Archive for May, 2010
The Waveland Board of Aldermen last week shot down a plan to increase the fluoride in its water system.
Ward One Alderman Lili Stahler was the only alderman to support the plan.
Last month, the board heard from officials from the Mississippi Department of Health, who informed the board about the Preventive Health Services Grant.
Under the grant, the state will install a new fluoridated system and manage it for the first year, Mayor Tommy Longo said Monday.
After the first year, the city would take over the costs to maintain it, which would equal about $1.50 per resident, per year, Stahler said.
Currently, Waveland has about 4,000 residents.
The costs could be paid by the city or added to utility bills, officials said.
“I have no idea why they did not vote for it,” Stahler said. “It seemed like a good deal.”
In Mississippi, 97 percent of the population receives its water from public water systems. According to the Department of Health only about 54 percent of the water systems in the state are connected to or adjusted to fluoridated systems.
“It would definitely be better for public health,” Longo said. “Fluoridated systems have already been proved to provide benefits.”
The most obvious positive for fluoridated water is in dental care, Longo said.
According to the MDH, studies have shown that for most cities, every dollar spend on fluoridation saves $38, and in dental treatment, costs and can reduce dental decay by as much as 40 percent.
Longo said the costs to the city would not take affect until a year after the system is in place and in the long-run, because providing fluoride will probably become mandatory in the near future.
Ward Four Alderman Charles Piazza said Tuesday that he is not necessarily against the plan, but he just wants more information first.
“We feel like we did not get enough information,” Piazza said. “They were saying it’s going to cost $1.50 per citizen, and I just want to make sure it is worth it. We will probably revisit this at some point.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, Mississippi ranks 41st of 50 states in the percentage of fluoridated water systems.
BY: Dwayne Bremer
The Sea Coast Echo
A man who had already been bound over to a Hancock County Grand Jury by the Waveland Municipal Court on molestation charges now faces five counts of sexual battery, Police Chief Jimmy Varnell said Monday.
“In an ongoing investigation between the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Waveland Police Department, Danny Dwayne Ware, 53, of Bay St. Louis, now faces additional charges of five counts of sexual battery,” Varnell said.
“Ware was in the Pearl River County Jail, after being bound over to a grand jury on Feb. 18 for alleged molestation charges following a January 5, 2010 arrest by Waveland police,” Varnell said.
“Ware admitted to investigators the allegations made by (a nine-year-old victim) of continued sexual abuse when facing the additional charges,” Varnell said
“The victim (in the first case) was seven years of age and had stayed the night with Mr. Ware’s daughter. During the night, the victim woke up with Mr. Ware next to her bed touching her (inappropriately),” Varnell said. “Ware was bound over to the Hancock County Grand Jury by a Waveland Municipal judge … after waiving a preliminary hearing. He had been in Pearl River County Jail under a $50,000 bond. Investigator Laura Stepro is in charge of the case, along with Investigator Eric Loveless.
“Ware was returned to Pearl River County Jail with an additional $125,000 bond.”
A preliminary hearing for the current charges is set for June 3, in Waveland Municipal Court.
BY: Ellis C. Cuevas
The Sea Coast Echo
Work is moving along slowly on the $3 million-plus Bay St. Louis downtown parking garage, which has an official completion date in July and will cost more than $25,000 per parking spot when finished, if current figures hold.
Mayor Les Fillingame said Tuesday that the garage was originally expected to be completed by May 10. But because of change orders, rain days and other problems, the completion date has been delayed by city officials until July 16.
“A whole multitude of little issues” caused the delay, Fillingame said. “Everybody agreed that it was reasonable.”
A contract for the garage was originally awarded to White-Spunner Construction, of Mobile, last July 23. The structure is being built on the site of the former Hancock County Jail, which was constructed in 1984 and closed after Hurricane Katrina.
It took about two weeks to tear down the old concrete, fortress-like jail building. Then, the discovery of old fuel tanks and other materials below ground slowed construction even more. That required a change order and price increase to remove the tanks. Then last January, project architect Allison Anderson asked for eight more change order items that hiked the cost by another $37,583.68.
The changes included revising the elevation of the garage, revising the parking ramp, waterproofing, adding more rebar and steel, and revising cable guardrail and supports. The guardrail and support revisions alone cost nearly $20,000.
