miss-loumagazine.com

Natchez, Miss.
Postings Daily

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

Natchez sales tax collections distributed from the state to the city fell slightly in the past year from $5.908 million to $5.759 million, down 2.5 percent, reflecting a slowing economy. The Miss. Department of Revenue uses a fiscal year of July 1-June 30 for reporting purposes.

Software problems

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office reported that its new 911 software is not compatible with the computer-aided dispatch system. The error means supervisors will spend an extra $4800 to go back to the old system software. 

The Natchez Food and Wine Festival returns to the Natchez Convention Center and other locations in town July 26-27 from 6-9 p.m. One of the most highly anticipated culinary events in Mississippi, the Natchez Food & Wine Festival attracts top chefs and restaurateurs from throughout the Gulf South. Each summer, they gather in Natchez to stage multiple-course dinners in historic mansions, progressive dining events, gourmet tastings, and casual social occasions that make the most of the city’s spectacular riverside setting. All along the Great River Road, renowned chefs, restaurateurs, vintners, and craft beer brewers descend on Natchez for the summer Food & Wine Festival. Friday night offers a huge taster’s fair, ”Tastings Along the Mississippi River," with scores of regional chefs and restaurants participating (it always sells out); and top regional chefs stage elaborate feasts in grand Natchez mansions on Saturday night. It’s a weekend-long chance to enjoy fine food, wine, and craft brews. Tickets $90. For info, call 601-445-4611. https://natchezfoodandwine.com.

William Hill, 39, of Fayette, died unexpectedly while in the custody of MDOC. He received emergency aid on the scene and was transported to the hospital but could not be saved. Cause of death is not known, and an autopsy will be ordered. He was serving time for an armed robbery and illegal gun possession he committed in Adams County and was being held in the state correctional facility in Meridian. 

Ferriday High

Concordia school board members are considering doing an exterior facelift to Ferriday High. Architects are working with the board, considering styling and features of the building that could improve and modernise the look of the school.

Benjemen Tigue, 43, of Natchez, was arrested by Adams deputies for intent to distribute meth. McTigue is scheduled for release on bond within 48 hours. For dealing drugs, his bond was set at $15,000. 

The La. Legislative Auditor gave the Concordia Parish Police Jury an extension to June 30 to file its missing 2022 CPA audit. Neither the 2022 audit nor the now due 2023 audit have been filed, as required by state law.

New hangar to be built

Adams County supervisors allocated $200,000 as a local match with $800,000 from the state to build a new 10-plane hangar. They will also spend just under $69,000 to fund a jail assessment needs study. 

The Concordia School Board have voted on a different lease for the Southern Designs building. The board approved a 12 month lease which will includes use of offices, kitchen and storage space for $5000 per month. 

Adams deputies arrested Marion D. Jackson, 29, of Natchez, for dealing drugs. He remains in jail with bond set  at $10,000. 

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 

James Biglane

James Biglane has died at 82. He was one of Natchez's most outstanding leaders from the 1970s-present. His biographical credits include: Univ. of Oklahoma, Petroleum Management, 1st Lt. US Army Vietnam, LSU School of Banking, president of Biglane Operating Company, co-founder and chairman of First Natchez Bank-UMB, Miss. State Banking Board, president of Alcorn Community Foundation, co-founder of Great Miss. Balloon Race, supporter and a leading contributor to United Way, Boy Scouts, Santa Claus Committee, head of the Natchez EDA, and supervising Under the Hill revitalization. He led his bank to unparalleled progress from one little branch in a mobile home to 10 branches in the Miss-Lou. The success of his bank and the continuing success of the oil company allowed him to donate to scores of local causes and charities, becoming one of the Miss-Lou's top donors to local non-profits. Biglane authorized a multi-million dollar line of credit from UMB to Natchez Regional when Regional completely ran out of cash, couldn't make payroll, and was going to close immediately, laying off 400 people. No other local bank came forward to keep Regional open or lend it money. He lent the money to Regional with no real guarantee the bank would be repaid, saving the hospital and the county from disaster. Today, Merit Health Natchez exists, in part, because he gave Regional the money it needed to operate and to go through bankruptcy, so the county could sell its hospital assets to a private and well-heeled national healthcare company.

Concordia deputies arrested Brenda K. Valentine, 59, of Ridgecrest, and charged her with house burglary. She is being held in the parish jail. 

The water was shut off due to a broken pipe in the Lake Drive area of .Ferriday. The town will perform repairs. 

Natchez threats against Trump

Two Natchez women have been reported to the FBI for issuing indirect threats to Donald Trump’s life. Jacqueline Marsaw and Elodie Pritchartt both posted on FB that they endorsed the shooting of Trump and thought it should be done again. Marsaw deleted her posts, but she was fired as a result from her job as a congressional aide to Bennie Thompson. Both women are liberal Democratic activists. On Saturday, Marsaw said that she was trying to make humorous posts. On Saturday, Pritchartt said she stood by her posts. But on Sunday, she apologized and said she was joking. The FBI visited Marsaw at her home on Sunday and she profusely apologized. Adams Sheriff Travis Patten said he believed the veiled threat issued by Marsaw was a violation of federal law and punishable by up to 5 years in prison, if convicted. 

Jacqueline Loy, 31, of Natchez, was arrested by Adams deputies for assaulting a law enforcement officer. If convicted, she faces up to five years in jail and as much as a $1000 fine. in a separate case, Deputies arrested Nicholas Tyreik Crockett, 22, of Natchez, for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Bond was set at $50,000. He will be released within 48 hours.

The Concordia Parish School Board has voted to give all support staff a 5 percent raise. 

Habitat celebration

Habitat for Humanity will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Natchez with the dedication of its latest home Sunday, July 14 at 2 p.m. at 319 Old Washington Rd. 

A complaint has been filed by Lee Ford of Natchez filed a complaint with Natchez police, saying Fire Chief Robert Arrington threatened Ford with bodily harm at this week’s aldermen’s meeting. Ford alleges that Arrington used profane language and told Ford to stay away from Arrington’s wife. The men exchanged words and almost came to blows. Alderman Billie Joe Frazier interceded and separated the verbal combatants.   

Adams deputies arrested Kenny Roy Brandenburg, 47, of Natchez, for dealing drugs. MDOC released him from jail in 2023 after serving time for selling meth. He is currently being held on a $20,000 bond.   

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 Buz Craft and Alderman Gardner spar

Vidalia Alderman Robert Gardner complained that a new ordinance passed by the town was unconstitutional. Vidalia aldermen had been getting a pay of $700 a month. When they decided to increase their pay to $1000 per month, they added the provision that an alderman must attend the meetings to get the extra $300. Gardner objected, because he has missed three meetings in a row, and he wanted his $1000. Mayor Buz Craft explained that the town had checked with the attorney general’s office and other state officials to make sure the ordinance is legal. And so it is. Gardner was still complaining, but he must attend in order to get his extra money. 

Concordia deputies arrested Kyshaune McCullar, 21, of Clayton. He is being held in the parish jail, charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute, possession of drugs while in possession of a firearm and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. 

A special meeting has been called for Monday, July 15 at 8:30 a.m. by the Catahoula Parish Police Jury. The jury will consider including municipalities in the renewal of the one cent sanitation tax. The tax currently on the November ballot no longer allocates 25 percent to Jonesville, Harrisonburg and Sicily Island for house to house garbage pick-up. The renewal in the upcoming election dedicates 25 percent to garbage collection, 25 percent to roads and bridges and 50 percent to pay for emergency services (ambulance/fire department).

New budget

Ferriday aldermen approved a new budget, forecasting $2.4 million in revenues and $2.7 million in expenses. The deficit will be made good by an interfund transfer. Alderman are planning to put one or two tax measures on the ballot this November to stem ongoing budget problems. The previous administration did not put the renewal of the taxes on the ballot before it left office. Alderperson Gloria Lloyd has been chosen as mayor pro tempore.  

Concordia and Catahoula deputies arrested eight people during drug raids in February. Now two of those arrested have plead guilty to some of the charges and been sentenced by Seventh District Judge John Reeves. David Farmer, 38, of Natchez, and Melissa Farmer, 48, of Jonesville, were arrested for possession of meth and marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of firearms while in possession of drugs and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. David Farmer pled guilty to two felony charges and was sentenced to to two four-year terms which will be served concurrently. Melissa Farmer pled guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia, and was sentenced to five days in the parish jail. Her other charges were dropped.   

Christmas in July will be celebrated in Downtown Natchez on Saturday, July 13. Natchez downtown merchants are always looking to get into the holiday spirit early, so join us for fun, sidewalk sales, and in-store discounts. Free food and refreshments will be available at some stores.   

Events venue and pool club

Natchez aldermen have approved the rezoning of the Elks Lodge on Lower Woodville Rd. as a special events venue including a pool club. Businessman Jimmy Allgood is heading the private sector venture. He intends to improve the maintenance and care of the property. All events will have insurance and security. Allgood said he and his family have invested more than $500,000 in the project so far.

The Natchez Public Works Department has been losing employees due to those workers taking jobs elsewhere and also due to retirements. The aldermen have awarded employees some raises, but the leakage has not stopped and the department is understaffed. The city is reviewing its options to retain employees long term. Mayor Dan Gibson the extra monies spent on animal control are paying off, with fewer strays, more animals cared for and fewer citizen complaints. The city works with the humane society which cares for animals and promotes adoptions. 

