The visitor did not return fire nor was he wounded. Police said there were bullet holes in two cars. 

Wilkinson County School Supt. Shamekia Rankin suggested to her school board that it increase the current teacher pay supplement from $600 to $1600. Per her recommendation, the board agreed to do so. Rankin gave board members current enrollment numbers: Wilkinson Elementary 346, Winans Middle 186, Wilkinson County High 244.   

Natchez aldermen will open bids June 10 for the next phase of their paving and micro-surfacing program. By the time the project is done later this year, the city will have improved 50 streets in town. 

THE FLOWER STATION: 387 John R. Junkin Dr., Natchez. All occasion florist. SPRING AND SUMMER arrangements and decorations for your home or for a gift. Live green and flowering plants from our own greenhouse. Mylar balloons. Balloon and flower bouquets. Each gift of flowers is lovingly and creatively chosen and arranged. So much beauty and wonderful decor! Prompt, professional and courteous delivery. Order online at theflowerstationms.com 601-442-7224

Woodville town funds missing

Woodville Police Chief Lemuel Rutledge is investigating the theft of more than $1000 in cash from the town clerk’s office. One of three town hall employees said she discovered the theft and reported it to the mayor. Video did not provide any leads and there were no signs of a break-in. The missing money was from a locked fines drawer. 

Dexter Jefferson is now Dist. 2 Councilman in Jonesville, sworn in to replace Bruce Lofton. Lofton resigned his post, as he had moved outside the town limits. A special election will be held for the permanent seat in Dist. 2 in November. 

New Hope Missionary Baptist Church has applied to the Natchez Planning Commission to operate the children’s home building on North Union as an actual children’s home. New Hope owns the property. Dr. Tina Bruce no longer leases the facility. The hearing date is May 16. 

Vidalia man shoots dog in rage

Concordia deputies arrested Charles M. Morehead, 53, of Ralph’s Road, Vidalia, after he threatened a family member and shot and injured a dog in a rage. He was arrested for aggravated assault, felon in possession of a weapon and cruelty to an animal. He is being held in the parish jail.   

The Tennessee Street repair project in Roxie will cost Franklin supervisors at least $176,000. The washout has gotten worse since 2921, when the street was initially designated for repairs. Fortunately, most of the work will be paid for by a grant from the National soil Conservation Service. Supervisors heard that the annual audit by Bridgers CPAs will cost $40,000, up $5,000 from a year ago.   

Natchez police and U.S. marshals worked together to capture a wanted fugitive from Coryell County, Texas. Eric Harris was hiding out here in Natchez. After a two hour stand off, he agreed to surrender to authorities and was taken into custody. He is wanted for felony domestic violence in Texas.

Appeal filed

Truth Lounge has filed its appeal to the Natchez Board of Aldermen to allow the bar to continue to operate. The planning commission recently withdrew the bar’s authority to operate under a special exemption. The aldermen must hold a hearing to hear the appeal.

On May 5, crew members on a barge traveling the Miss. River south of Natchez found a suspicious black bag and called Adams County E911. A bomb squad was summoned from Jackson. The bag contained nothing dangerous. 

Concordia deputies arrested Daniel Wilkinson, 47, of Ferriday, for theft of a motor vehicle. He is being held in the parish jail.   

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Autopsy results pending

Concordia officials are waiting for autopsy results as to the cause of death of inmate Blarrington Ashley, 53, of Natchez. He died unexpectedly this past week. He was being held in the Concordia jail on an Adams County indictment for felony shoplifting. 

Dr. Cade Brumley, Louisiana Secretary of Education, has sent a letter to all school districts that the Biden administration will start enforcing transgender protections in all school systems in the nation this August. Boys and young men who pretend to be female or say they identify as female must be allowed to use girls’ and women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. School districts that don’t comply can be sued in federal court or have all their federal funds withheld. Louisiana has already filed suit with other states to try to stop such craziness but is unlikely to succeed. The Secretary advised local school boards to seek the advice of counsel. 

The Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park will reopen to fishing and boating May 6 after completion of facilities improvements, including new piers, boat ramps and remodeling of the cabins.

Redistricting bills die

The Miss. House and Senate could not agree on new district lines for chancery and circuit judges, as well as district attorneys. Redistricting plans will be looked at again next year. Since Southwest Mississippi, including Adams County, is losing population, Pike County might be eventually included in our district. With Pike included, then the reelection of Adams County’s judges and district attorney become uncertain. Loss of population has already affected Adams County representation in the Legislature. Adams traditionally had a state senator and two representatives. Now it has just one representative, Robert Johnson, who has actually lived in Hinds County for many years, even though he claims residency in Adams. As a result, Adams has much less political power and influence than it had in the 20th century. 

The Miss. Legislature has appropriated $6 million to improve the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. 

The Village of Harrisonburg needs volunteer firefighters. If interested, call town hall for details, 318-744-5794.

Adams deputies arrested Jessica Rochelle Jackson, 27, for simple assault on a law enforcement officer. If convicted of the felony, the penalty includes up to five years in jail and up to a $1000 fine.

More crime cameras

The River Cities Crime Camera Program is a collaborative effort between the Natchez, Natchez Police Department, Adams County Sheriff's Office, Vidalia and the Vidalia Police Department in the areas most affect by crime in our cities. The cities will install as many as 50 new crime cameras in the next few months. Residents and businesses will be invited to purchase a crime camera that will be linked to the NOLA network. The program is supported by a federal grant from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. or info, go to www.rivercitiesccp.com. 

Tianeptine is an addictive anti-depressant drug that is not approved by the FDA for general use because of its addictive tendencies. Commonly called Zaza or “gas station heroin,” it is often sold in c stores surreptitiously. The Catahoula Police Jury will consider banning the sale of the drug at local stores at a public hearing May 15 at 6 p.m.

The Natchez Ministerial Alliance will hold a National Day of Prayer event at the Gazebo on the Bluff May 2 at noon. In case of rain, prayers will be offered from inside the Natchez Grand Hotel. 

New RV park planned

Adams County notables and developer Cody Martin broke ground Tuesday for the Magnolia Trace RV Resort on Southwind Rd. Investors expect to spend as much as $30 million on the project, which will include more than 100 RV pads, Glam camping, clubhouse, lake and picnic grounds.   

Ferriday voters chose Alvin Garrison as the next mayor in the General Election. Devonte Schiele was elected Dist. B Alderman and Andre Keys as Dist. D. Alderman. Monterey voters approved the renewal of a 10 mill tax to support their District 1 Fire Department but turned down an additional levy of $50 per parcel of land.

Addison Smith won most beautiful at this year's ACCS Pageant. 

Natchez police arrested Taj Minor, 26, for felony abuse of a 3 year old. Child services now has custody of the child. And the child’s mom is under investigation. Minor is an Adams County dispatcher.   

Tamla Hughes recognized

Tamla Hughes was named Alternate Mississippi Teacher of the Year. She teaches English at Natchez High. 

Concordia Parish reports 6,431 people have jobs, down 120 jobs from a year ago. The jobless rate has gone up a bit to 6.3 percent. 

U.S. marshals have captured Jaimonte Davis, 24, of Natchez, in Harrison County Texas. He was wanted for the Natchez Cash Savers parking lot double killings last May. He will be extradited to Natchez to stand trial along with Kadeem Connor and Mark Jordan Mitchell, the other accused shooters. 

Ashke James

Concordia deputies arrested Ashley James, 37, of Jena, for introducing contraband into a penal institution and possession of Schedule lI and III drugs. She was arrested in February by LaSalle deputies for possession of drugs and driving under suspension. In June 2023, LaSalle deputies arrested her for burglary, trespassing, and criminal damage to property. She is being held in the Concordia Parish Jail.

Joshua Peebles, 42, and Tiffany Vickers, 36, both of Vicksburg, were caught with stolen cable/internet wire in Claiborne County. The couple admitting cutting and stealing the wire on two trips to Adams County. Both have a history of committing misdemeanor and felony crimes in Vicksburg. They’ve been charged with larceny and possession of stolen property. Adams, Jefferson and Claiborne deputies cooperated to catch the thieves.

Concordia Judge Kathy Johnson has set the bond of Otis J. Frazier, 39, of Vidalia, at $330,000. He is charged with second degree murder, attempted second degree murder and felon in possession of a weapon for the shooting killing of Kaderrius Minor in Ferriday this March.Judge Johnson could have withheld bond entirely due to Frazier’s propensity to commit crime and as a threat to the community. Not only is he a convicted felon with a weapon, but he was arrested by Concordia deputies for attempted second degree murder in 2014 and three counts of felony child endangerment. In 2015, he was charged with felon in possession of weapon and selling a firearm with an obliterated serial number by Vidalia police.

Truth Lounge

The Natchez Planning Commission voted 4-3 to revoke the permission of Truth Lounge to operate. The Commission received seven letters of complaint from residents and businesses. Truth owners said they weren’t responsible for what goes on outside the establishment. But the Commission believed that the violence and law breaking only happens when Truth is open and the bar violated four of the seven applicable clauses for its special exemption. The owners can appeal the decision of the Planning Commission to the Natchez Board of Aldermen. If the aldermen turn down their appeal, then Truth can appeal to circuit court.

Gov. Tate Reeves will sign a bill allowing Adams County to build a new jail and finance it lease-purchase for up to 30 years. The funding mechanism will lower the annual cost to taxpayers. But because the term is extended through 30 years and a lease-purchase, it will actually increase the overall cost to taxpayers.

On April 30 and May 2, Natchez concert-goers will have two great mid-week opportunities to hear some really incredible music. The Natchez Festival of Music’s upcoming mid-week concerts will be “Rossini, Puccini and Martinis” on Tuesday, April 30, at the Historic Natchez Foundation and the “Sound of Brilliance” on Thursday, May 2, at the First Presbyterian Church of Natchez. On Tuesday, April 30, experience a night of musical enchantment as The Natchez Festival of Music proudly presents "Rossini, Puccini, and Martinis." This extraordinary concert will feature a stellar lineup of performers including renowned tenors John Christopher Adams and Nicholas Perna, wonderful sopranos Cara Williams, Anna Tesh Manzo, and Mandy Spivak, the spectacular mezzo-soprano, Victoria Thomasch, the outstanding baritone Mario Manzo, and the spectacularly versatile pianist, Tyler Kemp.
Audience members will be treated to a diverse selection of mesmerizing pieces, ranging from the timeless classics of Verdi and Mozart to the beloved works of Gershwin and Porter. From the haunting melodies of "When I am Laid in Earth" to the triumphant notes of "Climb Every Mountain," this concert promises to be an unforgettable musical journey. And, yes…there will be martinis! Then, on Thursday, May 2, we will present a night of musical brilliance at "An Evening of Baroque and Classical Trumpet Masterpieces" featuring trumpeter Ryan Stransky. Delight in the captivating sounds of the trumpet as Dr. Stransky performs an amazing program of works such as Charpentier's "Prelude to Te Deum," Tartini's "Concerto in D Major," Handel's "Aria con Variazione," and Neruda's "Concerto in E Flat Major." Finally, the evening will culminate with a breathtaking performance of Herbert L. Clarke's virtuosic showpiece, "The Maid of the Mist." For tickets and more information on both events, email natchezfestival@gmail.com.

Relay returns

The Relay for Life of the Miss-Lou will be held May 3 from 7-11 p.m. at the Vidalia Municipal Complex. The survivor reception will be held from 5-7 p.m.

Adams County reports 9,780 people with jobs, up 100 jobs from a year ago. The jobless rate has dropped to 3.7 percent. The March figures should be complemented by slightly better job figures for April and May when construction, retail and agricultural firms normally add employees. Depopulation over the last 20 years in Adams County has had a very negative effect on job development. There simply aren’t enough workers in the local market to staff any kind of big upswing in jobs. MDES estimates that if Adams had full employment, with 0 percent jobless, only 10,160 would be employed. Too many people have moved away to staff a jobs resurgence. If a mid-sized employer wanted to offer 150-250 jobs, it would have to recruit workers from counties and parishes regionally to fill its ranks. Normally, when the unemployment rate is this low, you would expect employers to have to pay more to get workers, offering higher salaries. But because the Adams County economy is essentially a micro-economy and revenues earned by businesses are less than in mid sized markets, the businesses simply can’t pay more and survive. The inability to pay those higher wages encourages workers to move out of area to get better paying jobs. And again, that migration depresses the numbers available for the workforce.   

The Ferriday mayoral general election will be held Apr. 27 between Alvin Garrison and  Joey Bazile. Also on the Ferriday ballot: Dist. B Alderman: Devin Bryan and Devonte Schiele; Dist. D Alderman: Andre Keys and  Ashley Skipper. 

Ballot propositions

Monterey Fire Dist. 1 voters consider two ballot propositions on Apr. 27. Prop. 1: Shall Monterey Fire Protection District No. 1 of the Parish of Concordia, State of Louisiana (the "District"), continue to levy a special tax of 10 mills on all the property subject to taxation in the District (an estimated $150,230 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of 10 years, beginning with the year 2027 and ending with the year 2036, for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining and/or operating the District's fire protection facilities and equipment, including paying the cost of obtaining water for fire protection purposes? Yes - No Prop. 2. Shall Monterey Fire Protection District No. 1 of the Parish of Concordia, State of Louisiana (the "District"), levy and collect annually for a period of 10 years, beginning with the year 2024 and ending with year 2033, a parcel fee of $50.00 on each lot, subdivided portion of ground or individual tract upon which is located, either in whole or in part, a residential or commercial structure, regardless of the structure's being occupied or unoccupied (an estimated $50,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the parcel fee for an entire year), for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, maintaining and operating fire protection facilities for the District, including the cost of obtaining water for fire protection purposes and all purposes incidental thereto? Yes - No 

Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington addressed the Board of Aldermen Tuesday and said the city and county continue their talks about sharing costs for fire service and E911. The county had been allocating $700,000 a year to the city so that city fire crews will cover all rural fires. Arrington said the cost of fire and E11 protection continues to rise, so it’s likely the county will pay more to the city for that fire protection and the city will pay approximately $300,000 toward the cost of the county managed E911 dispatch center. The local agreement will probably cover cost sharing over a five year period.

On April 23, an arrest was made in the homicide of Sheryl Turner of New Iberia. Ms. Turner’s torso was discovered by a hunter in the Ouachita River in Catahoula Parish on January 24. Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies, detectives and Coroner Raymond Rouse responded to the scene and recovered the torso of an unknown female. DNA later identified the victim as Sheryl Turner, 19 of New Iberia. Ms. Turner was last seen by her family on December 31, 2023.  She sent a text message to her twin sister stating that she had met someone in Ouachita Parish and was going to move there.  Sheryl also sent a text message to a family friend stating that she had made it to West Monroe, and she would talk to him soon. Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office Detectives conducted a joint investigation with West Monroe Police Department, Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and on April 23 a suspect was arrested and confessed. Anthony Pierce Holland, Jr. 29, of West Monroe, La. was charged with Second Degree Murder and booked into the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. 