The original cost of the parking garage was about $3.13 million. After the price increases were approved by the City Council, the price rose to $3,182,922.68.
If an original plan remains in place for the garage to provide 125 parking spaces, they will cost $25,463.38 each.
This week, workers have been stringing guard cables on the structure’s second level. Fillingame said one of the final touches will be an entrance to the garage, which he said “will be time-consuming.”
After the two-story the garage is completed, Hancock County officials plan to build a civic center on the third floor. The mayor said no firm dates are yet available on that part of the project.
“They’ve not solidified anything,” he said.
BY: J.R. Welsh
The Sea Coast Echo
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors asked its Emergency Management Agency to begin scaling back on its workload last week and told British Petroleum “no thanks” to a gift of $10,000.
The $10,000 gift was to be used to allow the county to purchase a portable kitchen.
“We are not going to be cooking on this issue,” Board President Rocky Pullman said Wednesday. “In fact, this gives me heartburn. If BP has $10,000 to throw away, they need to give it to the families of those 11 people who lost their lives.”
EMA Deputy Director John Albert Evans told the supervisors Wednesday about the proposed portable kitchen.
Supervisors said it was a nice gesture, but no thanks.
“I’m sure this is being offered in good faith, but I don’t know if we need to take any hand-outs from BP,” District One Supervisor David Yarborough said.
Pullman said the county is currently building a full-service EOC and storm preparedness center in Kiln and that Waveland and Bay St. Louis are doing the same.
Since the oil spill response, the EOC has been temporarily moved to the WIN job center facility in Waveland.
Dozens of state and federal officials have been in the area as a result of the oil spill.
Pullman said let the local businesses benefit.
“If you start cooking for everyone, all of the local restaurants are going to be complaining,” he said.
Supervisors also asked the EOC to slightly cut back on its hours of operation.
“You guys are doing a fantastic job,” Pullman told Evans. “But, we don’t want you to kill yourself with this and then a storm come along in a month or two.”
The EOC had been open for 12 hours daily, now it will be eight-hour shifts.
Last week, there were dozens of sightings of possible oil-related materials. This week, the reports seem to have tapered off quite a bit.
EMA Director Brian “Hootie” Adam said the offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The EOC will also close on Sunday, but clean-up crews will continue to monitor the beach, officials said.
“We can always go back to the 12 hours shifts if we need to,” Adam said. “We all need a little break, we have been non-stop for four weeks.”
Adam said he and Evans will remain on-call for response at any time.
Anyone wishing to report any suspicious materials on the beach call the EMA at 228-466-8229.
After hours, reports can be made to the central dispatch at 228-255-9191.
BY: Dwayne Bremer
While British Petroleum plans its “top kill” technique today, to try and stop crude oil from gushing into the Gulf, officials in Hancock County are worried they may not have necessary resources on hand to stop the oil if it floats into local waters.
The director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday that he has asked a contractor for British Petroleum to send skimmers and other oil-fighting materials from Biloxi to Hancock County as soon as possible. The materials are being stored by U.S. Environmental, a company hired by BP.
EMA Director Brian Adam said he had not actually seen the oil-fighting materials, but was assured by U.S. Environmental representatives that supplies earmarked for Hancock County were being stored in Biloxi.
“We don’t really want a Katrina situation, where when something happens, everything’s over there” in another county, Adam said.
Kenneth Hayes, a representative for U.S. Environmental, also stressed Monday that BP could well decide to move oil-fighting supplies to Louisiana instead of leaving them on standby in Mississippi.
“If you lose your resources, you’ve had it,” Hayes told Hancock County emergency officials.
At daybreak this morning, BP was ready to begin a new technique to stop the oil flow at the Deepwater Horizon well site, 50 miles off Louisiana. It was to be the latest in a string of techniques that have failed to stop the gushing well.
So far, minimal estimates are that 210,000 gallons daily have been flowing from the ruptured well directly into the Gulf for 31 days.
The top kill consists of shooting heavy drilling mud into two lines being attached to the well’s blowout preventer, 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. BP chief executive Doug Suttles said Monday that if the top kill works, concrete could then be pumped in to seal the leak, or a new blowout preventer could be placed on top of the failed blowout preventer.
“By Wednesday evening, we’ll know if it’s successful. If it’s successful, the oil should stop flowing,” Suttles told reporters in a telephone technical briefing. However, he added, “It’s possible that it will not be a success.”