Natchez Aldermen voted to return the supervision of the municipal court clerks to the city clerk to comply with the city's charter. The court clerks have been supervised by the municipal judge, the police chief and the city clerk at various times. Natchez has had trouble collecting its fines levied against misdemeanor offenders. The city collects approximately $30,000+ a month in fines, whereas during the Judge John Tipton era, it collected $60,000 or more per month. The causes for the decline in collections include the poverty of the defendants, fewer offenders and fewer convictions and a lax collections policy by judges. Mayor Dan Gibson, City Clerk Megan McKenzie and Judge Christina Daugherty may opt to hire a collection agency with aldermanic approval to collect past dues.   

IMPORTANT FINANCIAL INFORMATION FROM ATTORNEY JACK LAZARUS: STOP those nasty phone calls from creditors. STOP the harassment. STOP credit card debt, foreclosure or repossession. Jack Lazarus has helped people and businesses turn their finances around. Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy may be the best answer. Call for a FREE initial consultation: 601-445-8899. Get a fresh start in life! ATTORNEY JACK LAZARUS, PLLC, 106 South Wall St., Natchez. jacklaz45@gmail.comjacklazarus.com. Helping people is our only business. Hablamos Espanol.  

More streets to be redone

Natchez aldermen will open bids Aug. 8 to hire a contractor for the Downtown Pavement Repairs and Improvement Project. The work in this project consists of asphalt base failure repair and milling and overlay of select downtown streets. Once the contractor starts work, the project is expected to be finished in 60 days. 

About 17 percent of Natchez public school students are chronically absent. The district has an attendance improvement program, as do other districts in the state. Absenteeism was especially high following the COVID shutdown and has been lessening since then. Of the 2800 students in the district, approximately 480 are chronically absent. You can see how such significant absenteeism would affect test scores for students. 

Adams County now has a therapy dog provided by taxpayers through the sheriff’s office. The dog gives comfort to victims of crime along with its deputy dog handler. 

Alvin Garrison

Newly installed Ferriday Mayor Alvin Garrison said his top two priorities include making the town safer and improving its finances. Ferriday had been suffering from a crime wave that includes drug dealing, shootings and thefts. The town has had difficulty make ends meet. I mentioned to Garrison about the town being past due on its CPA audits for 2022 and 2033. He responded, saying he would talk with both the CPA and the Legislative Auditor to see what can be done to get the audits done and submitted to the state, as required by law. On July 6, officers with the Vidalia Police Department responded to the Mississippi River for a boating accident that caused 5 civilians to be thrown over board.  Officers quickly responded to the area where they were told the accident was approximately 2 miles south of the Mississippi Bridge. Multiple civilians along with Wildlife and Fisheries swiftly put boats in the river and was able to rescue all 5 civilians with one civilian suffering from an head injury. 

From the Natchez Democrat: (Mayor Dan) Gibson said it is with the favor of God that Natchez continues to be blessed, as a city that follows his command to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. “We see too much bickering in Jackson. We see too much bickering in Washington. Let it be said of us that we set a new standard, that in keeping with our commitment to you and to the oath that we have taken in the presence of God Almighty, we’d look to his favor in his time because in his time all is made whole,” he said. “Had we gotten the (RAISE) grant a year ago leaving 12 million on the table, we also would have missed out on the opportunity to now improve crosswalk safety at every intersection of downtown Natchez. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t walked in God’s favor. So many great things are coming our way.”   

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said he wants to see the completion of the resurfacing of D.A. Biglane Street. The town will increase code enforcement for blighted properties and combat litter. Craft said he will assist volunteers who will place a replica of the war memorial wall from Washington, D.C., on the Vidalia Riverfront. The town will sponsor several safe streets and sidewalk initiatives, renovate the fire station and the Council on Aging building and work on the initial construction of Polk Park.

Shaquille Williams

During Natchez’s July 4 celebrations, city officials, including Dan Gibson, Billie Joe Frazier and Curtis Moroney commended Natchez athletes who participated in the Special Olympics in Biloxi recently. Shaquille Williams from Natchez was named Special Olympics Athlete of the Year for Mississippi.   

Becky Albert is Ferriday’s new town clerk. She was appointed by Mayor Alvin Garrison. Albert has previously served as municipal court clerk.   

On July 6, officers with the Vidalia Police Department responded to the Mississippi River for a boating accident that caused 5 civilians to be thrown over board. Officers quickly responded to the area where they were told the accident was approximately 2 miles south of the Mississippi Bridge. Multiple civilians along with Wildlife and Fisheries swiftly put boats in the river and was able to rescue all 5 civilians with one civilian suffering from an head injury.

THE FLOWER STATION: 387 John R. Junkin Dr., Natchez. All occasion florist. Beautiful 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

Headliners announced for balloon fest

Chapel Hart will be the headlining band for Natchez Balloon Festival October 18-19. For more info, go to Natchezballoonfestival.com

Natchez songwriter and lyricist Glen Ballard will be added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the entertainment industry. 

Two inmates escaped from the Claiborne County Detention Centeron July 5 around 2:20 a.m. Tyrekennel Collins, 24, was being held for Copiah County. Dezarrious Johnson, 18, who was being held for Jefferson County but is from the Natchez area. They were captured within 24 hours and now face felony escape charges. 

Appointment to commission coming

The City of Natchez Planning Commission is looking to add one member to serve on the commission. Applicants should have a demonstrated knowledge of or interest, competence, or expertise in planning, construction, engineering, architecture, education or other relevant experience. If you are interested in serving on the Planning Commission, please submit a resume with relevant experience to the Mayor’s Office, 124 S. Pearl Street, Natchez, MS or by email to mayor@natchez.ms.us. Aldermen make the appointment.

The City of Natchez has scheduled live entertainment on July 4 the Bluff -- 3 .pm.: Cha Cha Boo; 5:p.m.: The Lincoln Outfit; 7 p.m.: Mira Got Soul. Miss-Lou Fireworks on the river start at 9:30 p.m.

The trial of Benjamin Ceasor, 29, of Ferriday, has been reset for July 10 He is charged with the vehicular homicide death of Jason Tyson in March. He aslo faces charges of aggravated flight from an office, possession of weapons by a felon, negligent injuring and domestic abuse battery. In 2017 he was charged with two counts of attempted second degree murder and criminal damage for a drive-by shooting and sentenced to five years for burglary.

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.

Arthur L. Grayson, 55, of Natchez was arrested by Adams deputies in April 2022 for trafficking in Oxycodone and released on bond. In Jan. 2024, deputies arrested him for sale of Roxicodone. He was released on bond. Now Adams Special Operations deputies have arrested him one more time, along with two other men, for trafficking more than 600 Roxicodone tabs worth $20,000. Deputies seized 9 vehicles, more than $3000 in cash and other items in the bust and follow-up investigation. Those arrested included Quentin L. Pollard, 35, and Alphonse Lewis, 60, both of St Francisville. DA Tim Cotton says Grayson goes to trial in August on the accused’s charges from 2022. Also, the DA has filed to revoke Grayson’s bond. Even if there’s a hung jury or not guilty verdict in August, Grayson will held in jail pending trial because of his trafficking arrests. He is a continuing threat and likely to reoffend. 

Adams Supervisor Ricky Gray has backed off his stand that United Infrastructure needs to improve its garbage collection services. The county sent a letter to the company outlining poor service, including not sticking to schedule, using poor equipment, allowing trash to fly off trucks into roadways and other deficiencies. Gray says his original motion and intent were misinterpreted by his fellow supervisors. The letter sent spells out the problems in detail. If United does not fix the problems, the county can fine the company, terminate the contract or sue the company. Gray has continually supported both the old bankrupt company and the new company despite service problems and escalating costs.   

Terrence Shelvy Jr., 20, of Natchez, was arrested for the shooting murder of Mikel Chatman in Natchez in 2021. Shelvy gunned down the unarmed Chatman after Chatman tried to break up a fight between Shelvy and another teen. The accused killer was released on bond and soon after being released then robbed a man at a c-store in Fayette. Now the killer has plead guilty and received a 30 year sentence for the second degree murder of Chatman. DA Tim Cotton handled the prosecution. Judge Debra Blackwell delivered sentence.   

Sam King

Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill says former Ferriday Police Chief Sam King will be hired as an investigator for the Vidalia Police Department. Sam did an outstanding job for Ferriday. Vidalia will benefit from his service.   

The Bude Community Center will host a "Franklin County Sings the Gospel" event starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 13. The event will take place at the Community Center, which is the forearm Methodist Church on Main Street in Bude. Featured performers include: New Grace, Vance Woodcock, The Community Choir, Larry Wallace, Boo & Crew, Jill and Jordan Gilbert, Ebenezer Church Choir, Gail Collins and Evelyn Higgins. The schedule is subject to change, but the finale of the event will be, all singers and visitors joining together to sing "Amazing Grace." Dinner plates will be sold starting at 5 p.m. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Bude Community Center.

Natchez aldermen have appointed Louis Davis as interim director of Natchez Transit.   