Lounge in spotlight

The Natchez Planning Commission will discuss Truth Lounge at its meeting this week, in light of a shooting that occurred at a nearby parking lot during bar hours. The Franklin at South MLK area has become a hang out spot since the lounge opened. More than a dozen shots were fired and one person wounded recently. Law enforcement has ignored loitering, drug use, illegal drinking, trespassing, illegal parking, noise violations , blocking roadways, and the area has turned into a late night festival for weekend bad behavior. While many defenders of Truth say the owners are not responsible for how people misbehave outside the bar itself, there were very few incidents of law-breaking in the last decade on upper Franklin and MLK toward the fire station, that is, until the bar opened and the big crowds arrived   

Natchez Hotel Consultants is interested in leasing part of the Depot, while Visit Natchez uses another part. The company would use the space for special events, meeting space and convention related activities. Aldermen have directed their City Attorney Jack Lazarus to negotiate a lease with Consultants’ attorney Walter Brown. New Orleans Hotel Consultants runs the convention center for the city and is an allied company of the Natchez Grand Hotel. 

Drax Biomass, a pellet mill in Gloster, has been cited twice in recent years for exceeding pollution limits. MDEQ fined Drax and its parent British company $2.5 million for one of the offenses. Gloster residents say the polluted air and emissions from the plant are causing health problems. The company has agreed to donate $250,000 to a Gloster community improvement fund, which is unlikely to deter critics of the plant. The pellet mill employs approximately 70 workers. 

Sharing responsibilities

Natchez aldermen are considering an agreement whereby the city would manage the city-county soccer fields and the county would manage the city-county pool. Each body would share in the revenue and expenses of both facilities. The soccer fields would come under the scope of the city recreation department and the pool would be managed by a three-person committee appointed by supervisors. The practice of not allowing alcohol at the pool would continue. 

After listening to testimony, examining photos and listening to prosecution and defense arguments, Justice Court Judge Roger Arnold said he had no doubt that Millicent Graning broke the state’s trespassing law for entering and taking photos on Dist. 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson’s land in Sibley. The judge fined her $500 including court costs and applied her $500 bond toward the payment. A key to determining guilt was the fact that the photos were close-ups and could have only been taken if those photos were taken on Wilson’s land. According to state law, a person can also be found guilty of trespassing if he or she encourages others to trespass. Graning can appeal to county court. Wilson wants to use his land to build an oilfield waste disposal site. Graning opposes the project. 

Meadville aldermen appointed Public Works Director Howard Williams to act as water system operator since Wayne Jonson resigned. Johnson was thanked for his good work. Aldermen also agreed to award a $10,650 contract to repair manholes near the Armory. Mitchell Contracting submitted the low bid. 

Planned outage

Entergy will turn off all electrical power to Vidalia April 24, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. for maintenance.

Desperate for additional revenue, the Catahoula Police Jury will meet Monday, April 22, at 6 pm to consider an ordinance that would allow the jury to set up computerized speed traps around the parish. The jury would contract with a company that would use radar and license plate readers to nab speeders. The company then mail a very official looking ticket with warnings and threats to the offending motorists. Most drivers pay the bill and the company splits the revenue with the jury. Most companies pay local government about 50 percent of the take. Speed trap enforcement could bring the parish hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.   

Natchez police arrested Sandra Covington, 53, of Natchez, for arson., after she purposely set fire to her son's clothes in a hallway at Susie B. West Apartments. She and her son had been arguing. The fire did light damage to the building.

New RV resort

Investors with Magnolia Trace RV Resort would like to build a large RV resort center in Natchez-Adams County with hookups and pads available for 147 RVs. The development would include a 12 acre lake, a small golf course, cabins, laundry, clubhouse, upscale or “glam” camping, and room to expand to 600 RV site. A principal behind the project is Cody Martin of Natchez and Greenwell Springs. Thecompany website does not give a specific timeline for fundraising and construction. The company lists 177 Southwind Rd. as Natchez location. That 4 acre site abuts larger property that includes a pond. Natchez Inc. has scheduled an announcement for April 30 at 177 Southwind. 

Natchez police said Nehemiah Levy, 19, of Natchez, committed an armed robbery of the Blue Sky Exxon on Shields Lane at Liberty Rd. on Saturday. Police used store video to identify him, and he was arrested in Sunday. A small amount of cash was taken. No one was injured. 

Travis McCready, formerly of the music group, Bishop Gunn, has been indicted by an Adams County grand jury for the illegal possession of recording and sound equipment owned by Burne Sharp of Natchez. Sharp owns a high tech recording studio in Natchez. Sharp reported to police that approximately $100,000 of equipment had been stolen and some of it was showing up in photos on social media posts. Authorities recovered about 80 percent of the equipment, much of it at McCready’s home. Sharp and the accused performed together as part of Bishop Gunn. McCready has responded to the indictment on his FB page, saying he purchased the equipment from Sharp but does not have any receipts.

Ryan Streeter

Concordia deputies recently captured Ryan Streeter, 27, of Vidalia. He was a most wanted individual in Adams County since 2022, when he was indicted. In 2019, Streeter allegedly aided and tried to hide shooter Shelby Jorden, after she shot at a man at the Relax Inn in Natchez. Streeter will be sent to Adams County to face charges. In Dec. 2019, Concordia deputies arrested him for domestic abuse, felon in possession of a weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of drugs with intent to distribute. He was arrested in Nov. 2023 for driving under suspension by Vidalia Police and bonded out for $280.

Pretty Girls with Brains and Southwest Wellness Association will lease Frazier Elementary School for workforce development programs. Zeta Delta Omega will lease Robert Lewis Middle School for youth mentoring and skill development. The school board approved the no cost leases, so the buildings will be occupied. The lessees are expected to use just a small portion of each school.

Concordia deputies arrested Mona Lipsey, 51, of Jonesville, for aggravated battery, after she allegedly beat an 11 year old boy. When the boy cried out from her to stop, she beat him more. She was allowed to bond out. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in jail and a $5000 fine. 

Latest collections report

The State of Mississippi sales tax distribution to Natchez was $449,000 for March 2024, up from the $443,000 received for March 2023. The Tax Commission fiscal year runs from July 2023-June 2024. For July-March, Natchez has received $4.3 million, down from the $4.4 million from the year before. The city will receive distributions for April, May and June before the Commission fiscal year ends.

Adams deputies arrested Darris Glenn, 49, of Natchez, for possession of a weapon by a felon. His bond is set at $100,000. 

A Wilkinson County deputy ran into Roger D. Nettles, 43, accidentally, when looking for another suspect. Nettles ran away from the deputy, into a mobile home. The deputy went around to the back door of the home and nabbed Nettles as he was coming out. Nettles was wanted in Adams County for skipping a court appearance and he has been returned to Adams to face his court date. 

Tony Godbold

Former law enforcement officer Tony Godbold is currently serving two years in jail for intent to distribute drugs. He goes to trial in Judge Kathy Johnson’s court on July 8 for five counts of carnal knowledge of a juvenile and three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Godbold is serving his current sentence at the David Wade Correctional Center in Claiborne Parish. 

Two men allegedly kidnapped a Copiah County man, killed him and then burned his body. Matthew Nelson was as captured by Copiah authorities, but Tyrell Bridges, 32, tried to hide out at a rural Adams County residence. Adams deputies of the Special Operations Group tracked him down and arrested him. Bridges will be returned to Copiah to face charges. Bridges was set free on early release from MDOC last year. He had been sought since Feb. of this year for the aggravated assault against two men. 

Hart Tiffee, 42, of Monterey, was arrested by Concordia deputies for terrorizing his ex-girlfriend, including ramming his pickup into the back of her car. He was charged with criminal damage to property and is in the parish jail. Tiffee was originally charged with the second degree murder of Duell Moreland in 2016. But a 2017 grand jury did not indict him.   

Keeping Adams County prettier

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said inmates continue to pick up trash along Adams County roadways. Patten said the effort has improved because Justice Court Judge Danny Barber has assigned those who haven’t paid their fines or are willing to “work off” their current fines by picking up litter. Patten says this work release program is keeping the community cleaner. 

Franklin County supervisors have offered a $500 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who removed and damaged 38 road signs and tossed them into a creek. Conviction can include a fine and up to six months in jail. Parents can be held responsible if their teens committed the crime. 

Adams County residents continue to lose landline phone service and internet as copper thieves cut the phone lines to steal copper. The thieves work late at night, usually after midnight. If you see suspicious activity or “workmen” rolling wire late at night, call 911 and report the suspicious activity. Power companies like Southwest MS Power and Entergy will work late at night but have branded trucks and are easily recognizable. AT&T will work in the early evening but not late at night or in the early morning hours. The copper thieves usually operate from beat up pickups and vans.   

Car dealers overtaxed

Adams County supervisors received startling news at their recent meeting. The county assessor’s office improperly included the car inventory of four local car dealers on the inventory tax rolls. Items like oil, parts, tires are included in inventory tax. But the cars on the lots are not subject to inventory tax by state law. The error means the car dealers inventory tax must be adjusted downward by more than $200,000, affecting city, county and the schools’ budgets proportionally. Speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Adams County Supervisor Ricky Gray said he is opposed to landfills and waste dumps being located in Adams County because it is certified retirement community. Gray spoke out against fellow Supervisor Kevin Wilson’s plan to build an oilfield disposal site in Sibley. Gray did not say whether he favors closing the Waste Management trash landfill in the county. The Waste Management site is permitted by the state. Wilson’s proposed site has not yet been permitted by the state.   

Adams deputies arrested Micah J. Frye, 31, of Natchez, on a warrant for allegedly selling meth in Madison, Miss. He was released on bond. 

AMR has suspended ambulance service in Catahoula Parish as of April 15. No public agency has come forward to subsidize the high cost of maintaining ambulance teams on duty. Patients can still get service by calling 911 in an emergency. But that ambulance may take awhile to get there, as it will be coming from another parish.

Building a new jail

A delegation of Natchez-Adams County officials and private citizens will travel to Simpson County to view its jail and get ideas on how the new Adams County jail should be built and operated. Supervisors appear ready to go ahead with the project now that the Miss. House has approved the supervisors’ approach of very long term financing that will be structured as a lease-purchase. Locals are hopeful a Senate version of the bill will pass and the Governor will sign the measure into law. The financing will allow for a lower annual payment at a longer term than usual. The lease-purchase and the longer term of the loan will increase the total costs of the project. Such a strategy is sometimes called “poor man’s financing,” reflecting the inability of the borrower to make normal payments over a shorter term. Lease-purchase agreements are often used by governments and businesses that are short on cash, have marginal credit or difficulty paying their bills. The county is talking about building a jail for city and county prisoners that would house 125-150 inmates. The facility would also include a new sheriff’s office and likely have a small courtroom for justice court preliminary hearings and arraignments. 

Corey Curry Jr., 21, of Ridgecrest, rode his motorcycle near Town Place Suites in Vidalia Saturday evening and sustained severe injuries when he crashed his bike. He was transported to Trinity Medical where he died, the doctors unable to save him.

Catahoula 911 received a call in reference to a missing person. First responders arrived on scene of the Poland road area near Phil’s Landing and began their search for the missing person. La. WLF agents utilized sonar equipment and located what appeared to be a body near the pier of the missing persons camp. CPSO SAR scuba diver located the deceased victim in Saline Bayou at approx 16:40 hours. No foul play is suspected at this time, but Catahoula Parish Coroner Raymond Rouse has ordered an autopsy be performed. .

Trash pickup costs increase

City of Natchez residential garbage fees will increase 37 percent to $30.44 per month. The new rate begins in June. Arrow Disposal will continue to pick it the trash. 

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said he city and county are ready to rebid the Morgantown Road project once again, with new estimates in place for the widening, repaving and drainage work. Alderman  Billie Joe Frazier said the city and county should work together to build a new governmental complex to house, police, deputies, a new jail and courts. He said the multi-million dollar project would “save taxpayers money.” Frazier also mentioned that residents in his ward were concerned that only black neighborhoods were being sprayed for mosquitos and the targeting would harm locals’ health. Mayor Gibson said all the neighborhoods would be sprayed and the insecticide used is safe for people, animals and birds. Alderman  Curtis Moroney mentioned that he had been driving around town and noticed more than 20 street lights were out in the downtown area. He has informed public works officials of the outages. The city is in the process of replacing its incandescent street light bulbs with LED lights. It could be some time before all the outages are remedied. 

The Natchez-Adams County Airport has received an $800,000 grant from the state for hangar expansion. 

Eola project stalled

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the Eola Hotel project has been delayed because the cost of rehabbing the hotel has risen beyond $30 million. The city will continue with its plans to demolish the Fry Building to help the Eola. 

The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a $70,000 grant from VOCA (Victims of Crime Act). This grant will be used for the advancement of locating, recovering, and providing services to those, especially the most vulnerable, who are victims of violent crime. The sheriff’s office is in the process of purchasing the latest in computer technology to expedite the process of identifying these victims. With this new equipment, the workflow time will be substantially reduced allowing Deputies to quickly rescue children and victims of violent crime, and immediately begin the healing process with our counseling partners.

Natchez police said the body of Taurus West, 44, of Natchez, was found at the Terrace Motel. Foul play is not suspected. 

Anthony Hunter Jr.

The CPSO Child Exploitation Unit began investigating the sexual abuse of a child on April 4, after receiving the information from a mandated reporter. During the investigation, evidence was recovered that the subject sexually battered multiple juvenile victims and the matter remains ongoing. Arrested was Anthony L. Hunter Jr., 28, of Ferriday, for First Degree Rape (victim under age 13).

Two of Adams County’s most wanted have been captured out of state and returned to face charges in Adams. Derrick Marsaw, 42, is a sex offender who failed to register in 2022 and was found by U.S. Marshals in Jackson, Tennessee. Chasity Irving, 29, walked away from court ordered drug treatment in 2019 and was captured in Texas by police in Abilene. 

The Natchez School District may reorganize to have pre-K through Grade 1 at Susie B West, Grades 2-4 at McLaurin, Grades 5-6 at Morgantown and Grades 7-8 at Natchez Middle (old Natchez High). The change would accommodate the smaller school population and the difficulty in attracting certified teachers. The district educates just 2,800 students, a dramatic drop in numbers in recent years, because people are moving away from the community. District leaders discussed the idea at the Natchez High cafeteria in a public meeting. 

Robert Gardner

Vidalia Alderman Robert Gardner is in difficulty again. This time, he received an advance city travel payment of $128 but did not attend a scheduled  February government conference. He just pocketed the money. He never turned in receipts for $198 from the town to attend another conference last August. The mayor and aldermen brought up the issue at the recent aldermen’s meeting.

A rummage sale will be held at the Kingston Community Center, April 13, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and April 14, 12 p.m.m-6 p.m.   

Headliners at the Oct. 26 Homochitto River Festival in Meadville will include Foghat, Riders in the Sky and T. Graham Brown. 

General election April 27

Early voting for the Ferriday general election runs April 13-20 and Election Day is April 27.  Candidates are for Mayor: Joey Bazile, Alvin Garrison; District B Alderman: Devin Bryan, Devonte Schiele; and District D Alderman: Andre Keys, Ashley Skipper. 

Jonesville Police Chief MacArthur Tolliver says a new six-man crisis response team will respond to natural disasters. 

The Village of Harrisonburg Water System is under a boil advisory due to a break in the main line. 

Famous historic restaurant closes

The Carriage House Restaurant at Stanton Hall has closed. It originally opened in 1946.