Timothy Downs

The CPSO Cyber Crime Unit began investigating allegations of lewd acts performed in the presence of a child at a Ferriday residence. Last Friday, the victim disclosed details of the incident to forensic interviewers from the Alexandria Child Advocacy Center and an arrest warrant was obtained for the perpetrator. He was taken into custody the same day and booked into the CPSO jail. No further information can be released at this time. Arrested was Timothy Downs, 47, of Ferriday, for Indecent Behavior with Juveniles, victim under age 13 and Molestation of a Juvenile, victim under age 13.

Ferriday Mayor Alvin Garrison appointed C. J. Hall as police chief and Danny Cupit as fire chief. Best wishes and congratulations to both. Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill says former Ferriday Police Chief Sam King will be hired as an investigator for the Vidalia Police Department. Sam did an outstanding job for Ferriday. Vidalia will benefit from his service. 

Appeal suit filed

Truth Lounge has filed its appeal to Adams County Circuit Court. The planning commission withdrew its permission for the bar to operate and the aldermen rejected Truth’s appeal. Truth may argue that the city did not follow its own rules in permitting and that it singled out the lounge for selective and improper enforcement and denial to operate. If the circuit judge rules in Truth’s favor, the bar could be allowed to reopen, and the bar could sue the city for loss of income, damages and attorney fees. If Truth loses its appeal at circuit court, it might still be able to appeal to the state’s appeals court.   

The Concordia Parish School Board has rejected two lease proposals to rent the Southern Designs building for a central office building. The board is concerned that the rental costs are excessive and terms are not in the interest of the district. The same goes for its former location owned by Joby Weeks which had mold issues. The rent is expensive and the place too small. Both owners are asking above market price for their buildings.   

The Natchez School District will use more than $5 million in COVID relief funds to repair and improve Robert Lewis Magnet School and the David Steckler Multipurpose Building. 

Mark Sturivant

Convicted church burglar, Mark Sturdivant, 37, of Natchez, has been sentenced to 14 years in jail. He was on parole for a felony conviction in Amite County. Since he violated his parole, he will have to serve the 3 years remaining from the Amite sentence for a total of 17 years. DA Tim Cotton’s office secured the conviction and sentence. 

Concordia deputies arrested Elna Etheridge, 84, of Vidalia, for aggravated assault. She has been released on bond. Deputies charged Leigh Ann Chafton, 42, of Vidalia, with theft greater than $1000 value. She has been released on bond. Deputies arrested Michael R. Sereal, 37, of New Iberia, for conspiracy to distribute drugs and introduction of drugs and contraband into a penal facility. He is being held in jail. He is a convicted sex offender and was arrested for kidnapping a 10 year old girl in 2021. 

Judge Debra Blackwell sentenced Michael “Traedo” Thomas to 40 years in jail after he plead guilty for the second degree murder of Johnny Mason in 2022.

Shoot-out in Natchez

Natchez police say a Toyota carrying four people ages 17-21 was stopped at the intersection George F. West Blvd. and West Stiers Lane on Wednesday night. The occupants of a passing car opened fire, wounding two males and injuring a female by broken glass in the Toyota. The fourth person was not hurt. The victims returned fire. It’s unknown whether their return fire hit the intended targets. The wounded and injured were treated at Merit Health and released.  Police are not sure whether the vIctims' story was truthful. Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to call the Natchez Police Department. No arrests have been made.

The Jonesville Police Department and Catahoula Sheriff's Office both received calls of a body being located behind a residence at 605 E.H. Johnson Street in Jonesville on June 26. Upon arrival, officers found the body of a deceased female. There was no obvious signs of trauma. The body has been sent to Lake Charles for an autopsy. This matter is still under investigation at this time. Police Chief MacArthur Tolliver and Sheriff Toney Edwards ask that if anyone has any additional information on this incident,  please contact the Jonesville Police Department at 318-339-9886 or the Catahoula Parish Sheriff's Office at 318-744-5411. 

The Natchez School District will spend $88 million in the coming year, of which $14.4 million will be contributed by Adams County taxpayers. The school board will ask supervisors for $138,000 more in subsidy. Supervisors have the option of raising taxes to cover the additional expense or absorbing the amount and rearranging their own budget.

Chae Lee Coles

Chae Lee Coles, 40, of Ferriday, is being held in the parish jail, after he allegedly stabbed and killed a dog during a family argument. He has been charged with felony aggravated cruelty to an animal. If convicted, he faces 1-10 years in jail and a $5,000-$25,000 fine. He also has pending shoplifting charges. 

The CPSO Cyber Crime Unit began investigating an adult subject, who made contact with what he believed to be a minor online for illegal purposes. The subject engaged in lewd conversation, requesting to meet, while also asking that the minor send him lewd photos. Upon positive identification, a warrant was obtained for his arrest. He was taken into custody today by the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and will be extradited to Concordia Parish for prosecution. Sheriff Hedrick would like to thank Sheriff Jason Ard and the LPSO for their assistance in the matter. Arrested was Jeffrey W. Reine, 46, Denham Springs, for Computer Aided Solicitation of a Minor and Indecent Behavior with Juveniles. 

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents cited a southwestern Louisiana man on June 17 for allegedly illegally taking a Louisiana black bear in Concordia Parish. Agents cited Madison M. Watkins, 36, of Welsh, for taking a bear during a closed season and two counts of failing to validate his deer harvest. Agents received information that Watkins harvested a black bear in Concordia Parish in December of 2023. During the investigation, agents made contact with Watkins’ on June 17 and he admitted to taking a black bear with a compound bow on the Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge on Dec. 12, 2023. He also admitted to taking two antlered deer in Calcasieu Parish in October of 2023 and failing to validate the tags on both deer. Agents seized two sets of four point deer antlers and the compound bow. Taking a bear during a closed season brings a $900 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail. Failing to validate deer tags carries up to a $350 fine. Watkins may also face civil restitution totaling $10,000 for the replacement value of the illegally taken bear.

Bridge repairs

Natchez aldermen will open bids July 23 to repair the Canal Street Bridge over the railroad. Aldermen expect the repairs to be completed within 100 days of the start of the project.

Ferriday officials said Paul W. Baxter, 61, of Lynn Haven Drive, died at a fire at his home early morning Wednesday. Cause of the fire is not known. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death. Prayers for Paul and his family. 

Concordia deputies arrested Jermaine Griggs, 24, of Ridgecrest and Ferriday, for possession of drugs for intent to distribute, flight from an officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and miscellaneous traffic violations. In 2023, Ferriday police arrested him for five counts of aggravated assault and illegal use of a firearm. He has previous arrests for drug possession. In a separate arrest, Concordia deputies arrested David R. Swillie, 45, of Vidalia, for possession of stolen firearms, possession of a firearm with controlled substances, possession of Sch. 1 drugs and misdemeanor vehicle violations. He is being held in the parish jail. 

Myra Williams

The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office began an investigation on June 23rd into a complaint made by a resident of the Sunshine Therapeutic Group Home, that a staff member had thrown her on the floor and held her down by her neck. CPSO was initially dispatched to the Group Home to assist staff with residents who were in a physical altercation. During the time at the Group Home, CPSO deputies discovered that one of the children was allegedly assaulted by a staff member. The child was taken to a local hospital for examination and treatment of her injuries. She was held in a safe location until the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services could take custody of the child and find a new placement for her. Myra Williams was arrested late last night after CPSO deputies obtained warrants for cruelty to a juvenile.  The Sunshine Therapeutic Group Home, owned by Tina Bruce and located on Highway 84 between Vidalia and Ferriday and is allowed to house up to ten females who are between the ages of 12-17 years old. The children living in the home are either in the custody of Louisiana Dept. of Child and Family Services or Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice. Arrested was Myra Williams, 59, of Vidalia, for Cruelty to a Juvenile. 

The Franklin County School Board will spend $389,000 for property insurance this coming year, up from $365,000. The new policy includes some flood insurance for the softball field house and concession stand, which suffered from creek flooding this past year. The policy includes a general rate increase and slightly higher deductibles for wind and hail damage. 

Whest Shirley is the new high school and middle school principal for Cathedral School, replacing Robin Branton, who resigned her post. Shirley recently retired from the Concordia school system.

JOHN L. SULLIVAN ALFA --AUTO: Alfa puts you at ease by providing affordable car insurance coverage to protect you from the unexpected. HOME: Your home is the foundation for all your memories come. Protect those memories with a homeowners policy from Alfa today. LIFE: No matter where you are in life, there is a need. Life insurance from Alfa gives you the opportunity to protect your loved ones422 Highway 61N, Suite 3, Natchez, 601-445-8868.  "I’m proud to work with a company who’s been serving satisfied customers for nearly 70 years. Customers count on outstanding financial strength and superior claims service to help protect what they value most. Quality service, strength and satisfaction, that’s something I’m glad to be a part of." --- John L.

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

Population estimates

New Census estimates update population figures for Southwest Mississippi counties. Adams 28,408, Wilkinson 8,143, Amite 7,642, Franklin, Jefferson 7,087, Claiborne 8,805, Copiah 27,719, Lincoln 34,717, and Pike 39,644.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez is registering now for Kids College! The college will offer a variety of camps for kids during the month of July. All camps, excluding tennis, are held at Co-Lin’s Natchez Campus. Showstoppers will learn all about the art of theatre, including acting, audition techniques, scene study, and much more. This camp is taught by theatre director Malori Giannaris and is open to all students grades 5th-9th regardless of previous experience in theatre. Camp will be held July 8-18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (no camp on July 12) for a fee of $85. Clever Crochet teaches all about the art of crochet, including the basics of crocheting with a hook as well as skills to make flowers or baskets. The camp is taught by Gabby Champ for $65. Students will need a 5.75 mil. hook. Camp for grades 2nd-5th is July 8-11 and camp for grades 6th-9th is July 15-18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dancing and Cheer Dynamics will teach students the basics of dance, cheer, twists, tumbling positions, flexibility, balance, and more. The class touches on dance styles such as ballet, jazz, and hip-hop. Instructor Danielle Gaylor will lead the class for a cost of $65. Camp for grades 6th-8th is July 8-11 and camp for grades 2nd-5th is July 15-18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Custom Treasures will teach the fundamentals of jewelry making through designing bead bracelets and learning to style and design unique, handmade bracelets using a variety of materials. The class is taught by Robin Grennell for a cost of $60. Camp for grades 2nd-4th is July 8-11 and camp is grades 7th-9th is July 15-18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tennis offers participants the opportunity to learn the mechanics of basic strokes, rules, scoring, tennis etiquette, and footwork. Participants needs to bring their own racket, towel, hat, and water. Camp is from 9-11 a.m. at Duncan Park. Camp for grades 7th-8th is July 8-11 and camp for grades 2nd-5th is July 15-18. Tennis Camp is taught by Jordan Mitchell for a cost of $70. To register for any of the above camps, contact Kimberly Grover at 601.446.1103 or Kimberly.grover@colin.edu. Class sizes are limited and registration is required. 

The number of employed workers in Adams County increased to 10,070 in May, up 90 jobs from a year ago, when the county had 9,980 people employed. The county has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. Concordia Parish has 6,608 workers with jobs, compared to last May's 6,661 people employed, a decline of 53 employed. The parish jobless rate is 4.9 percent.

Judges John Reeves and Kathy Johnson

Complaints had been filed with Seventh District Judicial Court that Judge John Reeves and Judge Kathy Johnson should recuse themselves from pending cases because two judicial assistants of the court were also working as employees of the Catahoula Sheriff’s Office. It was alleged the judges could not render decisions fairly since judicial staff was also working as law enforcement. The two judicial employees had sought commissions as reserve deputies so they could carry handguns on duty and receive handgun training, as the Catahoula courthouse and staff had received threats. But the request for the commissions was withdrawn within five days of initial filing. Judge James Brodie heard the motions for recusal and ruled that no recusal was necessary, as the judicial assistants took no actions acting as law enforcement and continued to work only for the judges. Additionally, the request for commissions by the two employees as reserve deputies had been withdrawn before the Clerk of Court had filed the oaths with the state.

Adams deputies arrested Brandi S. Ware, 31, of Natchez, for felony false pretense. Ware has served time for being twice convicted of shoplifting. She is scheduled to be released on bond in the next 48 hours. 

The Concordia Sheriff’s Office reports that Mike Rhinehart, 69, of Natchez, drowned at Lake St. John Saturday. Rhinehart jumped into the water from his boat to help his wife, Cheryl, who had fallen into the water. Cheryl survived with a head injury and lacerations, but Mike did not. 

Peyton Reeves

Catahoula Sheriff Toney Edwards has officially and publicly commended Deputy Peyton Reeves for her heroic and life saving actions on April 8. A driver had wrecked his pickup near the intersection of Hwy. 126 and 923. As Reeves stopped to help, she noticed the driver had suffered a very large and bleeding wound from his chin to neck. Reeves removed her deputy shirt, leaving on her undershirt and used her duty shirt to stop the blood flow and apply compression to the wound until AMR emergency personnel arrived on the scene. Reeves’ quick response saved the injured man from bleeding and additional trauma that could have killed him if let unattended. 

Whest Shirley is the new high school and middle school principal for Cathedral School, replacing Robin Branton, who resigned her post. Shirley recently retired from the Concordia school system.

Mark McCann, 63, a beloved teacher and coach at Cathedral School, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 63. 

Property tax hike possible

The Natchez School District has issued a legal notice that it is spending $80 million this year and plans to spend $88 million next year, which would require Adams supervisors to increase property taxes. The legal notice does not comply with state law, as the school district is required not only to publicize the amount of its budget but how much specifically in dollars and cents the school board wants in extra funding. As long as the school district runs essentially an illegal legal notice, supervisors are not required to give the district any extra money, until the district complies with the law. 

The 2024 Ward Graning Scholarships have been awarded to Caroline Rout (Concordia Parish Academy), Bennett Gilly (Cathedral), Kailisa White (Natchez High) and Camren Strittman (ACCS

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the U.S. Department of Transportation will give Natchez a $24.6 million grant to improve the roadway, sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting and streetscapes from the Butch Brown flyover on D’Evereux to St. Catherine St., Jefferson St. and eventually the Bluff. The RAISE grant is supposed to complement the construction and offerings at the Forks of the Road, Revels Plaza to the planned Civil War black soldiers monument for the bluff. The grant application had the support of Sen. Roger Wicker, Rep. Bennie Thompson and the National Park Service.   

Jobs numbers

It’s still too early to say whether the number of jobs in Adams will increase, decrease or stay about the same for 2024. The first quarter was a bit slack. The May figures showed the expected spring upswing in jobs, with 10,070 employed. Note: the 2020 figures are a bit of an anomaly, as the pandemic closures and layoffs whacked the economy. 

The CPSO Cyber Crime Unit began investigating an adult subject, communicating with what he believed to be a minor online in a sexual manner. Upon making contact, the subject engaged in lewd conversation, requesting photos in return. Upon positive identification, he was discovered to be employed by the Lafayette Parish School board and was taken into custody today by the Carencro Police Department. He was booked into the LPSO jail and will be extradited to Concordia Parish. Sheriff Hedrick would like to thank the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office and the Carencro Police Department for their quick assistance in the matter. Arrested was Cody Allen Talley, 37, of Carencro, La.,  for Indecent Behavior with Juveniles. 

The Concordia Sheriff’s Office reports a Natchez man drowned at Lake St. John Saturday. The man jumped into the water from his boat to help his wife, who had fallen into the water. The man’s name has not yet been released.

Traedo to be sentenced

The prosecution is asking that  Michael “Traedo” Thomas, 25, of Natchez, be sentenced to 40 years for the second degree shooting murder of Ricardo Mason at Holiday Apartments in 2022. Sentencing will be later this month. He was previously sentenced to five years for aggravated assault and let out early. He was arrested for kidnapping his girlfriend. “Traedo” became widely known for his YouTube videos filmed with his gang, threatening violence and death to people who opposed him.     

Convicted drug dealer Keisha Campbell, 41, of Natchez,  has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to her sentencing, she must serve at least 10 years. She had been released on parole in 2022 and was promptly arrested for selling Xanax, Ecstasy and meth. She has a history of felony arrests and convictions for drugs and illegal gun possession.

Judge Debra Blackwell has sentenced Shalece Thomas, 35, of Natchez, to 20 years for the manslaughter shooting death of her mother on Thanksgiving Day, 2022. Thomas was wanted for second degree murder in Dallas, Texas, at the time of the Natchez shooting. 

Catahoula accident kills two

On June 21, at approximately 11:13 p.m., Louisiana State Police Troop E responded to a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 84 west of Louisiana Highway 913. The crash claimed the lives of 58-year-old Fredrick Washington of Jonesville and a 5-year-old juvenile passenger of Latrobe, PA.The initial investigation revealed that a 2018 Kia Soul, driven by 25-year-old Viktoria Jones of Latrobe, PA, was westbound on U.S. Highway 84. For reasons still under investigation, the Kia crossed the centerlines into the eastbound travel lane and collided head-on with a 2011 Nissan Maxima, driven by Washington. Jones, who was not restrained, sustained moderate injuries and was transported to a local hospital. Two juvenile passengers in the Kia, who were restrained, sustained moderate injuries and were transported to a local hospital. An additional juvenile passenger in the Kia, who was restrained with a lap belt only, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Washington, who was not restrained, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on scene. Three juvenile passengers and one adult passenger, who were not restrained, sustained serious injuries and were transported to a local hospital. Routine toxicology samples were obtained and submitted for analysis.   

Adams County supervisors have decided to send United Infrastructure a letter of complaint regarding its garbage collection service. Supervisors say United fails to keep a regular schedule, fails to pick up garbage at all homes, uses inadequate equipment, allows garbage to fly off its trucks and the workers leave trash and garbage on roads and driveways from emptied trash cans. Supervisors will ask United to make effective remedies. Supervisor Kevin Wilson said the company is providing the same level of lousy service it did before its bankruptcy. But the company still has the support of Supervisors Hutchins, Gaines and Gray, who chose the company initially because it was a black owned company. Cities around Louisiana, including New Orleans, and cities with black run governments have dumped the company because its service is so bad.