Storms came through the Natchez area 4-10 a.m. Wednesday. Natchez and Concordia schools were closed. Cathedral and ACCS had virtual classes only.  Minor street flooding was reported.

Natchez city election winners included Ward 1 Alderperson, Valencia Hall, Ward 4 Alderperson Felicia Irving, and Ward 5 Alderman Ben Davis. Turnout was exceptionally low.

https://www.alfainsurance.com/agents/john-l-sullivan        JSullivan2@alfains.com

Solar eclipse on Monday affects Mississippi and Louisiana

Concordia Parish has 6,354 people with jobs, down from 6,521 jobs a year ago, a decline of 167 employed.

Seventh District Judge Kathy Johnson sentenced Matt Lee Mason Jr. to life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence for the Aug. 2022 killing of Tyberia Bell of Vidalia.

92 pound carp

During standard spring electro-fishing sampling on Lake Concordia in March, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists found a 49.5-inch Grass Carp weighing in at a whopping 92 pounds. Had the carp been captured by traditional fishing, it would have been a record holder.

Adams deputies arrested Mary C. Bequette, 35, of Natchez, after she purposely ran over her boyfriend with her vehicle. She was arrested for her aggravated assault and DUI test refusal. She remains in jail on a $500,000 bond. Her victim is in intensive care at Merit. She has had other misdemeanor run-ins with the law involving alcohol.

Breanna N. Stumps, 28, of Natchez, turned herself into the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. She was wanted for accessory before the fact stemming for her alleged involvement in an aggravated assault and shooting on Pitchford Pkwy. perpetrated by Ricky McGruder. Her bond was set at $25,000 and she is expected to post bond and be released within 48 hours. He remains in jail on a $250,000 bond.

Sarah Freeman

Miss Vidalia and Vidalia High senior Sarah Freeman competed in the Miss Louisiana Teen Pageant in Metairie this past weekend. Freeman finished in the top 10 of 28 contestants.

Franklin County supervisors heard about the condition of Providence Road at their recent meeting. Asphalt on the road should be milled and turned to gravel, as it is in poor condition and can damage vehicles. District 1 Supervisor Ronald Hunt said he would do what he could do about the road, which is located in his jurisdiction and would ask to borrow District 4's milling machine. Chancery Clerk Jill Gilbert informed the board that residents expressed concerns about the dead trees along the side of county roads. Crews have been cutting some of the dead trees down but there are still many left and will likely be many more as lingering effects of last year's drought become evident. Board Attorney Bill Halford and County Engineer Mike McKenzie then discussed how close to the road a tree must be for county workers to legally be able to remove it without obtaining right-of-way.

The Bude Community Foundation will host its first annual "Pop-up Shop" event on Saturday, April 6 in the Bude Community Center parking lot. Vendors can sign up for a $10 fee. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and will also serve as a way for business owners to promote their businesses. "We are looking at doing this every year," Bude Community Center Director Veronica Brown said. "We have some food trucks signed up, and we will also have some $1 items available for purchase, with proceeds going to the Bude Community Foundation." To register, call Brown at 601-384-2008.

Natchez shooter arrested

Ricky McGruder, 36, of Natchez, assaulted a man in a car in a convenience store parking lot on Hwy. 61 South in Natchez on Sunday. When a Good Samaritan intervened to help the victim twice, once on 61 South and again on Pitchford Parkway, McGruder shot at the Good Samaritan but missed. McGruder was later arrested, charged with three counts of aggravated assault and his bond was set at $250,000. He remains in jail. Thanks to police and deputies who worked on the case and captured the shooter. In 2022, he was arrested in Adams County for burglary and child endangerment. He has a record going back to at least 2011, with both felonies and misdemeanors.   

Natchez City Clerk Megan McKenzie issued a statement on the city's redistricting: "The Board of Aldermen approved the redistricting in November of 2022, the notice was advertised 3 consecutive weeks as required. The Election Commission worked with the law firm that handled the redistricting to ensure a correct listing of house numbers was provided. The Election Commission then worked to update the information in the State Election Management System. As you know, amid all of this we had a special election for the city, a county election and now a federal election. Once all addresses had been corrected, new voter registration cards were mailed. It was brought to our attention, after these cards were mailed, that the residents effected by these changes on Briarwood Road, Amberwood and Linwood were still listed in their old ward. We have spoken with the Election Commission and have been reassured that the correct ward has been updated in the management system, however because we have an open election the updates have not rolled over yet. Once tomorrow’s election is closed out, they will be able to rollover the updates and print new cards for these residents. Being that the city election is next week, we felt it was best to send a letter to the residents in this area so that they would have the correct voting precinct information as quickly as we could provide. Most importantly, it is important to understand the changes in ward lines addressed in this letter are the approved ward lines from the redistricting that was approved and advertised."

Adams County Supervisor Kevin Wilson filed a trespassing complaint against resident Millicent Graning, saying she trespassed on his property that is likely to be used as an oilfield waste disposal site. The state has not yet permitted the site. Graning says she did not enter Wilson’s property but has driven along the public roadway nearby. She has been an outspoken opponent of Wilson’s planned development. Graning will appear in justice court to face a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Wilson will have to provide evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Graning did indeed trespass. Graning says she is innocent.   

Current city redistricting map was not publicized until April 1 and is nearly unreadable for interested voters

The Natchez city election is April 9. Some residents of Ward 3 in the Dunkerron subdivision are being told they are now in Ward 1, and Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall has been seen in Dunkerron campaigning. This came as a big surprise to the locals, as the city ward lines published map on its website continue to show Dunkerron in Ward 3. The city clerk says it’s all a big mistake. The city knew of the changes back before November. But city officials did not inform the public or even the election commission of the changes in a timely fashion. Residents on the south side of Briarwood, Linwood and Amberwood are affected, about 63 voters. The last minute change could affect who wins or loses.   

Natchez police responded to an early morning shooting Easter Sunday on Main Street at the corner of MLK Street. At least one person was wounded in the parking lot. Between 10-20 shots were fired.  

Famed Trinity School football coach Jack Benson has died at the age of 89. Benson was a top football player at Natchez High, Mississippi State and on several U.S. Army teams. He took a struggling Trinity football program in the early 1980’s and turned it and the teams that followed into true academy powerhouses. Benson emphasized physical conditioning and defensive play. He had served in the Army and in Vietnam and later in Army intelligence at Fort Devens. He and his wife, Peggy, were very active in the Natchez community over many years. Known for his quiet strength, self discipline and determination, Coach Benson helped many kids find their maturity and grow in responsibility.

Dennis Mitchell

Natchez police arrested David Mitchell, 63, of Natchez, for aggravated assault, after he allegedly stabbed a man twice with a tire iron. His victim is expected to recover. Mitchell was arrested in August for felon in possession of a firearm. For that offense, he was released on bond and bound over to the grand jury. 

Ryan Mullen, 43, of Jayess, and Duane Dufrene, 56, of Destrehan, were sentenced on March 20 and March 27 respectively by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo for two separate cases involving conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Judge Milazzo sentenced Mullen to 160 months imprisonment for both cases and she sentenced Dufrene to 24 months imprisonment for the same two cases. According to court documents, Mullen and Dufrene used fictitious entities, falsified tax returns, fraudulent financial statements, and fraudulent appraisals to defraud the lending institutions so that the men could purchase a residence in Jayess. (using a state bank in Mississippi), The Briars bed and breakfast in Natchez, (using a Mississippi credit union) and two other Natchez hotels (using an out of state commercial lender). The sale of the Jayess residence was premised on false financial information provided by Dufrene to Mullen, who then gave it to the Mississippi bank. The sales of The Briars and the two hotels were premised upon not only false information prepared by Dufrene and given to the financial institutions by Mullen, but also on inflated appraisals stemming from side sales agreement between the men. After the sales of the bed and breakfast and hotel properties, Mullen paid Dufrene $90,000. Mullen used the proceeds to buy at least 20, some already governmentally seized, high-end luxury cars, a number of which have been seized. The loss from their fraudulent purchasing and flipping schemes totals approximately $6.5 million. In the second fraud scheme, Mullen conspired with Dufrene, Dillon Arceneaux, Lance Vallo, Grant Menard, and Zeb Sartin to use several shell Louisiana corporations, devoid of assets, to defraud a Georgia based merchant cash company. Mullen and Dufrene helped establish Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin as the owners of the existing shell corporations. Mullen and Dufrene then created fake vendor accounts for the corporations, and Mullen, along with another person, created falsified bank records for the companies. Mullem then used an alias and represented himself to be a broker for the shell companies he helped create.

Jordan Carriers celebrated the grand opening of a new headquarters building on Hwy. 61 South in Natchez.  The trucking company employs approximately 1,000 drivers across the U.S. 

New fire truck for Natchez

Natchez aldermen will purchase a $677,000 fire truck. They will use a supervisors’ grant and some city cash and finance the balance of $437,000 for 10 years at 2 percent interest. 

Paula Morris is a Mississippi Parent of the Year finalist, representing Natchez and the 2nd Congressional District.

Natchez aldermen are expected to finalize a new 6 year garbage contract in early April, with Arrow Disposal likely to continue as the contractor. Natchez residents now $24.15 per month for the service and it’s expected to increase about $2 per month. The contract may include a cost of living rider, which would increase rates annually.   

Ronn Eller and Andrew Scott Smith runoff

Voters in Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson counties go to the polls Tuesday, April 2 for a Republican Primary Runoff Election. Ron Eller and Andrew Scott Smith will be on the ballot for the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District. The winner faces Bennie Thompson in November.

Contact CPSO's Victim Advocate with questions regarding eligibility for the Crime Victims Reparations and help with filing a claim. Caal Brandy Spears, Victim Advocate at 318-437-0439 or email bspears@concordiasheriff.org.

The Cancer Screening Mobile Unit of the Cenla Medication Access Program’s will visit Catahoula Parish on April 16 and 17 to offer free breast, colorectal and cervical cancer screenings for eligible Central Louisiana residents. The mobile unit will be located in the parking lot of Ford’s Grocery at 612 4th Street in Jonesville on Tuesday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Wednesday, April 17, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Services include mammograms, cervical screenings and take-home colorectal cancer kits. Appointments are required. Annual mammograms are recommended for women ages 40-64, cervical screenings are scheduled every other year for women ages 25-64, and colorectal screenings for men and women ages 45-64. Residents should contact the Cancer Screening Project to see if they qualify; we accept the uninsured and Medicaid. The Cancer Screening Mobile Unit is a partnership between The Rapides Foundation, CMAP and the Partners in Wellness Program at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Shreveport. To request an appointment, please call Cancer Screening Specialist Stephanie Heinen at 318-767-3027 or toll-free at 1-855-767-3027.

Boat ramp repairs

The Okhissa Lake recreational area remains open but its boat ramp remains closed for repairs. The repairs are taking longer than expected because rains keep increasing the lake level. And water has to be drained from the lake more often than expected to keep the boat ramp dry.   

When law enforcement arrested Myracle L. Washington, 22, of Natchez, on misdemeanor charges in February, subsequent investigation and a preliminary hearing led her misdemeanors to be retired to the file. However, she has formally been charged with felony sexual battery and her case has been turned over to the grand jury, which may or may not indict her. 

The Concordia Parish Police Jury had asked Juror Genesia Allen to form a local committee of volunteers who wish to spearhead the restoration of the old parish courthouse. Allen will look for any available grants and her committee will draw up plans for interior and exterior improvements. The old courthouse was built in 1939 and is now considered a historic building. 

Very slight increase in jobs

Adams County reported 9,670 people with jobs in February, up 50 jobs from a year ago. First quarter reports are usually the worst of the year. The March report will also show some slack in the number of jobs. But normally April-June show better numbers. The second quarter is a time when retail, service sector and agriculture employment improve.

When Madison Bidco, a British investment firm, bought Velocys in December for a little over $5 million, it did so knowing that Velocys lacked the capital or resources to carry out any of its projects, including the Bayou Fuels biomass refinery for Natchez. Velocys had pledged to take the Bellwood Industrial Park and make a $500+ million investment in Natchez, when it didn’t have the capital to build anything at all. This past year, Velocys was nearly out of cash, unable to raise more private equity funding, with ever increasing multimillion dollar losses. To continue its planning phases, the company was using grant monies from the U.S. government. Madison will now take the company private because the Velocys stock price is so low not to be viable. Madison says it has raised $40 million from investors to pursue Velocys projects, including those in Natchez and Ohio. However, Madison still does not have the resources necessary to do the Natchez project, which has already received subsidies from Adams County and Mississippi taxpayers as well as Uncle Sam. In its most recent press release, Velocys went into great detail about its production plans for Ohio, barely mentioning the larger project in Natchez at all. That lengthy discussion led me to question even more whether the Natchez project is even a dream-like possibility due to its high projected cost of construction. Note: Velocys normally reported its financials in British pounds because it is a British company. As a publicly owned company, it reported its revenues, expenses and detailed finances every six months. Now that it is a private company, it does not have to make its finances public.  

The State of Mississippi returns some of the sales tax collected to towns and cities. Using a sales tax year that starts July 1, the state returned $4.0 million to Natchez July 1, 2022-February 28, 2023. For the year July 1, 2023-February 29, 2024, sales tax returned amounted to $3.8 million, a 5 percent decline. Natchez will still get receipts in March, April, May and June before the tax year is complete.

Adams County audit cites errors

Bridgers CPAs of Vicksburg was not able to finish the Adams County 2022 audit on time, being more than six months late, because the county did not collect its data and pass it to the CPAs in a timely fashion. Findings included here: 1. The county did not always follow state purchasing rules. The county paid a few invoices without the proper documentation. In response to the error, supervisors appointed a new purchasing clerk. 2. Purchases from the road department were authorized by persons other than the road manager. The county says it will correct this problem. 3. Bank reconciliations were out of balance by small amounts. Circuit Clerk Eva Givens had assigned a lower level clerk to handle this, and that clerk was unable to figure out why there were discrepancies. Additionally, the fee account was not reconciled for an entire month. 4. Circuit Clerk Givens did not deposit excess funds into the county's general fund on a timely basis. Givens failed to make her annual financial report on time. Once filed, she also claimed an expense of $16,805 that was not allowable. Unfortunately, it was a lower level clerk that made the reporting error. Additionally, there were math errors in computing retirement contributions. The CPAs said Givens should re-file the report with the appropriate corrections. Givens did not respond to the problems herself. But the unnamed clerk said she would correct the errors. The CPAs pointed out that these statute responsibilities belong to Givens herself as the elected official. 5. Tax Collector Terrence Bailey showed an overage of $526,000. The Tax Collector kept his own manual accounting system on spreadsheets, instead of using the Delta software used by county offices for many years. He did not know how to use the software, despite being in office for four years. As a result, it was not possible for the CPAs to verify his accounting procedures and tallies as necessarily accurate. The Tax Collector's Office has repeatedly not performed bank reconciliations since 2018. The audit showed he did not compare reconciled cash with booked cash. And the amounts were different. Additionally, the lack of accurate bookkeeping made it uncertain as to whether Adams County, the City of Natchez and Natchez-Adams School District got the proper amounts due. The CPAs concluded the lack of controls over cash could result in the loss or misappropriation of funds. The CPAs did not feel confident that the stated cash figures from Bailey's office were accurate or could be substantiated, so they left those figures out of their report. Bailey responded saying he has passed on all collections to the various entities required, including state and local. He arranged for Delta consultants to come and teach him about the software in Fall 2023. Whether that training was successful is unknown. And whether he has corrected the glaring bookkeeping and cash control problems is unknown.