Governor Jeff Landry has appointed Vidalia Police Chef Joey Merrill to the Crime Victims Reparations Board.

Slight dip in tax collections

Natchez sales tax collections are distributed from the state to the city: July 2023-May 2024 $5,267,000; July 2022-May 2023, $5,416,000. The slight decrease from 2023 reflects a slowing economy.   

Vidalia aldermen will receive a raise to $1000 per month, a five percent increase. Town employees also get a five percent raise with the new budget that begins July 1.

Fritz Street Park in Jonesville  is receiving a facelift and a new name. The Jonesville Town Council voted last week to change the name to Vault-Mackey Park. Mayor Loria Hollins and the Jonesville Town Council renamed the park during the June 11 meeting. The two men’s love for the park, field, and community, led to the decision to honor the late Chief of Police and Town Councilman Benny Vault, Sr. and former Jonesville Police Department Captain Earl Mackey, Sr. Both men worked tirelessly to build the softball field from the ground up. The park was maintained at their own expense to ensure everyone would have an opportunity to enjoy baseball and softball. (Catahoula News Booster story and photo)

Vidalia dog pound

There is no truth to the online rumor that the Vidalia Animal Shelter will kill animals when the town takes over the operation. The city owned facility will be run as a dog pound versus a shelter, which means animals will be released back to owners, adoptive homes found or dogs transferred to actual long term shelters if no home is found. Dogs that are vicious and dangerous or dogs that are terminally ill or mortally injured will be assessed by a vet as to what is best to do for that specific dog. The aldermen have not determined the rules and regulations for the dog pound as it transitions from a shelter. Those guidelines and rules will be discussed in open meeting beforehand and then voted on with public input. The dog pound will be run under the auspices of the police department. Inmates will help care for the animals. A vet will provide examinations and special medical care. The current shelter is in the process of adopting out all its current animals.   

The Franklin County Family Medical Group plans to build a new clinic on 27 acres it recently purchased. The new facility should open in late 2025. 

Concordia deputies arrest Lawrence Gardner, 48, of Ferriday, for two counts of threatening a public official, unlawful use of a social networking site and two counts of sex offender violation. He is bringing held in the parish jail. He has previous been arrested for failing to register as a sex offender.   

Truth appeal denied

Natchez aldermen voted 3-2 to sustain the planning commission decision to withdraw Truth Lounge’s special exception. Aldermen Moroney, Hall and Smith voted in the majority and Aldermen Frazier and Irvin were in the minority. Ben Davis was absent. Now that Truth has been denied permission to operate by the planning commission and the aldermen, it’s expected the bar will file suit to try to recover its privilege to operate.

Ryan Mullen, 43, of Jayess, was one of the operator-owners of the Hotel Vue in Natchez in recent years. He and his partner were previously convicted and sentenced on two separate bank and financial fraud schemes on his Natchez property. Now he has been indicted by an Adams County grand jury for three counts of tax evasion and one count of embezzlement. Adams County deputies and a U.S. Marshal picked him up in Jayess and brought him to Adams County for arraignment. 

The Lake St. John Flotilla parade will be held July 6 at 2 p.m.   

 Kidnapper shot and killed

Adams Sheriff Travis Patten said a domestic disturbance resulted in Calvin Carter forcing Tawana Jones at gunpoint into his car and kidnapped her. As Carter sped away from Carmel Church Road, Jones’s son pursued Carter’s car to Shieldsboro Road, where shots were fired and Carter was mortally wounded. He succumbed to his injuries. Jones was taken to Merit Health for treatment of her injuries. She suffered broken bones and bruises, was treated and released. Deputies continue to investigate the case. No arrests have been made. 

An Adams County jury convicted Reginald Butler of the 2020 shooting murder of Braylon James. The storyline was somewhat confused by the pleadings of the defense, including attorney Zack Jex, who said Butler shot and killed in self defense. In the end, the jury didn’t really buy the self defense argument argued by attorney Chris Green, as the victim was shot in the back and the only bullet casings found at the scene belonged to defendant Butler. The jury found Butler guilty of manslaughter. Judge Debra Blackwell sentenced him to 20 years in prison. With good behavior, he could be out in 5-8 years. 

Natchez aldermen will spend $40,000 to make major repairs to the Judge Armstrong Library air conditioning system. Aldermen previously did a/c repairs there in 2013 and 2015. The library will continue with reduced hours, open mornings only, until the condenser and air handler arrive and the repairs are completed in a few weeks.   

Silver Street upgrade on hold

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the Silver Street roadway project is on hold. Despite $2 million in grants and $500,000 in expected donations from riverboats, the cost of the project has risen to be unaffordable. The lower part of Silver Street floods every few years, and the city had hoped to raise the level of the street.

The city of Natchez did not attract any bidders to microseal dozens of streets. The mayor said the project will not be rebid at this time as microseal contractors have no openings in their schedules for more work. Microsealing is an inferior way to treat streets, as high traffic will seriously degrade the coating within a few years. It is better used in parking lots, where the renewed surface will usually last 6-8 years. It does extend the life of city streets but not for very long. Microsealing works better on streets that are already in good condition or have little or no traffic. On streets that are in poor or fair condition, the results are often less than satisfactory in terms of durability or service life.   

Jonesville aldermen approved an ordinance that would require bars to hire certified security officers. An officer would have to be on duty if there are 75 or more patrons. For every additional 75 patrons, another officer must be added. If five or more officers are on duty, one shall be designated supervisor. Mayor Loria Hollins said the extra protection is needed because of increasing violence at and near the bars.  

Water rates increasing?

Vidalia may raise its water rates. The state requires utilities to break even or make a small profit. And water ratepayers, those actually receiving water, are not supposed to be subsidized by taxpayers. 

While Ferriday aldermen considered Andre Keys proposal to raise their pay $300 per month, they voted 3-2 against the increase due to the town’s stressed financial condition. The town also has serious service issues, including broken sewage pipes and poor quality water. 

Walt Grayson will be at the Gazebo on the Bluff in Natchez Friday, June 14 from 4-6 p.m. piecing in some live bits to WJTV Meet Mississippi’s famous weatherman and host of Mississippi Roads. The public is invited.

Teen charged with murder

Jefferson County deputies arrested Christopher Barnes Jr., 13, for allegedly stabbing and killing his stepfather, Philip Queen, 34, of Fayette. The juvenile was charged with murder and arraigned as an adult. He has received no bond and is in jail. 

The 2024 Miss-Lou Career & Resource Fair featured 35 major employers from both sides of the River at the Natchez Convention Center. Approximately 100-125 job seekers attended today seeking career opportunities and our employers were available to discuss what opportunities are available now and in the near future. 

Brad Jones, CEO of the Bank of Franklin, has been elected president of the Miss. Bankers Association.

Natchez visitor

A black bear was seen on John R. Junkin Drive in Natchez on Jun 10. The bear was also seen on Homochitto St. 

In Feb. 2023, Kemonte Leonard, 20, of Ferriday, was arrested by Ferriday police for theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen AR15 rifle and possession of other stolen goods. Police said Leonard had participated in auto burglaries at Maryland Heights and a shooting there. They also believed he participated in four unrelated shootings in Ferriday in 2022. Now Natchez police have arrested him after he terrorized his girlfriend and her children at Susie B. West Apartments. He has been charged with aggravated assault, burglary and grand larceny. He allegedly tried to set fire to the apartment.   

Concordia deputies arrested Byron J. Burns, 33, of Clayton, for aggravated assault and aggravated criminal damage to property. In 2022, deputies charged him with aggravated assault with a firearm, violating a protective order and resisting an officer. In 2017, we was arrested for simple assault. He is being held in the parish jail. In a separate arrest, deputies arrested Duncan Miller, 24, address not released, for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, possession of drugs and violation of probation and parole. He remains in the parish jail.

Planning commission deadlocks

On April 30, the City of Natchez Planning Commission mailed letters to most homeowners living within 160 Feet of the boundary of the former Children's Home located at 806 North Union Street; several homeowners did not receive this notice. Application PC-2415. Charles E Stuart Sr. for New Hope Missionary Baptist Church request to approve a Special Exception to re-establish the nonconforming use of the property as a Children's Home. Homeowners could fill out the form letter with their objection and return it to City Planning or simply disregard it . The first hearing was scheduled at City Council Chambers on May 16. The hearing was dismissed when only five commissioners showed up so they did not have a quorum. Earlier that day, two people who live near the Children's Home delivered a petition with over 60 signatures and several letters of objection. The second hearing was scheduled for June 6. Eight commissioners were present with Cheryl Rinehart as the chair. Many more people attended the second hearing than the first. There were about six speakers for each side of the issue. Rev Stanley Searcy of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, the owner of 806 North Union Street said he did not receive a letter. He only knew about the hearing when he noticed a sign posted in front of the building by the street. Charles Stuart Sr and their attorney from the Cochran Law Firm in Jackson, Ms did not have the 3 minute limit on their speeches as the other speakers did. One commissioner asked Stuart and the attorney FOUR times if Tina Bruce would be involved in this group home. They would not answer the question; they just kept talking about hundreds of needy children in the state that need a home. Tina Bruce was not present. The commissioners voted 4 for a group home and 4 against it. Cheryl Rinehart said that there had never been a situation like this before so they would have to consult the city attorney.

Mark LaFrancis, 75, of Natchez, has died after a battle with cancer. He came to Natchez as a reporter and then editor of The Natchez Democrat and later served as the public relations director for Co-Lin Natchez. He was an Air Force retiree, motivational speaker, wrote children’s books, co-authored a book and helped develop a documentary film on the Parchman Prison jailing of Natchez civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s. He spent much of his free time on veterans’ issues, including the Home for Heroes Foundation and its new museum. His wife, Eileen, served as Adams County Justice Court Judge for many years. Mark will be remembered as an excellent writer, smart, absolutely dedicated to veterans, Natchez and the entire community.

The Catahoula Parish Police Jury collects a one cent sales tax from residents. That levy is up for renewal this November requiring voters’ approval. The jury plans to rededicate the revenues as follows: 25 percent for garbage collection, 25 percent for roads and bridges and 50 percent for emergency services, which may include restoring ambulance service. The new formula caught local towns by surprise. Jonesville has been receiving 16.5 percent of the tax, Harrisonburg 3.5 percent and Sicily Island 5 percent with 75 percent going to the police jury. Of that 75 percent, the jury spends 25 percent on roads and bridges. The new distribution formula caught the towns by surprise, as they had used the monies to help pay for garbage collection. Now their budgets will be out of whack. The jury says it plans to use the 50 percent for ambulance service. If the voters approve the renewal, the rededication of revenues begins April 1, 2025. The parish gets about 300 ambulance calls per month, including transport and emergency calls. As of now, service is delayed and response times longer, because the parish is not paying for an ambulance station within the parish. Ambulances from Concordia and Rapides are dispatched to cover Catahoula calls. 

Adams County felons arrested in raid

On June 6, deputies with the Adams County Special Operations Group executed a narcotics search warrant pm Field view Dr. in the Cranfield area of Adams County. The Sheriff’s Office had received several complaints about the criminal activity taking place at a couple of houses on this street. During the execution of the search warrant, the target of the search warrant, Roy Ray Jr. ran to the bathroom and started flushing the drugs that he had in his possession. Deputies were able to take him into custody without incident. Deputies were able to dismantle the toilet and were able to retrieve Suboxone strips, 2 bags of marijuana, and a clear bag with pills that were beginning to dissolve in the water. Deputies also recovered a set of digital scales in the bathroom trashcan. While searching the residence, a set of Brass Knuckles and plastic baggies were recovered from the kitchen counter. Deputies learned that Roy Ray Jr. received a message from Tabitha McClain warning him that the Sheriff’s Office was coming to his house just prior to Deputies pulling into the driveway, putting the Deputies at risk. Deputies went to 11 Fieldview Dr. and arrested Tabitha McClain for Hindering Prosecution. While waiting on a transport unit, a Ford Explorer, being driven by Edrina Fay Fairchild, turned onto Fieldview and began accelerating towards the deputies standing on the side of the road. Fairchild continued accelerating toward the deputies and caused them to take evasive actions for their safety. Fairchild continued accelerating down Fieldview until she reached 37 Fieldview, where other deputies were still conducting the search warrant. Fairchild was then taken into custody for two active warrants and Reckless Driving. On June 7, Deputies with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office received information about a wanted subject (Joshua McClain) at 11 Fieldview Dr. When deputies arrived at the residence, they were able to arrest Joshua McClain for Failure to Appear warrant. Deputies also located James Johnston who had active warrants for Trespassing and Chastity Hammers who had active felony warrants for Probation Violation in Louisiana. Deputies were able to confirm that Louisiana would extradite Hammers and she was then placed under arrest. All three were transported to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and booked in. Roy Ray Jr., 49, who has a long history of arrests, 23 felony charges and 12 misdemeanor charges, was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon by a Convicted Felon, Possession of Sch. II Drug (Suboxone), Possession of Marijuana less than 30 grams, and Tampering with Evidence. Ray is still on Probation for a prior dug charge and Mississippi Department of Corrections and Probation has filed a Probation Violation for Roy Ray Jr.. Tabitha McClain, 18, was arrested for Hindering Prosecution. Edrina Fay Fairchild, 49, was arrested for Reckless Driving and Contempt of Court Warrants. 

Ron Riches, of Los Angeles and Natchez, has died at the age of 82. He and his wife, Lani, moved to Natchez in 1978 to live part-time and restored the antebellum home Monmouth as their home, inn and restaurant. Ron was a co-founder of the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and the Natchez Opera Festival. Known for his outgoing and energetic manner, Ron spent much of time over several decades working to improve the Natchez economy.

Jonesville violence

Jonesville will hold a public hearing June 11 at 5:45 p.m. to discuss a proposed ordinance that would require bars to hire certified security officers. An officer would have to be on duty if there are 75 or more patrons. For every additional 75 patrons, another officer must be added. If five or more officers are on duty, one shall be designated supervisor. Mayor Loria Hollins said the extra protection is needed because of increasing violence at and near the bars. 

The Eide Bailly CPA audit of Trinity Medical shows the hospital’s finances improving from 2022 to 2023. Trinity had $31.4 million in revenues in 2023 compared to $26.4 million in 2022. The hospital showed a healthy $2.2 million surplus in 2024. Trinity needs large amounts of cash on hand and a good surplus to be able to invest in its facilities, equipment and new personnel each year.

Concordia Chief Deputy Fred Middleton has been named Louisiana Deputy of the Year. He has brought more than $1 million in grants and donations to the sheriff’s office. He established the parish’s cybercrime unit under the direction of Sheriff David Hedrick. The unit has been very successful arresting cyberperps from across Louisiana and Mississippi. He also helps lead the bookkeeping, financial and operational management teams that keeps track of millions of dollars in revenues and expenses and manages personnel.

Darnell Griffith

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said Darnell Deontae Griffith, of Bude, was last seen on Monday, June 3 around 10 p.m. in the 2900 block of Highway 184 in Franklin County. He was driving in an unknown direction. Griffith is believed to be in a 2023 White Toyota Camry bearing the Mississippi tag FNA 258. Family members said Griffith suffers from a medical condition that may impair his judgment. Anyone with information on his whereabouts can contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 601-384-2323 or 911. 

The Diesel Equipment Technology Program at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez Campus offers a two-year instructional program that equips students with the essential skills and knowledge required to maintain and repair a variety of industrial diesel equipment, including agricultural tractors, commercial trucks, and construction equipment. Financial aid and scholarships are available. For more information, please contact Co-Lin Academic & Career and Technical Education Counselor Rukiya Abston at rukiya.abston@colin.edu or 601.446.1225.

Blarrington Ashley, 53, of Natchez, was arrested by Natchez police on an indictment and placed in the Concordia Parish jail pending release on bond or trial this Spring. Unexpectedly, he died while in custody. An autopsy showed he suffered from serious hypertensive and atherosclerotic heart disease and his death in late April was because of his condition. There was no foul play.

Five shooting murders

Wilkinson County has suffered five homicides in recent weeks. The two latest include the death of Henry Dyer of Woodville, who was found shot and unresponsive on the side of the road on First West Street North. He died at the scene. Police were called again the same street three days later, when a car crashed into a home. Inside the car a teen was found dead, shot to death. Two more were killed on or near First West Street. A fifth killing occurred earlier in May in Centreville. All the deaths have been from gunshots. And no one has been arrested so far. Call Crimestoppers with info 888-442-5001. Ben Davis faced Tarsha Ambeau in the Natchez Alderman Ward 5 General Election. Davis won 39-4, with few affidavit or absentee votes yet to count. All the other city races had been decided earlier, with all incumbents returned to office. 

Franklin County supervisors are expected to change the location of two unnamed voting precincts. Those two are without bathrooms and running water which makes working at the polls more difficult. The county election commission is expected to select two new locations for supervisors’ approval.   

In April, Hartwell Tiffee, 42, of Monterey, was arrested by Concordia deputies, for allegedly issuing terroristic threats and criminal damage to property. Concordia deputies said Tiffee allegedly issued similar threats to a Concordia family this past weekend. Deputies tracked him to Rapides Parish, where law enforcement there arrested him for DUI, possession of drugs, open container and speeding.  He had left a Concordia dealership in a vehicle he had pledged to buy but did not complete the paperwork. He was charged in Concordia with simple assault, criminal damage to property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He is being held in the Rapides Parish Jail. Tifffee was charged in 2016 for the murder of Duell Moreland. The State Attorney General convened a grand jury to indict Tiffee but the jury did not do so for a lack of evidence.   

Marijuana lawsuit

Two Mississippi medical marijuana providers, a cultivator and a dispensary, sued Rapid Analytics of Natchez, after the company failed to do its marijuana testing properly, and the state suspended it from continuing services. At the time of the stoppage, Rapid Analytics was testing about 70 percent of all medical marijuana in the state before it reached retailers. Judge Carmen Drake entered a $6.3 million default judgment on defendant Rapid Analytics after it failed to answer the Hattiesburg and Brookhaven plaintiffs’ suit and demands for damages. The state has since revoked Rapid Analytics’ license. It’s unlikely that the plaintiffs will recover the $6.3 million, as Rapid Analytics will most likely file for bankruptcy.