Adams County deputies arrested Darrell White, 21, of Natchez, for burglary of a dwelling. 

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said his deputies deserve more pay, as they are doing a good job but are leaving for better paying jobs. Supervisors then agreed to raise the pay of 10 deputies in hopes of holding onto them. The sheriff's office has laid off some jailers because inmates are being housed in Concordia. Some jailers have been retained and with the cost of housing inmates in Concordia will likely increase overall expenditures. The increasing cost of carrying 75 county law enforcement personnel, including overtime costs, was one of the factors leading to last year’s county budget crisis. Supervisors made some cuts and increased property tax millage 14.5 percent as a result of poor budgeting. Supervisors recently voted to go ahead with plans to build a new jail. While the specifics of the jail, cost and financing of the new facility have not been finalized, once built, operational costs for the sheriff’s office will continue to rise.

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Peter Rinaldi, publisher
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Whatever Happens Just Happens?

Truth Lounge

by Peter Rinaldi

The Natchez Planning Commission will discuss Truth Lounge at its meeting this week in light of a shooting that occurred at a nearby parking lot during bar hours. The Franklin at South MLK area has become a hang out spot since the lounge opened. More than a dozen shots were fired and one person wounded recently. Law enforcement has ignored loitering, drug use, illegal drinking, trespassing, illegal parking, noise violations , blocking roadways, and the area has turned into a late night festival for weekend bad behavior. 

The city had generally taken a hands off policy since the bar owners filed suit against public officials. The Planning Commission can put restrictions on the bar’s operations and the aldermen can review, adopt or reject the Commission’s rulings. 

During the Grennell and Gibson administrations, the mayor and aldermen haven’t done that much about fighting the violent crime wave other than change police chiefs four times in eight years. General policy has been the same at Truth Lounge as in other parts of the city: Whatever happens, just happens. 

Some city residents claim that the black-owned bar with mostly black patrons has been singled out for unfair and racist treatment. But actually, the incidence of stabbings and shootings in Natchez-Adams County bars have occurred in bars that have a majority black customer base. 

Both Sheriff Patten and Police Chief Green have previously expressed their concerns about law breaking and violence at and near Truth. The sheriff and chief are both black and unlikely to discriminate against black entrepreneurs and their customers. But both their departments have scaled back their enforcement near the bar following the filing of lawsuits. 

When Judge Debra Blackwell was asked to intervene to protect public safety, she declined to do so, instead allowing the city and bar owners to work out any solution they saw fit. 

As a result of the passive attitude toward safety, crowd misbehavior has made it difficult for businesses near Truth to operate safely. And a number of residents noticed bullet holes in their vehicles and bricks or woodwork struck by bullets after the last violent outbreak. 

While many defenders of Truth say the owners are not responsible for how people misbehave outside the bar itself, there were very few incidents of law breaking in the last decade on upper Franklin and MLK toward the fire station, that is, until the bar opened and the big crowds arrived.


Prosecutorial and Judicial Improvement

Bad guys catching it

by Peter Rinaldi

There’s been a dramatic change for the good since Tim Cotton has come on as DA and Danny Barber has returned as Justice Court Judge. Tim is spearheading the indictments of scores of serious felony criminals who have been in jail or out on bond. Nearly 200 have been indicted this year so far. 

Most of these guys are repeat offenders, many charged with shootings, killings and sex crimes. The volume of work coming from the DA’s office has been magnificent, especially in comparison to his lousy predecessor. Over the course of the next year, I expect many of these indictments to be resolved in trials and convictions. 

As Justice Court Judge, Danny oversees the setting of bond for felony offenders, binding them over to the grand jury to see if the offenders should be indicted. Danny had been setting appropriate bonds and no bonds for some, based on community threat, flight risk and the arrest and conviction history of the accused. The laxity of his predecessor is history. Danny is responding to the threats caused by repeat felony offenders. 

Both men deserve credit for this dramatic shift in performance from their offices. As a result, we’re safer. The news is good.


Adams County Audit Hits Circuit Clerk and Tax Collector

Accounting problems

by Peter Rinaldi

Bridgers CPAs of Vicksburg was not able to finish the Adams County 2022 audit on time, being more than six months late, because the county did not collect its data and pass it to the CPAs in a timely fashion. Findings included as follows: 

1. The county did not always follow state purchasing rules. The county paid a few invoices without the proper documentation. In response to the error, supervisors appointed a new purchasing clerk. 

2. Purchases from the road department were authorized by persons other than the road manager. The county says it will correct this problem. 

3. Bank reconciliations were out of balance by small amounts. Circuit Clerk Eva Givens had assigned a lower level clerk to handle this, and that clerk was unable to figure out why there were discrepancies. Additionally, the fee account was not reconciled for an entire month. 

4. Circuit Clerk Givens did not deposit excess funds into the county's general fund on a timely basis. Givens failed to make her annual financial report on time. Once filed, she also claimed an expense of $16,805 that was not allowable. Unfortunately, it was a lower level clerk that made the reporting error. Additionally, there were math errors in computing retirement contributions. The CPAs said Givens should re-file the report with the appropriate corrections. Givens did not respond to the problems herself. But the unnamed clerk said she would correct the errors. The CPAs pointed out that these statute responsibilities belong to Givens herself as the elected official. 

5. Tax Collector Terrence Bailey showed an overage of $526,000. The Tax Collector kept his own manual accounting system on spreadsheets, instead of using the Delta software used by county offices for many years. He did not know how to use the software, despite being in office for four years. As a result, it was not possible for the CPAs to verify his accounting procedures and tallies as necessarily accurate. The Tax Collector's Office has repeatedly not performed bank reconciliations since 2018. The audit showed he did not compare reconciled cash with booked cash. And the amounts were different. Additionally, the lack of accurate bookkeeping made it uncertain as to whether Adams County, the City of Natchez and Natchez-Adams School District got the proper amounts due. The CPAs concluded the lack of controls over cash could result in the loss or misappropriation of funds. The CPAs did not feel confident that the stated cash figures from Bailey's office were accurate or could be substantiated, so they left those figures out of their report. Bailey responded saying he has passed on all collections to the various entities required, including state and local. He arranged for Delta consultants to come and teach him about the software in Fall 2023. Whether that training was successful is unknown. And whether he has corrected the glaring bookkeeping and cash control problems is unknown.


Natchez Mall and Local Retail

Outlook assessed

by Peter Rinaldi

While quite a few folks expressed concern on my FB pages about the mall’s idea to convert the interior of the mall to a storage facility, such a sale of the property and conversion is unlikely and would be very expensive. Natchez being such a mini market, the need for such large storage is questionable. It is more likely that the mall will remain as is, with a few stores operating that have their own individual outside entrances. Tabani had been more fortunate than some malls. It has been able to lease some space, whereas many malls have closed completely.   

The retail prospects of Natchez have declined precipitously in the past generation, as we’ve lost 25 percent of our population and approximately 30 percent of our residents are living below the poverty line. The possibilities for growth of retail products and services for middle and upper income consumers here are very slim. Most entrepreneurs and chain operations want to locate in communities that are growing quickly not declining. And the near “destruction” of the mall, Tracetown and Magnolia Mall are signs that the retail market is declining. Fortunately, there are a few companies, like dollar stores, that like poor communities, since poor customers are their target consumers.   

Downtown has again become more important, as several dozen local entrepreneurs have opened in the last three years. Most will blow away in the normal 3-5 year business cycle, but quite a few of their buildings have been rehabbed and will find new business tenants when the first crop plays out.


A Year Remembered

The crime abyss

by Peter Rinaldi

Natchez-Adams County occasionally places criminal penalties of time to be served or fines to be paid for commission of misdemeanors. 

But very often, cases are dismissed, remanded to the files or suspended sentences awarded. Sometimes a small fine is assessed, but with it comes some sort of deal. The penalties actually earned are watered down. A pat on the fanny and let go. Shoplifting, drug possession, theft, simple assault. Misdemeanor offenders are filling city and justice court, with many of the same faces seen year in, year out. 

Worse, felonies are often plead down to misdemeanors. Crimes that should bring 3-10 years in jail are given the magic eraser, plead down to suspended sentences and small fines. The plea downs include serious violent offenses, sex crimes, shootings. 

If you ask why crime is bad, it’s because prosecutors and judges are played by defense attorneys. The judges and prosecutors are weak and ineffectual and perfectly willing to see crime committed at its current pace. A high rate of crime proves they are necessary and important and deserve the high and outlandish pay they make. 

As to defense attorneys, there are many who will sacrifice their integrity for a buck. They will most assuredly lie to the court about their client’s behavior, even if the perp is a killer. No one forces the defense attorney to lie and scheme for money. He does so willingly and is rewarded by the system for doing so. 

If you ask me who is causing the biggest problems, I’m not sure it’s the criminals. When judges and prosecutors handle 500 cases and make sweetheart deals on more than half their cases, who is making sure that we have repeat crime? If you don’t prosecute, convict and sentence appropriately misdemeanor offenders, you get more misdemeanors and more felonies. A sorry and incapable justice system that uses the magic eraser on felonies will most assuredly get more thugs running rampant around town. More violence and more property crimes are guaranteed. 

Nothing says incompetence like letting shooters bond out on very low bonds who have a history of felony arrests and convictions. This is insanity. And it happens all the time in Natchez-Adams County. 

Really, it’s just a few people in charge of this mess. Two justice court judges, two circuit judges, a municipal judge and prosecutors, county prosecutor, district attorney and assistant district attorneys. These officials and the defense attorneys that slug through court are going to determine how safe or unsafe Natchez-Adams County is and will be.

I wish it wasn’t this way. Watching our community slide into an abyss of crime 2010-2023 has been heartbreaking. But when incompetents are elected or appointed, this is the result. Sure as shootin’. Here’s to a 2024 that’s more resolved to convict and sentence the criminals who plague us.


Enshrined Failure

Public school kids deserve a better education

by Peter Rinaldi

In the past two years, nearly 20 states have dropped testing requirements for graduating students, including Mississippi. Why? Because the students would fail the tests if forced to take them. Mississippi has moved to a phony grading system where school districts that are failing their students can still earn a B or C. Natchez has a grade of B, but only 10-35 percent of its students are proficient in math or language arts, depending on the grade and subject. 

The real purpose of our public education system and our government schools is to reward employees with good pay, benefits and retirement not educate students. 

If you want a quality education in Natchez, especially if your kids are in elementary or middle school, choose ACCS or Cathedral. If your kids are smart enough to get into Natchez Early College at Co-Lin, they’ll get a good education. Otherwise, put your kids at ACCS or Cathedral. Don’t be foolish and believe the lies told by the Natchez School District as to quality. It has enshrined failure.

Treating the Mentally Ill

Mississippi's mental health treatment crisis

by Peter Rinaldi

Finding the mentally ill appropriate healthcare has always been a problem in Mississippi. Most of these patients lack good medical insurance or financial resources to pay for appropriate care. They need specialized care for their drug, alcohol and other mental illness problems. As a result, the underfunded in-patient care state system almost always has a waiting list. Chancery courts sometimes order the mentally ill to be housed temporarily or not so temporarily in jail, waiting for an opening at a state funded or private care facility. 

The cost for 30 days of in patient care can run $50,000-$100,000 per patient. And the support system needed to start an-inpatient center is more than $2-4 million minimum. So it’s impossible for small counties to start a new in patient mental health care facility. The only county that could actually afford a new center would be Hinds. So we’re more or less stuck with the system we have. 

The Legislature has never properly funded mental health care, either in-patient or outpatient. It never will. 

And mental health is differentiated just like other healthcare. We don’t treat cancer patients the same way we treat diabetics or those with kidney failure. Likewise, the treatment for alcohol and drug addicted persons is different than those with schizophrenia or patients suffering from what we used to call a nervous breakdown. This differentiation increases costs. 

Without proper funding from the state for facilities and programs, continuing inadequate private insurance coverage and the low to moderate incomes of most Mississippi families, it is a problem that simply won’t be fixed. 

I am reminded of the example of a family very close to me, whose mother suffered from both alcohol and drug addiction. The hospital in-patient and outpatient treatment costs out-of-pocket to help the mom regain control of her life and restore her mental and physical health was more than $200,000. 

The problems are great and the resources less so. The Legislature would need to appropriate $100 million a year to begin to tackle this problem. And insurance companies would have to pay more than 80 percent of a 30 day treatment plan less deductibles. Neither is going to occur. 

So some mentally ill patients will end up in jail.


Did the Trash Contract Include Bid Rigging?

Supervisors Warren Gaines Sr., Angela Hutchins and Ricky Gray

by Peter Rinaldi

Adams County supervisors wanted to award their civil engineering and trash contracts to minority contractors. Political decisions. When they did so, the cost to taxpayers rose dramatically.

It turns out that the effort by Supervisors Gaines, Hutchins and Gray to “do the good deed” and help a black contractor backfired when they chose Metro Disposal from Metairie for trash pickup, Metro did a lousy job here and in other communities they served, like Slidell and New Orleans. While other black contractors did a good job in New Orleans, Metro trucks were not maintained and broke down frequently. The company did not pick up trash as scheduled, often skipping some residences for two weeks or more. It was the same story here in Adams County. 

Eventually, service in Adams completely came to an end when Metro ran out of money, and the company filed for bankruptcy. Reorganized as United Infrastructure, the former Metro owners were given a 90 day emergency Adams County contract, but this time at more than double the normal monthly price. 

There was also the question of whether the bid was rigged by the three majority supervisors to give Metro the emergency contract. Supervisors could have offered a long term contract to attract many more potential bidders and to lower the price per month to households and the county. But they purposely offered a short term contract, so that Metro-United could be the winning bidder. 

And of course, the company is still doing a mediocre job, not running complete routes and missing pickups. 

Supervisors Middleton and Wilson have tried to point out to their fellow supervisors that the current approach to trash pickup is costing way too much, as Adams County now has the highest trash pickup rates in state plus the service issues. 

Supervisors Gaines, Hutchins and Gray haven’t dealt with budgeting the extra cost either, deferring the issue to after the elections. But the extra $600,000 has to be budgeted and paid. Trash bills to homeowners should have been more than doubled by now. But no change in billing has been made because four of the five supervisors have election opponents. 

Right now, the majority three seem perfectly content to allow both county and city residents and taxpayers to pay for this error. As of now, city residents are paying for their own trash pickup through their water bills. And city residents are also subsidizing their neighbors out in the county trash pickup through property taxes. Talk about unfair. And probably illegal. 

In past, the state and courts have ruled that utility and trash services had to be paid by the people who actually get those services. 

Please explain to me why in-city residents on Pearl or MLK Street should pay their own trash pickup and also subsidize out-in-the-county trash pickup in Cloverdale, Kingston and Cranfield. 

This whole rotten mess shows how foolish the black majority supervisors are. In an effort to bend over backwards to help a minority contractor, the three supervisors are actually harming thousands of black homeowners in Adams County by providing the most expensive and lousy trash service available. 