About 200 Entergy customers remained without power in the Natchez area, after more than 1000 lost power from Monday’s storms. 

Congratulations to this year's Krewe of Killarney scholarship winners. ACCS: Reagan Rabb, Cathedral: Gracie Bradley, Monterey: Cooper Wells, Natchez High: Tahkari Doss 

Supt. Zandra McDonald-Green

When Natchez High School held its graduation Friday, some parents were locked out of the gym. The parents got to the door and were told the gym was at capacity, and no one else was allowed to enter. Graduates were supposed to provide the names of up to six people to attend. But others just barged their way in without tickets, filling the gym. Some parents did not see their kids graduate. About 100 people were excluded. Supt. Zandra McDonald-Green said, "We had to quickly pivot when we became aware that fraudulent tickets were being printed and distributed. We tried to mitigate that impact. Our door workers diligently tried to address any issues at the door and ensure that a equitable process was in place for everyone. Additionally, we discovered that someone who had entered opened a side door and permitted people to enter. We addressed this issue as soon as we became aware. The team and I have already started brainstorming ways to address this for future graduation seasons. Again, we regret the missed moments for our families and graduates." 

Howard “Lee” Jones Jr., of Natchez, died this past week at the age of 85. He was the driving force and leader of J.M. Jones Lumber Company for more than a generation. He expanded the company’s business with his personal style of friendliness, commitment to honesty and built a reputation based on being true to his word. Lee helped the company grow by adding many U.S. customers and moving into European and Asian markets. His good business sense contributed to the financial security and prosperity of more than 100 employees. Jones was active in First Presbyterian Church, teaching Sunday school for more than 30 years. He contributed time, energy and monies to local causes and charities, both personally and through the business. 

Nicole Green Miller will serve as Grand Marshal for this year’s Juneteenth parade in Jonesville. The parade will be June 15 at 10 a.m. starting at Block High School. 

Jalarraus Stewart

Woodville police have yet to find and arrest the person or persons who shot and killed Jalarraus Stewart, 22, at a party at First West and Main Streets in mid-May. Between 150-200 people attended the party. More than a dozen shots were fired, according to police. Stewart was taken to Field Health, where he was pronounced dead. If you have any info about this killing, call Woodville police at 601-888-4411. 

The Miss. Department of Revenue said that Michael W. Boykin, 66, of Natchez, has a long term history of failing to pay his income taxes to the state, going back to 2007. For 2007-2020, he failed to pay more than $150,000 in tax due from various years, according to court records. He has been twice convicted for failure to pay, once in Madison County and once in Adams County. Both times he was given suspended sentences. Now he has been indicted once again for failure to pay his 2019-2020 state income taxes of more than $20,000. He has been released on bond of $25,000. Boykin could be sentenced as a habitual offender, since he had the two prior felony convictions.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft had to postpone the town’s meeting to discuss the new budget, as there weren’t enough aldermen present to constitute a quorum. Vidalia must pass a budget by June 30.   

Jarita Frazier-King

As a renowned Natchez chef, Jarita Frazier-King is attracting national attention for being a featured chef on Hulu’s food show, “Searching for Soul Food.” Hulu travels worldwide to showcase the expert culinary skills of up-and-coming chefs. Frazier-King has also received much attention from the food press and media for her cooking and her outgoing personality.

Natchez aldermen will hear the appeal of Truth Lounge June 18 at 6 p.m. The Planning Commission removed the special exception to allow the bar to operate.   

Catahoula inmate Jeffery Tyler Coleman. 34, Jonesville, walked away from the Catahoula Parish Courthouse after using the restroom while in court today. If you see Coleman, do not approach him, but immediately call 911 or 318-5411 to alert authorities.

-----

Contact Us

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

Local Tax Policy

by Peter Rinaldi

Industry and families look at property tax rates when locating in a community. The lower the millage rate the better. But the method of determining assessed value is equally important. Alabama has the second lowest property taxes in the nation which has contributed to a boom in development. 

What are relocating businesses and families looking for? 1) An already growing job market 2) Access to good, new housing, both for rental and purchase. 3) A skilled or semi skilled workforce large enough to support new industry and new commercial ventures. 4) access to highways and railroads. 5) Good public schools. 6) Good community cultural activities and recreation. 7) Access to medical care including specialists. 8 Low crime. 9) Favorable government including good services (police, fire, streets, utilities.) and 10) modest taxes. 

Look at the prevailing millage rates. These millage rates do not include city taxes. Lincoln 108 mills, Copiah 112 mills, Warren 117 mills, Adams 126 mills, Pike 136 mills. 

 Adams and Pike counties have already priced themselves out of the market. And when you add in the other aforementioned factors, it makes Adams disadvantaged. Only in category 6, in recreation and cultural activities, does Adams outshine its immediate and nearby competitors. 

Adams is not just in competition with Southwest Miss. but the entire South, including NC, FL, AL. Even in our own state, places like DeSoto, Rankin, Madison, Lafayette and our Gulf Coast counties are growing quickly, while we have lost more than 20 percent of our jobs and people in recent years. 

People get so frustrated with agencies like Natchez Inc., because honestly, it’s not possible for it to bring an economic revival because of all the factors necessary to recruit new jobs. So Natchez Inc. lies about its success or lack of to keep political support and funding. When a community like Adams has higher taxes, it guarantees that those looking for new locations will take a more in depth look at other communities. A higher millage rate combined with the current punitive reassessment program absolutely guarantees that those within your community with good resources will look elsewhere for a better quality of life as well as a lower tax bite. 

About 30 percent of Adams County residents are below the poverty line. Higher millage and assessments impact the poor even more greatly, increasing their housing and vehicle costs. Current Adams County tax policy, which includes the city tax structure on top of the county millage, is truly detrimental to living with some level of economic security for poor folks. Half of our households earn less than $37,000 a year. That’s rough. Hard to raise a family of two, three or four on less than $37,000. 

Combined with a job market than pays less than the going rate compared to other parts of the South, you can see why the outflow of residents, including those with the lowest incomes, has been so pronounced since the 1980’s. By itself, restructuring tax policy will not turn a declining community into a growing one. However, punitive taxes always make things worse not better. Reassessment and millage increases have pushed the Adams County budgets, including city, county and schools beyond $170 million, up 50 percent in five years. This increase in revenue includes huge federal and state COVID subsidies that will be disappearing. Then what will local governments do? Tax citizens even more?


Natchez History and Tourism

by Peter Rinaldi 

My first experience studying Mississippi goes back to 1972-1973, when I was in college in Maine and studied black history in Mississippi during the Civil War and Reconstruction extended into the Jim Crow era 1861-1890. I had never lived south of Connecticut when I actually moved to Natchez in 1978. What surprised me when I got here is that tourism was so successful based on an anti-historical and romanticized view of the era of the planter society pre-Civil War.

The hoopla and hoopskirts, Confederate uniforms and fancy Pilgrimage dresses seemed to satisfy the tourists. By the mid-1990s, it was obvious that tourists’ desires were changing. The bus tours had fallen away due to overregulation and competition from other Southern markets. There was a need to deal with that change, which included a realistic view of the history itself. That was not provided. It was still hoopskirts, Confederate uniforms and pageants forever! So the pageants began to fail, Fall Pilgrimage started falling apart and even Spring Pilgrimage declined.

It wasn’t until the 2000’s that Natchez decided it might throw in some black history, and that was done haphazardly, without much money and done by people who actually had practically no knowledge of our black history. But of course, while history can be separated into segments for study, such as planter society or slavery history by itself, it actually occurs in one big jumble all together at once and the different segments are interdependent and interrelated.

There are three major occurrences in travel in the 1990’s and 2000’s that affected Natchez that did not bring rewards. First, Americans got incredibly wealthy as a society, which meant there was much more travel with that growth in income. Second, Natchez replaced its outmoded and antiquated hotel facilities with new, modern hotels that were equal to competitor cities. And third, many of the old homes changed ownership. Rich outsiders came in, spent millions and millions on redoing their homes and gardens. Those properties are now in the best state they’ve ever been in. But still the tourism isn’t what it used to be. Why is that? I would suggest that Natchez had been slow to tell its real historical story to travelers, which should include the heyday of planter society, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow era and even the civil rights struggle of the 1960’s.   

People and tourists want the real deal, real history. And the historical experience should also be interactive. While much of the U.S. has developed interactive historical experiences, Natchez generally has not. There is good reason why our cemetery tour with locals acting as the costumed persons buried there is so successful and yet guided tours of fancy houses are actually seeing fewer and fewer numbers.  

Also, we have segregated the history experience. White folks generally run the whitey Pilgrimage and black folks generally run the black history offerings, with the real history often lost. That’s one thing the Natchez National Park does not do. And it’s one reason why the Park is the number one draw in town. But as you know, the locals and the National Park don’t really work together. It’s almost as if they are in separate worlds.  

As witness to our current predicament, we’ve had no visitors or welcome center operating for nearly a year. The new Depot Center is open just six days a week and there is practically no signage or online presence to announce its operation. The garden clubs, their tour agencies and Visit Natchez do not coordinate their message or activity. And the new emphasis on black history is done in such amateurish fashion to be inconsequential. And the National Park Service continues to operate in its own universe. While the fixes to these problems can be debated, the problems at the very least, are more than obvious. As a minor suggestion, I would venture that the Natchez visitor experience should be based on actual history versus fantasy and that the historical experience must be interactive not just passive.


Truth Lounge Debacle

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. 

-----

Contact Us 

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

Spicy Chicken Salad

An easy chicken salad recipe spiced up with chili powder and made simple with ingredients I already had on hand. This is a perfect last minute recipe you can whip up in less than five minutes. 

Ingredients

12.5 oz canned chicken or baked chicken and chopped into small pieces 

1/4 cup mayonnaise 

1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste) 

1/3 cup chopped pickled banana peppers 

2 tbs deli mustard (yellow mustard works fine also) 

2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce 

1/2 cup chopped pickles (your choice on type) 

1/4 tsp black pepper chili powder to taste (depends on how hot you like it) 

GARNISH - fresh herbs of your choice 

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Check for seasoning. Add more salt or chili powder if needed. Chill if you prefer and serve.

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.

----- 

Contact Us

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

Cottonmouths by James L. Cummins

Now that the temperatures are hot 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 near 100, 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

-----

Contact Us

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


Trump's Promises by John Stossel

This week, Donald Trump will officially become the Republican nominee. Soon he is likely to again be president, according to the most accurate predictions, which come from people who put their money where their mouths are — people who bet. They currently give Trump a 67% chance of winning. President Joe Biden’s chances have fallen below 20%. 

This is good news to those of us who fear America is gradually being strangled by ever-increasing regulations. Trump promises to get rid of bad rules. "Remove the anchor dragging us down!” he said. “We’re going to cancel every needless job-killing regulation!” Trump was a developer, so he knew about the thicket of rules that often make it nearly impossible to get things done. But Republicans routinely talk about deregulation and then add rules. 

The media called George W. Bush the “anti-regulator.” But once Bush was president, he appointed thousands of new regulators. Trump was different. Once in office, he hired regulation skeptics. He told government agencies: Get rid of two regulations for every new one you add! But they didn’t. Growth of regulation slowed under Trump, but it still increased. 

Still, I think Trump’s anti-regulation attitude was why stock prices rose and unemployment dropped. He sent a message to businesses: Government will no longer crush you! Businesses then started hiring more people. 

Of course, the media weren’t happy. Reporters love regulation. The New York Times ran the headline, “Donald Trump is Trying to Kill You”! Regulation advocates don’t understand that regulations’ unintended side effects often outweigh the good the regulation was supposed to do. Cars built smaller (to comply with Democrats’ rules that require increased gas mileage) kill people. That’s because smaller cars provide less protection. “Should the government tell you what kind of car to buy?” complained Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform in a video I made about Trump. Norquist says that Trump largely kept his deregulation promise, and that was great for America. 

For example, Trump repealed the Obama-era plan to classify franchise businesses like McDonald’s as one single business. Why was that good? “Trial lawyers want to be able to sue all McDonald’s, not just the local McDonald’s, if they spill coffee on themselves,” says Norquist. “Labor unions want to unionize all McDonald’s, not just one store. That would have been a disaster.” Trump’s FCC repealed Obama’s “net neutrality” rules, which slowed the growth of internet options by limiting providers’ freedom to charge different prices. Democrats screamed. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that repeal would mean “the end of the internet as we know it.” Instead, none of the terrible things predicted (they’ll cut you off!) happened. Innovation continued. The internet just got better. Yet now the Biden administration wants net-neutrality reinstated! They also want to ban election betting, the useful mechanism that gives us better predictions about the future, and the election odds I quote above. Regulators give their repression nice names to make their rules sound valuable: today they propose a Data Privacy Protection Act, a Cybersecurity Resilience Act, Fair Lending For All Act, etc. 

“The names for these regulations are written by regulators,” laughs Norquist. “They’re advertisements for themselves,” He jokes that regulators should, like drug companies, list side effects of their rules: “May cause unemployment, reduce wages, raise the cost of energy … “ Trump’s deregulation record would be better if he hadn’t added new regulations, like tariffs, at the same time. “Trump is a protectionist in many ways,” says Norquist, sadly. “Tariffs are taxes, and regulations on the border are regulations on consumers.” 

When Trump took office, he announced, “We have cut 22 regulations for every one new regulation!” But it’s not true. America’s Deep State is hard to fight. Many of the 22 million Americans who work for government think they’re not doing their job if they don’t regulate more. Despite Trump’s promises, he left America with more regulations than we had when he took office. I hope a future President Trump will cut his tariffs and agricultural subsidies, and kill the Export-Import Bank, drug prohibition and thousands of other rules that do more harm than good.

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

-----

Contact Us

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


The Fastidious And The Furious by Amy Alkon

I'm a divorced guy in my 40s. I was at a bar with friends and went over to talk with a woman I found really attractive. Though she wasn't the friendliest, I asked to take her to dinner. She said she'd think about it and then asked for my Instagram. Several days later, I texted her, and she agreed to go out. We've since had a few dates, but I'm bothered that she wouldn't go out with me until she'd scoured my social media. What does that suggest about her? --Offended 

You don't expect much from a woman who's "known" you all of 20 minutes: just blind trust that you'll do the gentleman thing of opening the passenger-side door for her -- as opposed to the psychopathic gentleman thing of stuffing her in your trunk. 

Of course, the latter could happen if two gay men were dating, but there's good reason women -- more than men -- would opt for a "buyer beware" versus a "buyer be guessin'" approach. "Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death," observes personal security expert Gavin de Becker in "The Gift of Fear." 

Even the stringbeaniest man can probably whup the average woman. Men have 15 to 20 times more testosterone than women, explain endocrinology researcher David J. Handelsman, M.D., and his colleagues. Higher "T" is associated with increased "muscle mass and strength" and "bone size and strength." This means that even the power broads of the female athletic world are ill-prepared for any battle of the sexes. 

Take women's tennis rock stars Venus and Serena Williams. In 1998, when they were ranked fifth and 20th respectively, each got trounced by 203rd-ranked male tennis player Karsten Braasch -- whose "prep" for these matches was playing a round of golf and throwing back a couple of beers. Beyond physical safety concerns, there's one half of the species that pees on little plastic sticks after sex to see whether they're about to make another human being -- one which, on average, will cost $233,610 to raise until age 17. (College, grad school, and multiple stints in rehab priced separately.) 

This difference in male and female reproductive physiology led to the evolution of differences in male and female sexual psychology -- namely in their general level of sexual selectivity. It's in men's evolutionary interest to have sex with a slew of women -- and the hotter the better, because the features we find beautiful (youth, clear skin, and an hourglass figure) reflect health and fertility. (In a pinch, a woman with a pulse will do.) An ancestral man could cut and run after sex -- leaving it to the Miss Neanderbrow he hooked up with to feed and care for any resulting fruit of the womb -- and still have a pretty good chance of passing on his genes. In contrast, ancestral women who didn't just stumble off to do it in the bushes with every Clooneyesque club toter likely left more surviving children to pass on their genes (carrying their psychology of choosiness). Women's emotions push them to act in their evolutionary best interest. 

Women fear getting involved with men who will be unwilling and/or unable to pick up the tab if sex leads to, um, the creation of small mammals who will run up big bills at the orthodontist. In other words, it benefits a woman to scope a new man out and decide whether the ideal time to go to dinner with him might be the first Tuesday in never. 

We're psychologically unprepared for the "evolutionarily novel" experience of vetting a stranger we meet in a bar, because our psychological operating system is adapted for an ancestral hunter-gatherer world: small, consistent communities of perhaps 25 to 100 people in which "intel" on a person was readily available through the grapevine. What's a modern, stranger-encountering woman to do? 

Well, this one apparently hoped to get some clues about you from your social media: probably from the sort of stuff you post, your follows and followers, and how you engage in the comments. What does this woman's precautionary approach say about her? Well, probably that she isn't so desperate for a man or a free dinner that she'll take risks with her safety and go out with any Joe Bar Tab who offers to treat her to a meal. This isn't to say she's found a foolproof vetting method. Though social media is a new thing, it's rife with a well-worn evolved tool: deception -- used to defeat the precautionary strategies of the opposite sex. 

This typically leads not to rape or death but the sinking feeling of being had -- when, say, visits from the guy who posted pics of himself "flying private" always coincide with rolls of toilet paper going missing.

Consider whether you have the social and emotional capital to bear the potential costs -- while factoring in the psychological cost of just sucking it up and saying nothing. Ultimately, though many women are nothing but supportive of other women, it's wise to remain mindful that, well, behind every beautiful woman is a crowd of other women looking to push her into a shed and padlock the door. ...

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." 

-----

Contact Us

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

-----

Contact Us 

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


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.

-----

Contact Us 

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













-----

Contact Us

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



DUSTIN C. RINALDI, CFP®, AWMA®, CRPC®

SERVICES 

Financial Planning: Personalized plans from a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to help you reach your financial goals

Investment Management: Custom built investment strategies developed to maximize return depending on your desired risk level.

Tax Strategy: Explore the different ways to manage, reduce, and defer your taxes. 

Business Consulting: Let us help set up the right retirement plan for you and your company. 


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: www.retirewithdustin.com

-----

Contact Us 

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

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