All three, Warren Gaines, Angela Hutchins and Ricky Gray, have made statements in the past about how difficult it is to be poor in Adams County. Well, the three are really putting it to those poor folks now. Big time.


Expect the Possible

Mayors Butch Brown, Darryl Grennell and Dan Gibson

by Reter Rinaldi

Natchez mayors and their citizens are always caught in the same trap: expecting a newly elected mayor to lead the community to the prosperity that never happens. What does happen is that by the end of the mayor’s term, many citizens become fed up with the lack of progress and the mayor loses support. This was undoubtedly true during the terms of Mayors West and Middleton as well as the more current Mayors Brown, Grennell and perhaps even Gibson. 

Here’s what occurs. The candidate wants to be elected. So he offers hope, the promise of positive change and economic revival. When the economic revival fails to arrive, the mayor tries to convince his subjects that things are in fact moving forward economically. But citizens quickly notice the mayor’s mistakes, crookedness and lies, and sooner or later, he is overwhelmed by his errors. Revival doesn’t occur and support evaporates.

The biggest error occurs right in the beginning of the campaign, when the mayoral candidate promises to turn around the course of 40 years of history that includes the decline of the wildcat oil industry, the destruction of our manufacturing base, population outflow and a demographic shift from a majority middle class white community to a majority poor black community.

None of our mayors are God or Moses. The Israelites are not being led to a land of milk and honey. 

Instead, citizens should be looking at whether the mayor does a good job running city government as an administrator. Is he wise, careful with money, hard working, honest and ethical? 

Past, current and future mayors face the same core problem. Natchez does not generate enough tax revenues to meet the basic needs of the city, including police, fire, public works, streets, lights, landscaping, tourism, seniors, transportation, facilities maintenance, city employees and community development. 

Unable to meet these needs, many mayors choose to borrow excessively and lie profusely to maintain their position. The result is always the same. The mayor is ejected from office and a new mayor chosen. The cycle begins anew. 

Perhaps Gibson will break this trend. His supporters are counting on his political skills, hard work, energy, bull throwing, butt kissing and borrowed money for big projects to change the course of events. 

To me, Gibson is the agent of change, meaning he is the mayor most likely to give us the management expertise we want to run the city bureaucracy better than it has been in the last 40 years. But I do not expect a successful economic revival led by him. 

And if he and his supporters insist on such revival, he will ultimately fail and lose his seat. 

What Natchez needs to stabilize and grow is a population that increases because there are more jobs paying higher wages than in past. That’s not going to happen. No mayor can make that happen. And actually, recent history of the last 10 years shows Natchez rapidly declining and the gap increasing between our low household incomes and the state average. 

Through the last five mayors, we’ve declined precipitously as a community. And hopes, promises, bull throwing, schemes, scams or good projects are not going to counter the path we’re on. 

So if we want to save Dan and Dan wants to save Dan, then we must adjust our unrealistic aims and concentrate on the things we can actually do with our very limited means. I’m saying we should break the cycle of failure that actually goes back to Tony Byrne’s last term, when the economy started to get shaky. 

The obvious questions are, “What should we do now and in the short term to improve city management and services without breaking the bank and borrowing huge sums? How can we, through our modest means, improve government and quality of life in town for a community that is increasingly majority black, poor and lower middle class?” 

We should break the cycle of disillusion and failure. We should change the way we think and the way city government is led.


NATCHEZ WATER WORKS:  Office Hours: Mon-Fri 8a-4p, 601-445-5521 . After Hours, Call 601-445-5521, Then Press #8. We are committed to providing safe, high quality water services to our community, while maintaining a standard of excellence in customer service and environmental conservation. 150 North Shields Lane. natchezwaterworks.com


Searching for the Truth

Crime numbers should be reported

by Peter Rinaldi

Incidents of crime are normally reported to the DOJ annually on a voluntary basis. Participation in crime reporting makes it more likely a city will get crime fighting grants from the feds.

Natchez PD had been tallying the numbers on violent and property crimes since the 1990s. For whatever reasons, the city stopped submitting those statistics at the end of 2020. There is no public info available from DOJ on Natchez for 2021 and 2022. And the PD has not made public any info it might be keeping privately.

I received repeated information from inside NPD that the 2019 and 2020 statistics were adjusted to make the city look safer. However, I was unable to confirm whether the stats were lies or truthful and simply decided to use the phrase “could be incomplete, subject to confirmation.”

It’s unfortunate that the city has decided to keep citizens in the dark. I use crime mapping software to mark where felonies occur and are reported. But I don’t have access to all the info the city and county have on calls and arrests. 

For 2022-2023, it appears that violent crime is increasing once again and that property crime may actually be decreasing a bit. But I’m not sure-sure and would need more police and sheriff’s data to come to a firm conclusion. 

When stats aren’t readily available, it allows law enforcement and politicians to lie about what’s happening. For example, Chief Daughtry claimed he had taken 150 guns off the street. But there was no arrest record to back up that wild claim. Fantasy and baloney. Bull. 

Since citizens pay for their government with taxes, they have a right to know what’s going on. Keeping accurate crime stats, participating in DOJ reporting is normal and necessary for cities of our size and larger. We should know precisely where we stand. 

Of course, if crime is getting worse or much worse, then it’s in the interest of law enforcement and the politicians to hide the facts, so they can keep their cushy jobs and mislead the peons. But it’s not in the community interest to obscure or fail to disclose the truth.


Stolen Firearms and Cute Judge Tricks

Judges should wise up

by Peter Rinaldi

One of the aspects of our local crime problem is that guns are stolen from homes and vehicles during break-ins are then sold to juveniles and young adults for prices of $35-$100. Stolen guns aren’t often traceable to the offender but often traceable to the original owner of the gun, who has usually purchased the firearm legally through a store backed by paperwork. 

Unless the perp leaves good fingerprints on the stolen gun and has a felony record, the stolen gun is the perfect tool to use in a crime, shooting, a drug deal, confrontation with an enemy or another break-in. 

Mississippi Legislators know gun trafficking and illegal possession of guns contribute to an explosion in crime. So the law says selling or transferring a stolen gun or possessing a stolen gun can earn the perp up to five years in jail. And any crime in which a gun is used can carry a five year enhancement or five year additional penalty. 

What are Natchez-Adams County judges doing? Repeatedly, they are letting those who possess stolen guns go free, no jail time, sometimes a suspended sentence, sometimes a small or moderate fine. So do the perps learn their lesson? No, what they learn is the court is weak, the judge is a fool and the felon gets away with the illegal possession. The criminal is saved from justice to commit crime at a future date. 

Another cute trick pulled by a Natchez judge occurred this week. The 18-year-old before the court did indeed possess a stolen gun. Instead of finding him guilty or binding the accused over to the grand jury, the judge retired the case to the file for one year. At the end of a year, if the young man keeps his record clean, then the case will be dismissed. 

This kind of judicial malfeasance if repeated many times over has the same result as a suspended sentence or small fine. It guarantees the criminal knows he has played the game and won and escaped justice. 

We acknowledge that repeat felony offenders are the primary cause of the death and destruction, the violent and property crime scourge destroying Natchez-Adams County. But we also admit that our judges are contributing to the continuation of our crime wave due to light sentencing. 

Those convicted of transferring or possessing stolen guns should always get jail time of up to five years as the law provides and the circumstances of the offense dictate. 

Every person who is convicted of a felony gun crime has earned jail not hugs and kisses or a stern warning from the court.


Where Are We Heading?

Natchez remains in crisis

by Peter Rinaldi

I have a great love for Natchez. But the incredible ignorance of its citizens always alarms me. The lack of good education, lack of skills and widespread drug and alcohol dependency help determine our future, and especially when you consider our lack of capital for growth and our isolated location. The growth of crime is a direct result of these negative characteristics. 

We’ve spent millions extra on our local public schools, but overwhelmingly 25-50 percent of Natchez students fail to meet grade level expectations. And 21 percent of our adults have not even graduated from high schools. Household incomes are 40 percent below state averages. We are poorer now as a community than we have been since the 1960’s. And poverty and ignorance work hand in hand. 

Thinking and analytical skills are not our strong suit, especially among our so called leaders. Our citizens elect officials who are incompetent and themselves poorly skilled and educated. You can’t expect dumb people to lead you out of a mess. They will only make it worse. 

The school system is spinning out of control. The number of jobs has declined 15 percent in a decade. And the population continues to flow outward. As almost a symbol of these manifest problems is our warped view of politics. Right now, we have only three realistic presidential candidates. And similar to 2020, who would Natchez Adams County vote for? Biden, of course. 

This love-worship of liberalism is reflected in local politics as well. The voters love big spenders and bull throwers. The politicians use reassessment of properties to move their city, county and school budgets above $130 million. Spend and take on debt. And while government gets bigger, the community gets smaller and poorer. 

Despite this sad assessment, I like you, hope for and wish for great gains and achievements that are always on the horizon but never seem to arrive. 

For me, my only recourse is to continue to write the local news and comment when things are going well or poorly. And when you are lied to or misled by the politicians for their own personal gain, those actions must be pointed out as well. 

While I respect The Democrat’s role as cheerleader for the community and a recorder of all things good and positive, I would not ever feel comfortable in the role of a pom-pom girl. I’m a conservative social, political and economic reformer. Unfortunately, I can’t change. So I remain a pain in the butt for some. But if you read my FB and website posts, you will know more about our community even if you disagree with my conclusions. 

My love and affection for Natchez-Adams County demands that I point out and analyze problems, make suggestions for improvement and be a taxpayers’ advocate. 

I invite you to follow my news and writings on FB and miss-loumagazine.com. Weigh in when the mood or issue strikes you. I always welcome comments and opinions that differ from mine. 

When I started this “news journey” more than 40 years ago, I expected our community to make significant progress. That has not happened. But I am unwilling to give up. As long as I can breathe and type, I must write what is both informative and entertaining for Natchez-Adams as well as Vidalia- Ferriday-Concordia. I’m stuck like hamster on its wheel. But it’s a good stuck. 

Your input is always appreciated.


Natchez Taxpayer's Hero Remembered

Janet and Dan Dillard

by Peter Rinaldi

It's been a shock to many of us that Alderman Dan Dillard passed away unexpectedly this week. He was a good man.

Natchez city government is always beset by the fuzzy thinking and goofy ideas of its leaders. Several times in recent memory, city government has tried to spend its way into some utopia, like it's doing now.

For more than 16 years, Dan Dillard brought reason and common sense to the Board of Aldermen, challenging collective thought and a plethora of financial miscues. Dan routinely fought theft, misappropriation, alarming overspending and borrowing. He was often the first and the only aldermen to raise these issues. He was ultimately concerned that Natchez citizens get good government. Dan was an early advocate of rehabilitating the police department, city-led tourism, city clerk's office and for fair play and balance between city aldermen and county supervisors. He played a major role in budgeting and oversight management of many city departments. 

In the many years he served, he had a couple of good mayors and some good aldermen. He also had a bunch of stinkers, low-lifes and corrupt jerks to work with, too, which made his job as a conscientious aldermen much more difficult. 

I've been following the aldermen since 1978, when I moved here. I would say without hesitation that Dan was the best alderman we had. A few other notables come to mind, Al Graning, Tom Middleton, Lou Salvo Jordan, but Dan was the best of the best. 

He was like the little Dutch Boy of legend, putting his finger in the dyke, saving the community and government from being awash in a flood of red ink and haplessness. You could count on Dan to be honest, work hard and follow through. 

What a tremendous loss for his family and our city! I should have said this to him when he was alive. "Dan, you did a spectacular job. Thanks so much for your leadership and hard work to make Natchez the city it should be." 

In recent years, he suffered a great tragedy, the loss of his good wife, Janet. He recouped from her death somewhat, and resumed a normal work schedule. But the burden, loss and grief and were ever-present. He loved her so.

I would ask you to remember Dan and Janet and their kids in your prayers, as well as their extended families. God care for Dan and Janet. We miss them both. 

Dan Dillard was 67.


Three Amigos: Bias Plays Role in Waste Contract

by Peter Rinaldi

Adams County Supervisors have once again bungled their waste collection contract. Although county leaders Warren Gaines, Ricky Gray and Angela Hutchins quickly gave an OK to United Infrastructure, both Kevin Wilson and Wes Middleton objected to the high price that would saddle Adams County with the highest trash pickup rates in the state plus a guarantee of a 4.6 percent cost increase annually. That means supervisors will most likely double the trash pickup bills of residents after the election. 

Gaines, Gray and Hutchins are anxious to award the final contract to United, a New Orleans area based minority contractor, that formerly went bankrupt as Metro Services. Metro failed to pickup the trash for several weeks and did a terrible job before that, as its cash flow worsened. The Three Amigos of Trash, Gaines, Gray and Hutchins, believe they will get more brownie points with the folks if they award the final contract to a black owned firm, regardless of the price or quality of service. 

Wilson and Middleton both believe the price and service are most important and it doesn’t matter what ethnic group, black, white, or whatever gets the contract. Wilson and Middleton were in the Metro camp at first, because the company offered good service at a low price. But they soured on Metro when the company wouldn’t and couldn’t perform. 

The Amigos did the exact same thing when they dumped Jordan, Kaiser and selected a black-owned engineering firm that charges a higher price and gives much worse service than Jordan, Kaiser. 

It seems The Amigos believe many issues concerning “green” money can be solved by going “black," when the real issue is the “red” ink that the county will face as a result of their stupid decisions. 

The choice should be made based on price and service. Trying to award trash or engineering services or any other contracts based on equity, reparations or race bias is ridiculous and against the interests of ALL the people of Adams County. Especially if citizens end up paying more than double the price for garbage pickup.


Solving the Crime Problem

Downtown Burlington, Vermont

by Peter Rinaldi

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city, with 44,700 residents. It is the home of the University of Vermont, generally high income, next to Lake Champlain, pretty and probably the most liberal town in America. Socialists are welcome here. While just 4.4 percent of its citizens are black, it is the state’s most black city. 

 What Burlington has in common with Natchez and other cities across the US is growing violence, shootings committed by black males. Three in the last week alone. Doing the research on recent shootings, I found a similar pattern to what has happened in Natchez. Perps who commit felonies are given suspended and light sentences, only to come back soon to shoot up the neighborhoods and wound or kill their enemies. For Burlington, this is a new circumstance, a shock to the fiber of the community. 

For us old hands in Natchez, we’re used to black teens and young adults shooting the heck out of each other. So in Burlington, they’re talking about new social programs to curb black violence because they can’t blame the economy or poverty for a cause. Merchants are talking about hiring armed security. To Burlington’s credit, shooters are not given bond. But like Natchez, most folks don’t know why the violence is out of control. 

Of course, Natchez’s solution to the wave of black violence is easy: no bond for felony offenders who have been convicted of felonies before; no bond ever for shooters. 5 years extra sentence for use of a firearm in a crime, as provided for by law; maximum penalty for shooters and second time felony offenders; maximum penalty for possession of a stolen weapon. 

You can clean your streets and keep your community safe by putting all the thugs in jail for a long time. Or you can opt for new social programs like Burlington or say it’s just bad everywhere and put up with it like Natchez. Or you maybe accuse The Democrat of insensitive news coverage that highlights crime too much or call me a racist for pointing out the obvious truth.   Whatever option you choose and no matter how you spin the facts and theories, if you don’t put the thugs in jail for a long time, they will come back to do more and worse. And of course, the criminals will destroy your community, just like they have done in little Natchez.

Natchez Renewal

City overspending is self-destructive

by Peter Rinaldi

Part of a Natchez renewal should include a dedication to careful spending of tax dollars, proper management of city employees, a lowering of the tax burden on our generally poor population and proficient supervision of accounting and bookkeeping practices. Of course, we have seen little of the aforementioned practices in recent years. What we have witnessed is joyful and exuberant spending and excessive borrowing, surely requiring an increase in taxes now and in the future, when the grants end and the city is stuck with higher operational costs it can’t fund. 

Some proof of this error-filled approach can be seen by just a casual review of the city budget, which had long remained in the $25-37 million range. Now aldermen will spend $51.2 million this year on $49.3 million in revenues. As homes and businesses have their assessed values massively increased, the city bleeds those residents and business people for more taxes. Local government ensures that families have less money to pay their monthly bills. Government does better, much better. But families and businesses are doing worse, unless they completely sell off their property assets. This is not progress. 

Realistically, there has been no growth in the local economy but continued deterioration since 2016. Already the post pandemic recovery has ebbed, with a drop in the number of jobs and taxable retail sales up only 2 percent, far less than inflation. 

Free for all spending will not make the city better in the long term. The mayor and aldermen have taken the posture that liberal Democratic government is just what we need, that crime and poor quality education can be ignored and that a blizzard of spending will cure most evils. 

There is no escape from such philosophical foolishness, only self- destruction. Living within your means and providing sound and practical management are not just lofty ideals but extremely necessary in light of our diminishing stature in the state’s economy.


Win-Win or Lose-Lose?

Eola Hotel

by Peter Rinaldi 

Natchez aldermen have discussed in private meetings their planned roles in financing the reconstruction of the Eola Hotel project. Virginia immigration attorney Robert Lubin still owns the hotel and is working with Mississippi developer Hayes Dent and Wisconsin developer Randall Roth. Who will own what portion of the stock is unclear, as is whether ownership stakes in the hotel will be sold to foreign investors. Foreigners who invest in blighted communities can get easy access to U.S. visas. 

What is certain is that the city is moving forward on the idea of using TIF bonds to help the developer-owners. Additionally, the investment proposal would direct the Eola's sales and property taxes (except school taxes) toward repayment of the development bond. That means Natchez-Adams County taxpayers would subsidize both the construction and operation of the rebuilt hotel. While the total cost of renovating the hotel could be as much as $32 million, when finished, the hotel might only be worth $18 million, calling into question whether the investment could stand on its own feet without taxpayer subsidy and foreign investor dollars.

While Mayor Dan Gibson and the aldermen haven't discussed publicly the risks of another failed Eola project as a possibility, they have touted the scheme as a way to make the hotel a centerpiece for development downtown Natchez. No owner of the hotel has made money on its operation since the 1970's, and so far, no evidence has been presented that the new owners will make money either. Whether the Hotel would generate enough revenues to pay off its bond plus its operating expenses cannot be realistically determined, putting local taxpayers at some risk. 

Conceivably, the primary U.S. partner-developers could make money through developer, management and consulting fees, either paid in cash or as stock options, while the foreign investors would not see a return on investment and face hefty losses, while still getting their prized U.S. visas.

Mayor Gibson has been pushing and leading the discussion about the Eola within the aldermanic meetings. Alderwoman Valencia Hall has said, the project is a "win-win" for Natchez, though she did not say specifically what she meant in this case. Neither Hall nor Gibson nor the rest of the aldermen have any experience in hotel redevelopment projects. But they all understand that even an unsuccessful project could still have re-election benefits, even if the investment is a financial catastrophe. The reopening of the hotel could be touted as a political success to voters, prettying up the Natchez skyline, even if the numbers don't work. 

Aldermen voted 5-1 to begin the process of participation in the project, committing an initial $4 million. The city may also provide additional funds later on through a TIF bond.  

The mayor and aldermen are not required by law to discuss real estate projects publicly and can keep their negotiations secret, until it's time to formally commit Natchez taxpayers to the financing plan. At that time, a series of public notices would be required and open meetings for public input would be held. But by that late date, the project would be a done deal and little could be added to change the course of the city's involvement or mitigate its risk. 

For more information, go to https://www.bcbsms.com/

Hosemann's War Against Adams County 

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann

by Peter Rinaldi

With redistricting led by Delbert Hosemann, Melanie Sojourner was purposely cut out of her state senate seat, put in a Democratic district she could not win. 

The result means Adams County no longer has a senator or representative that actually resides in Adams. Robert Johnson actually lives in Hinds County and rarely comes to Natchez. That's why you never see or hear from him.

Not only does this make our political efforts in Jackson more difficult, I cannot understand why Mayor Dan Gibson continues to praise Hosemann publicly, telling him how wonderful Delbert is as a leader and how Natchez loves and respects him, when Delbert was obviously trying to hurt our community by destroying Melanie's district. 

It's good to be courteous to any political enemy of Adams County, especially a Lt. Gov., but to publicly fawn all over him is a waste of time. He will give you only the minimum of attention, a minimum of money, because he has shown you already what he thinks of your community. You are poo-poo to him and throwing Adams into the Port Gibson based district of a Democratic senate non-entity proves that he thinks you belong in Siberia, without power, money, influence or improvement.

Delbert thinks you are nothing, worthy of nothing, so butt kissing won't do you any good. As a matter of pride and honesty, you should politely, kindly and directly tell him you know perfectly what he did to hurt us. And you don't like it or respect that behavior. And in return, you promise to be a loyal Adams County resident and Mississippian and can only support the re-election of those who actually support us, versus those who try to hurt us. The door remains open to future conversation, but the underlying principal must be that we expect state government and the Lt Gov. to help Adams County and not harm our community.

---

Note: When I posted this little commentary without the stirring headline on Del's FB page that invites public input, it was immediately deleted by his staff. Shows you, doesn't it?


Battling Crime in Natchez 

by Peter Rinaldi

Why would the mayor and aldermen believe that by simply changing police chiefs violent and property crime will decrease? Unless you change the way you police and the way you manage the department, you will get the same failure over and over again. There are many towns and cities across the US that have effective policing. And a lot of communities are very safe. But Natchez is not. 

We all know that the increase in crime and violent offenders is complex in nature, having to do with home life, immorality, evil, even wayward judges and prosecutors. But the job of police is simply to arrest perps. They’re not educators, social workers or ministers to the soul. Their job is simply to deter crime by having a large enough presence on the street, to use pre-emptive investigations to keep the criminals huddled down and afraid, and to arrest every felon who commits a serious crime. A big task. But some communities do this very successfully. 

If your mayor and aldermen do not have a solution to the police and crime management problem, then new officials are needed. If we don’t change the current situation, Natchez will have a future but a future worse than it is now. 

It’s pretty obvious that gangs, drugs, violent and property crime are out of control in Natchez and law enforcement and the politicians are unable or unwilling to deter this crime. Is it time for armed citizens to patrol their own neighborhoods? I think so. To be effective, neighborhoods would have to form their own security districts, equip and pay armed security, an expensive proposition. But if law enforcement won’t do the job, you have only two choices: armed protection or surrender to the criminals.


The Change

by Peter Rinaldi

In 2022, I noticed a significant change in the direction of the Natchez-Adams County School Board and its management. In past, the district tried to highlight its successes, while acknowledging its need to do better, especially in things like test scores and the state’s evaluation. This past year, school leaders changed direction and overblew modest improvements post Covid, trumpeting somewhat dishonest A/B/C evaluations and ignoring that only 15-35 percent of students performed at or above grade level in various subjects such as math, language arts and reading.

This change marks a reinforcement of the earlier dishonest policy when the district built a new high school when voters specifically told the bosses they didn’t want one. There remains a strong constituency within Natchez-Adams County for the repair and upgrade of our local schools, including improving the quality of teaching and student performance.

It’s strange that our nearby school districts in Catahoula and Wilkinson are engaged in lengthy discussions on how to improve their schools, discussions that include board members, administrators and the public. Weaknesses are openly discussed and hotly debated. Those districts, with far less money and resources than Natchez Adams, are dealing with these problems. They’re not lying to the public.

While Natchez-Adams supervisors and aldermen dropped the issue of an elected school board because of Philip West’s opposition, it’s now pretty obvious that he is the obstruction to change and should be removed and a new honest superintendent chosen.

In the end, the lack of positive outcomes for learning in the Natchez public schools harms the students and impairs the economic future of the community. The schools are a reflection of the community they serve. And the downhill slide of both over the last 30 years is obvious to all except the blind and corrupt insiders.

You cannot reverse outward migration of the population and a decrease in economic activity by continued poor schools, lots of crime, low-paying jobs, dilapidated housing and inferior community aesthetics. However, lying, misleading the public and failing to follow public mandates only make a bad situation much worse.

It’s sad that some black political leaders say they want our black schools to do better. But their actions reveal the truth. They want the power and money for themselves and their friends and the black kids can go to hell, if changes threaten who is at the top.

These leaders are not the champions for racial justice but the purveyors of racial injustice. So the rich and upper middle class black kids and white kids and their parents flee the Natchez public schools for AC or Cathedral or play ‘the where does the parent/kid live? game,’ and try to slip the child into the Vidalia or Franklin County schools. The failure of Natchez public schools will drive a parent manic and/or broke to save his or her kid.

Like all of us, I have more questions than answers, and solutions are easier to spout than actually enact. But I know the schools will never, ever get anywhere and succeed with dishonest leadership in charge. They will always fail and miserably so. That is inevitable.


Short Story: A Kiss from 1992

by Peter Rinaldi   

My wife and I decided to give a New Year's Eve party back in 1992, when we lived in Village Green in Natchez. 

I've never liked parties much. And whether I'm the host or a guest, I get so nervous, I can't enjoy myself. But we lived in the Village Green neighborhood for more than a decade by then, so I succumbed to my wife's request-command that we sponsor a drop-in party from 6-9 p.m. and invited neighbors and their kids and told them to bring a dish or snack or whatever.

We still had the Christmas tree up, of course. I went to Piggly Wiggly and loaded up on snacks, cheese, sandwich meats, cookies, beer and Dr. Pepper and Coke. I called Domino's and asked them to deliver four cheese pizzas at 6:30 p.m., figuring people would be just a bit late in arriving. And I stopped at the liquor store to pick up two one-gallon bottles of Gallo wine. As my wife stated and against my better judgment, it's Natchez, and alcohol is a mandatory party favor.

The party went well. Lots of families came. I had a roaring fire in the fireplace. It got so hot inside the house, I had to turn on the a/c. The kids were having fun. My older son sat at the kitchen table enjoying a card game of Uno with his friends. My younger son and his friend playfully argued over a Chinese checkers game in front of the fireplace. More kids were in the TV room in the back playing the video game Tetris. The adults were milling around, drinking very little but eating a lot and talking a lot. I had a Dave Brubeck jazz cassette playing softly on the stereo. Perfect. My anxiety lessened. About 8 p.m., I noticed our neighbors Pam and Frank sitting on the couch together. They were both in their mid 70's, and many years before, they had been married to each other and had kids, though they had been divorced at least 20 years by 1992. They still lived in the area. Pam lived on Sun Court and had remarried a guy who was a semi-professional gambler, which meant they were always broke. Frank had moved over to North Temple and married fishing. No spouse. Just he, the dog and fishing. 

I heard parts of their conversation that New Year's Eve. Pam was doing most of the talking and Frank was mostly listening. Pam was talking about her cake business, who she was making cakes for, what kind of cakes, the kind of icing and the decorations she put on the cakes. Back in those days, she was known for her made-from-scratch cakes. She had a little bakery in the Morgantown Plaza for a few years, where UMB is now, When they tore down the shopping center and built the bank, she moved her cake business to the house and never missed a lick, if you'll pardon the joke.

Pam was in the middle of her cake dissertation to Frank, when Frank gently reached for her hand and leaned over to Pam and kissed her on the lips, passionately and romantically. Pam started kissing him back enthusiastically. Then they hugged and kissed just a bit more. Frank then stopped and just held her hand. And I could tell she was getting emotional, and she started tearing up. They didn't talk. They just sat there on the couch, and Frank held her hand. 

No one noticed the couple kissing, other than my wife and me. All the adults and kids at the party were talking, eating and playing and didn't notice the couple at all. 

The party broke up about an hour later. People had a good time and everyone wished each other Happy New Year and went home. Pam and Frank went their separate ways to their respective homes. 

After the party, I asked my wife what she thought. "Do you think they still love each other?" I asked. "I don't know," my wife replied and added, "It was a beautiful kiss, a beautiful moment." 

Many New Year's Eves have come and gone since 1992. As the years went by, I never heard of Pam and Frank reconnecting. Pam stayed married to the gambler and Frank stayed married to fishing. Sadly, they have both passed on. Pam's husband did eventually gave up gambling. Pam did cakes until her early 90's, And Frank actually died of a heart attack while fishing at Lake St. John. A good way to go. 

I think about Pam and Frank often. I think of that party, how nervous I was in advance of the party, and how they were so affectionate with each other. Almost every New Year's Eve, the memories return. I can remember their conversation, how they looked on the couch. It seems like just a few years ago not three decades. 

There were two things I learned from that New Year's Eve party in 1992. First, Domino's cheese pizza is always popular and appreciated at a party. And second, no matter how old you are, you need love, caring and emotion in your life. The touch of a hand and a kiss can be so very important.


Top Stories of 2022

by Peter Rinaldi

Crime: Violent and property crimes continue to plague Natchez-Adams CountyConcordia Sheriff's Office arrests several dozen cyber perps and sex offendersFerriday rebuilds police department with Chief Sam KingNatchez hires Commander Cal Green as its police chiefVidalia daycare workers get long terms in jail for child abuse; Adams prosecutors and judges criticized for plea bargains, low bonds and light sentences Economic development: Miss-Lou employment rebounds from pandemic lows; Syrah Technologies announces major expansion; Vidalia pays utility customers 50% rebate, pays off entire city debt; Jordan Carriers to build new HQ; Magnolia Bluffs Casino and The Markets get new owners; Residents still moving away to get better jobs, population drops since 2020Eola Hotel rehab project stalls Infrastructure and facilities: Adams supervisors and Natchez aldermen borrow more than $12 million to fix roadsMorgantown Road repair funded though not started; Adams supervisors-sheriff struggle over jail plans without resolution; Natchez aldermen repair parks and will update convention center, auditorium; Natchez-Adams County to issue bonds for major recreation improvements; Ridgecrest ties into Ferriday water system; Natchez-Adams politicians drop the ball on E911 relocation Culture: Balloon festival one of the more successful in its history; Natchez becomes solid new venue for live concerts; Natchez aldermen will spend $1 million on Civil War troops statue Top 2 Stories: Jessica Aldridge finally gets sentenced to 20 years for shooting and killing boyfriend Joey Cupit; Accused killer Semaj Jackson indicted for shooting Jamesia Brown and Cameron Jones


Short Story: The Christmas Mailbox

by Peter Rinaldi

Mabel and Howard Smith of Franklin County gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Christmas Eve, 1951. They named their only child, Howard Jr., but everyone in the family called him “Beau.” He was simply one of the prettiest, cutest babies anybody ever saw. The Smiths live just off Hwy. 33, down one of those dirt roads in a little white frame house. Howard worked cutting timber and Mabel stayed home taking care of little Beau.        

As Beau grew, he became an avid reader. He would look at the picture books and pronounce words, asking for his mother’s approval each time he got a word right. His mother would smile and say, “You’re my smart boy!” And Beau would beam with pride. His dad would spend evenings reading the newspaper to his son, telling him truths about the world, why it’s important to be hard-working and to be good to your neighbors. 

When Beau was just shy of his sixth birthday, he said, “Momma, I want to send a letter to Santa and put it at the mailbox.” So Beau and his Mom sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a short letter. The boy asked for a baseball glove for himself, a work shirt for his dad, and a sweater for his mom. Mabel put the letter in a white envelope and wrote on the front, “To Santa – North Pole.”             

Beau and his Mom walked out to the roadside and the pipe iron mailbox to send off the letter. The boy cried, “Momma, Santa won’t see it in the mailbox. Put it on the outside between the box and the red flag.” So Mabel did as her son requested, and they walked back to the house, talking about what they could do to surprise Dad on Christmas. Mabel shared the story of the ‘letter to Santa’ with the aunts, uncles, and cousins at the Christmas dinner table.             

When Beau was almost 19, he and his mom sat at the kitchen table and remembered the time when they wrote the letter and placed it on the side of the mailbox instead of in it. They both laughed. But it was a somber Christmas that year for the Smiths, as Beau had just enlisted and was scheduled to enter the army the first week in January. “It’s my duty. Whether I end up in Vietnam or not, I’ve got to do what’s right,” Beau said quietly. He could have gone to college, gotten a deferment, but chose to serve his country instead. And both his parents were worried.             

It was early in September 1971; a rocket attack hit just north of Saigon. Beau was sitting on the edge of his jeep, talking with a buddy. In a second, it was over. Beau was killed. There wasn’t much to send home to bury, according to his platoon sergeant.

After Beau’s death, the family never seemed right again. Howard Sr. began drinking and was injured on the job. Mabel suffered from a deep depression over the loss of her son and her husband’s problems. Eventually, the couple moved away from Franklin County and the little frame house fell into disrepair. No one ever lived there again. The dad died of a heart attack in Dallas in 1980. Mabel died in nursing home in 1992.            

If you ride down Hwy. 33 and look off that dirt road where the Smiths lived, you’ll still see the mailbox standing. The house is pretty much gone. But that old rusty mailbox is still there. And every year on Christmas Eve, you can see a fresh, white envelope stuck between the red flag and the mailbox itself. Neighbors aren’t sure who tucks the envelope there, but figure it could be a relative or someone close to the family who knows the story.   

If you happen to see that person this Christmas Eve, please stop and thank him for remembering the Smith Family and Beau, even though so many years have gone by. The family has passed on, but there are still more than a few folks around who remember them, the good times they had, and the love they shared.             

This short story originally appeared in Miss-Lou Magazine in 1996.


Tracetown Shopping Center Has Seen Better Days

by Peter Rinaldi 

The decline of Tracetown is not a new thing.

When I moved our Miss-Lou Magazine offices there in 1995, the center was already in decline, as Sears had closed and about 20% of the shops were vacant. When I moved out in 2017, there were about a half dozen tenants and today maybe three or four. 

With its Winn Dixie and Sears anchors gone and excessive vacancies, the center was hugely unprofitable, with insurance, minimal maintenance and property taxes much greater than annual revenues. There was little hope of a turn around. 

Tracetown also suffers from antiquated construction design, a rolling hills parking lot and would require at least $3 million for the parking lot, lighting, a/c and roof repairs. So nothing will be done to change this. Realistically, the center has practically no market value, other than for its few rentals. Post office, rehab, nail salon...maybe $200,000-300,000 in value tops, less considering the maintenance and operational problems.

Add to that, flat and leaking roofs and overhangs, antiquated ac systems and the general decline in the Natchez economy, the center just hemorrhaged money. Many of the units are so severely damaged because of the catastrophic roof leaks. The Mobile, AL owners had also sold off their frontage lots to the bank, McDonald's and Ruby Tuesday's to get some operating cash. But selling off the front doomed the Sears property. The former Sears location had no parking left. And the building itself was in such poor shape, no smart tenant would rent it. the owners then tore down the Sears building, After thieves stole all the copper and wiring out of the theater, that building was demolished, too. 

 The Lazarus Arts-Dr. Kumi complex is separately owned and not part of Tracetown. 

The owners gave away their shopping center in Ferriday to the town to get rid of that property and operational costs. And I expect, sooner or later, the owners will approach Natchez about the same kind of deal, like the Fry Building. Politicians would tell you what a great deal it is to get a donated center or building. What they don't tell you is that the donation takes the property off the tax rolls, relieves the owner of the high maintenance costs, transfers those to taxpayers and nets the politicians some tidy campaign donations during the next election cycle.


Good Garden Clubs

by Peter Rinaldi 

One of the puzzling things about our community is how the Pilgrimage Garden Club, Natchez Garden Club and Auburn Garden Club get a bad rap on occasion. 

Most of the members of these clubs are very interested in the economic vitality of Natchez Adams. They understand that history preserved can mean more tourist dollars, more conventions, more hotel stays, more restaurant visits and more jobs. Well maintained historic properties not only bring tourists but have brought a new generation of well to do out-of-towners who have spent millions of dollars upgrading their antebellum and Victorian homes. And that investment has paid off in many jobs for people of all economic groups and all races. 

There was a time in Natchez, when some connected to the clubs used their platform to try to cement their social position above others, but the time of the so called landed gentry is long gone. I’ve often heard how the garden clubs killed off IP and Armstrong. In fact, the those closures had nothing to do with the clubs. The factories were losing so much money and had serious union problems that meant making a profit unlikely. So the factories closed and the jobs were lost. And many garden club members mourned that economic downturn like the rest of us. 

Remember that some of the old homes are not owned by garden club members. Some are also owned by men. And many of the new generation of old home owners continue to run their properties at an economic loss and do so because they have the extra money to do so and/or are committed to a better Natchez even if it costs them mega cash. Whether you’re a garden club member from downtown, Morgantown or Kingston, all share the same goal: a better city and county with more prosperity for all. Also, you’d might be surprised to know that many garden club members are actually very middle class and some less so. But regardless of wealth, the members share an interest in exterior and interior design, flowers, gardens, architecture, history and historic preservation. 

We should be proud of their contributions to our community. Some also own businesses that have little to do with history. But they understand that successful maintenance of homes and gardens and the marketing of that history and beauty to the outside world is a necessary and important task, even more so because of the decline of our industrial base over the last 35 years. 

Thank you, ladies of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, the Natchez Garden Club and the Auburn Garden Club. When you think of the garden clubs, think of the economic contributions of their members which is so vital to our present and future.

jhandjis@hotmail.com


Mayor Fibs About 2021 Audit

by Peter Rinaldi

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson recently said the city CPA audit for 2021 showed much improvement for 2021 compared to 2020. He did not tell the truth, as the CPA's negative findings for 2021 continue to show that the city was not following acceptable accounting and bookkeeping practices. Of course, the failure to follow such good standards led to the theft of $36,000+ in funds by two city clerks. 2021 was the Gibson administration's first full year in office. You can't blame former Mayor Grennell for these errors. The responsibility lies with the city clerk and staff, the current mayor and aldermen. They are supposed to follow accepted accounting and bookkeeping principles and regulations. They did not. 

Of the 2021 City of Natchez audit, CPA Silas Simmons said: Bank Reconciliations: Bank Reconciliations were not being properly reconciled to the general ledger or in a timely manner. Accounting Records and Financial Statement: Preparation transactions were not being recorded to the city's general ledger in a timely manner. Interfund Transfers: Due To/From, and Advances lnterfund transactions were not being recorded timely or accurately. Segregation of Duties: During the process of obtaining an understanding of internal control in planning the audit, assessing control risk, and assessing fraud risk, a lack of segregation of duties was noted. Documentation of Adjusting Journal Entries: Adjusting journal entries posted to the general ledger lacked proper and adequate documentation. Single Audit The City's Single Audit was not filed with the Federal Audit Clearinghouse in a timely manner. CPA Silas Simmons then when into detailed analysis and recommendations as to how these re-occurring problems from both 2020 and 2021 should be remedied. 

Several pages of details on what to do were enumerated. If you doubt the truth as presented by both the CPA or myself, you can read the audit findings and make your own judgment. I am used to politicians lying and bull throwing. From a news point of view, I should try to verify the mayor's future claims on all subjects, as those assertions may or may not be truthful. https://www.natchez.ms.us/DocumentCenter/View/1246/2021-Audites 
See pages 85-92.


Stinking City 2020 Audit

by Peter Rinaldi

When completed, the City of Natchez 2020 audit showed that the city did not meet its legal obligation to provide sound and professional accounting of revenues earned and expenditures made. The audit findings reflect the gross incompetence of the city clerk's office under Servia Fortenberry and the lack of care Mayor Grennell and the aldermen showed for their legal responsibilities. That lack of care and oversight allowed Fortenberry and another clerk to steal more than $36,000 in funds during the Gibson administration, according to the state indictment of two clerks. Aldermen discussed this lack of competence during both the Grennell and Gibson administrations but took no action to remedy the illegalities. 

Gibson says the 2021 audit is much better and should be posted online soon. I will report on the 2021 audit as soon as its posted. The 2020 audit reflects activity during the Grennell administration through July 2020 and the Gibson administration from July-September 2020. While the onus falls on Fortenberry, Grennell and the aldermen mostly, the audit did not show any improvements made during the first three months of the Gibson administration. 

2020 Financial Statement Submission to State Auditor: The City's audited financials were not submitted to the Mississippi State Auditor's office by the statutory date required. Bank Reconciliations: Bank reconciliations were not being properly reconciled to the general ledger or in a timely manner. Accounting Records and Financial Statement Preparation: Transactions were not being recorded to the City's general ledger in a timely manner. Interfund Transfers, Due To/From, and Advances: Interfund transactions were not being recorded timely or accurately. Segregation of Duties: During the process of obtaining an understanding of internal control in planning the audit, assessing control risk, and assessing fraud risk, a lack of segregation of duties was noted. General Fund Expenditures Over Budget: The City's General Fund expenditures exceeded its budgeted amount by $1,015,773. Casino Annual Lease Fund Expenditures Over Budget: The City's Casino Annual Lease Fund expenditures exceeded its budgeted amount by $350,490. Compliance with Reporting Requirements of OMB - Single Audit: The City's Single Audit was not filed with the Federal Audit Clearinghouse in a timely manner.


Ferriday's Big, Bad Mess

 by Peter Rinaldi 

Town of Ferriday finances have been in a mess for years, mostly because the town's tax base is not adequate to meet the obligations of minimal government. Additionally, town management, through several mayors and clerks, has not done a very good job of bookkeeping and accounting, with many deficiencies and adverse findings. The town was again late submitting its records to its CPA to publish an annual audit for 2021.

 Some of the more recent problems include: 1) Old past due and non-collectible water accounts were still on the books. 2) Financial statements were not submitted to the state on time. 3) Customer utility deposits were short $22,000. The cause could be inaccurate bookkeeping, stolen or embezzled funds, or deposits may have been used illegally to pay town bills. The CPA noted the shortage but did not conduct a review to determine the exact cause or causes. 4) The town was not in compliance with state safe drinking water standards for more than 10 years, including a failure to pay state mandated fees, which amount to more than $45,000. 5) Town bookkeeping staff did not maintain reserve accounts required by issued bonds. Ferriday should have a debt service fund, reserve fund, and depreciation and contingencies funds noted in its books and balances kept as required by the bond covenants. 

Ferriday's latest audit for the year ending 6/30/21 has not been released. But Mayor Rydell Turner pledged in the last audit that the five major deficiencies noted above would be corrected. The era of bad management continues to plague this poor town. Its citizens deserve better.


Facing Our Obligation

 by Peter Rinaldi 

I have always loved writing news and working on ads for my clients. I enjoyed 35+ years of publishing Miss-Lou Magazine in print and online. In more recent years, I’ve talked to many families, mostly moms and grand moms, who have lost kids and grandkids shot to death by vicious criminals. These tearful conversations have happened far too often since 2010. 

The pain and suffering of these families never ends. And they often have to struggle against a justice system that really doesn’t care whether the murderers are punished or not. There are many things to love or dislike about our communities. But the tragedy of our young men, women and teens shot and killed (nearly all are black young people) is so troubling. I am haunted by the pictures of these kids and their families’ pleas for justice. I find myself going back to the stories and the photos of the murdered kids and again asking God to care for these victims and their crying families. There should be a special place in this universe reserved for the killers with plenty of extra seating set aside for the uncaring law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges who do such harm to our victims’ families. 

This is one reason why I have been so adamant about politicians facing the facts about our crime wave. The politicians are supposed to be in charge of public safety. All shooter killers should get life without parole or the death penalty. We should continue to advocate for no bonds and no suspended or light sentences for shooter killers. No exceptions. Justice demands that we take these crimes seriously. We can’t bring the victims back to life. We can’t end the suffering of the families. But we can do what Mississippi and Louisiana law calls for. It is our obligation to do so.


Questions Worth Asking

by Peter Rinaldi 

If Natchez police took 150 illegal or stolen guns off the street in just six months, just how many people were arrested as a result? I haven’t noticed even 50 arrests for such. Did those with two or more guns get arrested on trafficking charges with a more serious penalty as provide by state law?  

While overall incidence of crime in Natchez reached a peak in the early 90s due to the crack epidemic, the city became more violent in recent years again. In 2018, Natchez had 12 murders in the city and 6 in the county. Property crime also increased dramatically. Since then, overall crime has lessened. In 2018, Natchez was in the bottom 1% of safe communities. Today, it is in the bottom 4%. Did Natchez actually solicit its safety award rather than get the award for community safety? The answer to this question is yes. Natchez submitted an application for the award category to the Miss. Municipal League. The award was not given out of the blue because officials around the state overwhelmingly recognized how Natchez was doing so well with safety. The city filled out an application highlighting its success. And the League awards committee then chose Natchez.

I received info from law enforcement last year, that city crime stats had been sanitized and improved at the direction of the former police chief. If true, that would mean the violent and property crime stats submitted to the FBI DOJ could be suspect. At this point, I have no way of verifying whether the allegation or stats are true or untrue. But the whole affair with seizures, the award, and crime statistics makes me somewhat wary. The mayor has already announced that new crime stats will show Natchez is much safer. Are we supposed to accept this announcement as truth or just more political bull throwing? I don’t know. 

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Instant Pot Summer Soup

Instant Pot Summer Soup! The perfect blend of comforting and fresh for the season. Packed with all the fresh summer produce and super customize to whatever you have on hand! 

INGREDIENTS

 SCALE 1 lb. chicken breasts 

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 

4 carrots, peeled and chopped 

2 stalks celery, chopped 

3 cloves minced garlic 

1/2 cup farro(you can also use brown rice or small pasta) 

6 cups chicken broth 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon each basil and oregano 

1/2 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder 

2 teaspoons salt 

2 zucchini, cut into small pieces 

2–3 cups of fresh sweet corn kernels, cut off the cob 

Toppings: Parmesan, lemon juice, plain yogurt, fresh herbs, freshly ground pepper.

INSTRUCTIONS

Place everything except the zucchini and sweet corn in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Set to high pressure for 20 minutes. Release the steam. Shred the chicken. Stir in the zucchini and sweet corn. Set to high pressure for another 5 minutes. Release the steam. Let the soup rest for a few minutes – it thickens up a bit as it cools. Season with more salt and pepper and whatever toppings you like. Aaand devour!

Anna Kotova has been cooking and baking European and American dishes for more than 40 years.

REGIONS: There's an ATM at each of our branches. www.regions.com. Member FDIC. An Equal Housing Lender.

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Cottonmouths by James L. Cummins

Now that the temperatures are really warming throughout Mississippi, there comes an increase in the activity of reptiles. Included among the many reptile species of Mississippi is the cottonmouth, or water moccasin as it is commonly called. 

It derives its name from the white inner-mouth which is commonly exposed when the snake is threatened.  The cottonmouth is a very heavy-bodied, large pit viper, usually 30 to 42 inches in length and is one of the most abundant snakes found in the South. Cottonmouths found in Mississippi are of the Eastern subspecies and the adults are usually a light brown to tawny-yellow color with light faces. 

However, adult cottonmouths found in the Delta of Mississippi are of the Western subspecies and are olive, dark brown or black in color. Juvenile cottonmouths are generally lighter in color than the adults. Coloration is generally reddish cross bands on a pink or rusty-ground color with yellow to greenish tails. As juveniles continue to age, they lose these characteristics and after 2 or 3 years acquire the coloration of adults.  Cottonmouths live in almost any type of wetland from brackish marshes of the Gulf Coastal Plain to streams, ponds, lakes, rivers and cypress swamps and bayous of the rest of the Magnolia State. Occasionally, these snakes are found on land away from any permanent water source.  

During spring and fall, cottonmouths are very active during daylight hours, predominantly during early morning and late afternoon. During summer, when temperatures become extremely hot, they become nocturnal and move frequently under the cover of darkness, during cooler temperatures. Breeding usually takes place in August and September and the offspring are born 1 year later. After breeding, cottonmouths begin to leave their aquatic habitat for adjacent upland areas where hibernation will take place. Usually by November, cottonmouths have totally disappeared from aquatic areas.  

Cottonmouths are opportunistic feeders. Dead or diseased fish make up most of their diet, but these snakes will also feed on small mammals, birds, insects, frogs and other snakes.  According to Terry L. Vandeventer, a professional herpetologist, contrary to popular belief, cottonmouths are not aggressive, but defensive. “In many instances cottonmouths will retreat at the approach of a human, but when an encounter cannot be avoided, it will defend its ground,” stated Vandeventer. “When a snake is encountered the best thing to do is leave it alone. Take two steps backward and avoid the snake.”

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi.

NATCHEZ COLLISION CENTER: Nights are always a bit cooler and the deer are running. Slow down! If you do get in an accident, we're your best choice for expert paint and body work. Bubba and Ben Wroten and the crew will do excellent work for you! 24-hour towing. Climate-controlled paint booths. Free insurance estimates. Reputation for honesty and fair prices. 

386 Liberty Rd., Natchez, 601-445-0473. www.natchezcollision.com

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Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus


Pandemic of Censorship by John Stossel

“Palestine will be free!” chant the protesters. “From the river to the sea. Some says that’s a call for genocide — another holocaust — elimination of Israel and all Jews. So, should the chant be illegal? 

The House of Representatives just voted to make it illegal at universities. Both Republicans and Democrats voted for the bill. Canadian politicians go further. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants people “advocating genocide” sentenced to life in prison. “We’re a laboratory of bad ideas,” says Canadian Ezra Levant in my new video

Levant, founder of Rebel News, asks, “Who’s going to determine who’s going to be prosecuted? A law like that gives a politician the chance to criminalize his peaceful opponent!” Canadian politicians already do that. 

“I wrote a (critical) book about Justin Trudeau,” says Levant, “a knockoff of ‘The Sopranos.’ I called it ‘The Libranos’ because he’s with the Liberal Party. He hated that book. … and so, I was prosecuted.” Levant was called before investigators working a government organization that polices “unregistered political advertising,” 

“They fined me,” he says. “Five years later, I’m still in court over a book that criticized Justin Trudeau.” 

“Canadians must like this,” I tell him. “Trudeau gets reelected.” 

“A lot of Canadians and Americans and Brits,” he sighs, “want a net nanny — for the other guy.” 

Brazil already has that. A judge there recently ordered X to block the Twitter accounts of people who support the former Brazilian president. Elon Musk refused. He said, “We will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there. But principles matter more than profit.” Good for Musk. 

A new law in Scotland says “misgendering” someone, like calling a trans woman “he,” can get you seven years in jail. “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end,” responded “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. 

The day Scotland’s new law took effect, she intentionally broke it by misgendering people on Twitter, saying, “I look forward to being arrested.” By law, she should have been. 

Last year, British police arrested thousands of people for “spreading hate” on the internet. “J.K. Rowling has the wealth to fight a strong defense,” Levant points out. “She and Elon Musk are the two people in the world who have done more to stop cancel culture.” 

Being “canceled” shouldn’t be an issue in America. Our First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Should that “River to the Sea” House bill become law, it would be something new. 

Americans have mixed feelings about free speech. A RealClearPolitics poll reports that 61% believe government should restrict hateful posts. Yikes. Government? Will the party in power get to decide what’s “hateful”? 

“I don’t think you reduce hate when you police it in that way,” says Levant. “The ability to speak the truth is a more pressing value. Even if we’re going to hurt a feeling, even if we’re going to upset the apple cart, that’s what freedom of speech means. It trumps other values. Give people that peaceful outlet for their grievance.” 

“If you cork them up, if you don’t let them have the safety valve of free speech, they’ll explode in another way, possibly including violence … Free speech is a preventive mechanism that prevents an escalation of problems.” 

I agree. It’s good that so far, American police say their campus arrests are for trespassing or property damage, not words. I don’t agree with what most of the demonstrators say. But I’ll defend their right to say it.

You can read more of John Stossel's writing writing at www.johnstossel.com.

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Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus


Con Juan by Amy Alkon

Dear Amy: Lately, women's magazines keep mentioning "sociopaths." What is a sociopath? From what I've read, it seems like both my exes were sociopaths. How do I avoid attracting others? --Wary Woman

Dear Wary: When a guy asks you on a date, it would be great if you could check him out on LinkedIn and be all, "Oh, look...endorsements for embezzlement, insurance fraud, and identity theft!" 

Set aside everything you've read about sociopaths, much of which is probably wrong. Sociopathy and its nasty sibling, psychopathy, are manifestations of "antisocial personality disorder": a relentless pattern of exploitative behavior involving a disregard for the rights of others and a lack of guilt upon violating them. However, sociopathy and psychopathy differ in meaningful ways, though they are often written about as if they are interchangeable -- in the media and (ugh!) even by researchers. 

In short, sociopathy is "fire," and psychopathy is "ice." Psychopaths -- the icy ones -- are coldly calculating manipulators who fake caring about others but are incapable of forming any emotional attachments. (Think lurking plotters lying in wait.) Sociopaths are the fiery ones: impulsive, hot-headed, and boastful; easily enraged -- even to the point of violent outbursts -- making them more likely to end up in the slammer. Sociopaths sometimes form one-on-one emotional attachments, but these are typically pretty toxic. 

Psychopaths are born, not made, meaning psychopathy is genetic and present from birth, reports forensic psychologist Scott A. Johnson. Sociopathy, on the other hand, is environmentally driven: typically resulting from harsh, abusive, indulgent, and/or neglectful parenting. There's "no known effective treatment" for either psychopathy or sociopathy. However, a psychopath "easily cons treatment staff" to get a positive progress report, while sociopaths tend to act out angrily and get cut from treatment programs. 

You can't avoid attracting sociopaths, but because they're impulsive, explosive, and braggy, they can only hide their true nature for so long. You can be speedier at ejecting them from your life (along with other human nightmares) if you aren't too quick to be "all in." When you start dating someone, take a wait-and-see approach -- over, say, three or even six months -- and pay special attention to his behavior when he seems unaware he's being observed. See whether a guy actually is your Mr. McDreamy, rather than sliding into the temptation to simply believe that -- making yourself prone to ignore behavior that suggests he has a big scoop of hummus where his conscience is supposed to be.

Her grandma's doctor explained to Stef that her grandma's neurons weren't communicating. Some were dead, and some weren't firing in the correct pattern. As Stef put it: "Apparently, who we are is an electrochemical reaction, and my grandmother had blown her circuits." 

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601-431-2990

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Peter Rinaldi, publisher
Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus

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News for Southwest Mississippi and East Central Louisiana, including Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson counties and Concordia and Catahoula parishes.

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601-431-2990

missloumagazine@gmail.com

Peter Rinaldi, publisher
Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus


Stanton Hall

The Vidalia Conference and Convention Center is the optimal location for the event to remember. Located along the bank of the Mississippi River in Vidalia, La., directly across the river from historic Natchez, Miss., adjacent to the Clarion Suites Hotel and just north of the Riverfront RV Park. 20,000 square feet of rental space for conventions, parties, exhibits, weddings and special events. For more info, call 318-336 9934.  

Visit our website: www.vidaliaconventioncenter.com 

Historic Downtown: Between Main and Franklin streets is the hub of Old Natchez with tree-lined streets, old homes, plenty of places to walk and view restored historic properties. Restaurants, antique and gift shops, banks, bars. Very visitor friendly. Call the Chamber of Commerce for specific sites worth visiting, 601-445-4611.

Vidalia Riverfront: A mile-long river walk and the best views of the Mississippi River highlight this spectacular collage of scenery of new facilities including restaurants, hotels, convention center and amphitheater. The river walk is the perfect place to unwind, relax and get a touch of exercise. 

Delta Music Museum

Delta Music Museum: A restored post office in downtown Ferriday offers a glimpse into the lives of Ferriday's most famous musical natives: Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, Jimmy Swaggart, and PeeWee Whittaker. Free admission, 318-757-9999. 

Duncan Park: Nice tennis facilities and 18-rounds of golf, picnic tables, driving range, handicapped accessible playground, nice biking and walking. Golf just $29 ($24 seniors), cart included. Inexpensive recreation, 601-442-5955. 

Longwood

Longwood and Rosalie: These homes offer the best of the best tours of pre-Civil War mansions. Longwood, an unfinished octagonal house (800-647-6742), and Rosalie, with its original furnishings and beautiful gardens (601-445-4555), have great family histories. 

Antebellum Home Touring: Natchez Pilgrimage Tours offers individual and group tickets to antebellum mansions year-round. Fall and Spring Pilgrimages offer more than 30 homes on tour, all restored, beautifully furnished with priceless antiques, art and collectibles. Many homes feature exquisite gardens and landscaped grounds, 601-653-0919.

Magnolia Bluffs Casino

Magnolia Bluffs Casino: This downtown casino offer Las Vegas-style gambling, dining, and entertainment. Call the 1-888-505-5777 for info. 

Downtown Carriage Ride: The guides know just about every story about every building and the people who lived there during Natchez's historic past. Get tickets from the drivers themselves at the Canal Street Depot. Carriage rides are just $20 per person, $10 for children ages 3-10, a real value when you consider the quality and beauty of the tour. 

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians: A historic site and museum commemorate the Natchez Native American culture. Mounds rebuilt, nature trail, picnic tables, tree-covered grounds. Free admission. School and civic groups welcome, 601-446-6502. 

Natchez Museum of African-American History: This museum on Main Street offers more than 600 artifacts that interpret the life, history and culture of black Americans in Mississippi from the 1890's to the 1950's, 601-445-0728. 

MMelrose

Natchez National Historic Park: The park includes two properties, Melrose and the William Johnson House. Melrose is a stately antebellum home built in 1848, situated in a lovely park-like setting. Outbuildings are preserved. Tours are offered. The William Johnson House is a three-story townhouse, once owned by a free black businessman, 601-442-7407. 

Natchez City Cemetery: This cemetery was established in 1821 and contains graves dating to the 1700's. Many of Natchez's historic figures are buried here. Tours are available, 601-445-5051. 

St. Catherine Creek Wildlife Refuge

St. Catherine Creek Wildlife Refuge: This 25,000 acre refuge, located along the Mississippi River from Cloverdale Road to the Homochitto River, offers a nature trail, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching opportunities, 601-442-6696. 

Natchez in Historic Photographs: Nearly 100 years of Natchez history is captured in photos hung on the walls of Stratton Chapel of First Presbyterian Church. More than 300 photographs from the 1850's-1950's. Free admission, donation requested, 601-442-4751. 

Beau Pre Country Club

Beau Pré Country Club: 18 holes of beautifully landscaped golf, $50-$60 with cart. One of the best courses in the state, grill and lounge, tennis, swimming. Open Tues. through Sun., www.beauprenatchez.com, 601-442-5493.

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Peter Rinaldi, publisher
Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus











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DUSTIN C. RINALDI, CFP®, AWMA®, CRPC®

SERVICES 

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Financial Planner

After working for a large bank and a large brokerage firm, Dustin felt these institutions put shareholders before clients. As a result, he opened his own boutique wealth management firm more than 10 years ago, vowing to always put his clients’ needs above all else. This guiding principle was a key to success. Today, he provides wealth management services for more than 200 families. In his spare time, Dustin loves being with his family. Dustin’s wife, Lauren, is a corporate accountant, and his daughter, Jane, is a ball of sunshine. Dustin’s mother, father, brother, nephews, aunt, and uncle have all made Southwest Florida their home. 


Credentials  
  • CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
  • Accredited Wealth Management Advisor
  • Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor
  • FINRA Series 7, 63, and 65 registrations
  • Former adjunct professor for Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Former Enrolled Agent tax advisor recognized by the Department of Treasury
  • Former expert witness for tax and investment litigation
  • Life, disability, and long term care insurance registration
  • National Social Security Advisor Certificate Holder
  • Certified Notary Public
 Education 
  • Yale CIMA online program Investment Management Theory & Practice
  • Florida Gulf Coast University CFP® program
  • University of Southern Mississippi bachelor's degree in business
  • College of Financial Planning AWMA® and CRPC® programs
 Personal 
  • Community involvement includes Super Kids, Kiwanis, Toastmasters, and the Chamber of Commerce 
  • Enjoys spending time with family, reading, traveling, boating, golfing, and watching documentaries


Rinaldi Wealth Management 

24311 Walden Center Drive, Suite 100, Bonita Springs, FL 34134

Office: 239.444.6111   Fax: 239.444.6112 

Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm 

Visit our website: https://rwmadvisor.com

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Contact Us image
Miss-Lou Magazine

News for Southwest Mississippi and East Central Louisiana, including Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson counties and Concordia and Catahoula parishes.

Offices:
15044 Blue Marlin Terrace, Bonita Springs. FL 34135
601-431-2990

missloumagazine@gmail.com

Peter Rinaldi, publisher
Clarisse Washington, editor emeritus