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and exploded on April 20 and the rig sank two days later. Eleven workers died in the accident.
This week, the discovery of tarry and oily materials on local beaches had slowed, as have the numbers of dead fish and other marine life on Hancock beaches, EMA official Jesse Finneran said. However, no results have yet been returned from tests taken on materials found on local beaches eight days ago.
The oil situation has worsened in Louisiana, with oil washing ashore at Grand Isle, Barataria Bay, and other locations.
“It’s too close to us to not get something” in Mississippi, Adam said during an emergency management briefing Monday. “Oil is all over Louisiana, and it’s not that far from us. We’ve got to keep our vigilance.”
Meanwhile, BP continued this week to insist that oil flowing from the ruptured well is not likely any more than the 210,000-gallon official daily estimate given by the company and the federal government for weeks. Some academics and other scientists have estimated the flow could be as high as several million gallons daily.
“I don’t think it’s a gross under-estimation,” Suttles said of the 210,000-gallon figure. He said
he is “confident” that the rate of oil escaping “is nowhere near many of the estimates we’ve seen on TV.”
As the top kill was being prepared Tuesday, Hancock County officials were also mindful that hurricane season is about to begin.
“If we get a tropical storm or a hurricane and it throws water here, guess where the oil is going?” Adam said.
BY: J.R. Welsh
The Sea Coast Echo
A woman accused of smuggling cash claims she didn’t know her truck had a hidden compartment or that it contained $140,038, a federal court document shows.
Esbeydi Borja-Borja, 39, of Mexico, has been in custody since her arrest in a traffic stop on Interstate 10. A Harrison County deputy stopped her 2006 Lincoln Mark LT on May 19, claiming her license plate was obscured.
Court papers show the deputy received permission to search the truck after he noticed fresh paint, aftermarket sheet-metal screws and fabricated brackets in the cab of the luxury pickup.
A search turned up 14 bundles of cash wrapped with duct tape, according to the sworn statement of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
The agent said Borja-Borja stated she had entered the U.S. at Edinburg, Texas, and picked up her three brothers for a trip to visit their grandmother in Atlanta. She said they were returning home when they were stopped at mile-marker 23.
The document alleges Borja-Borja claimed she has owned the truck for a year and had control of the vehicle the entire time it was in the country.
A records check by ICE showed Borja-Borja had permission to cross the border.
Moss Point residents LaTanicia McMillan Rogers and Wayne Rogers were convicted Monday of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and theft of government funds, U.S. Attorney Donald R. Burkhalter said. The two were involved in a health care–fraud scheme in which they billed Medicare for more than $18 million for physical therapy services they fraudulently claimed were being performed by a licensed doctor.
LaTanicia Rogers was also convicted of three more counts of health-care fraud and two counts of making a false statement relating to health care. Evidence from the trial showed she oversaw the scam and was in charge of the daily operations of Primary Physical Medicine Inc., the company that falsely billed Medicare.
In the course of 18 months the defendants submitted claims to Medicare for providing physical-therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. The therapy services were provided by Wayne Rogers, who was not a qualified physician or physical therapist. He also gave employees for about two weeks’ training to provide in-home therapy.
The defendants over-billed Medicare, saying the therapy services lasted between five and nine hours per patient per day. They were paid more than $8 million of the claims they submitted.
Jim Davis Hull, a former Moss Point municipal judge and attorney, testified against the defendants. Hull is serving a five-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to his role in the Primary Physical Medicine scam, and fraudulent schemes involving two other medical clinics.
A strong partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies enhances the FBI’s top priority of counter-terrorism nationwide, said Special Agent Daniel McMullen, who says it’s his top priority as head of the FBI in Mississippi.
The 18-year FBI veteran has led the agency’s efforts in Mississippi for six months. He moved to the Jackson office from Los Angeles, where he was in charge of criminal matters.
Making counter-terrorism the top priority for Mississippi doesn’t mean the state is more vulnerable to terrorist activity than any other state, said McMullen. Those who would provide materials or raise money in support of terrorist acts can be any where, he said.
“The notion of being reactive to terrorism or criminal threats is something we can’t afford any more,” McMullen said. “We have to be proactive.”
“It’s not necessarily about profiling. It’s about where the threats may be. It’s probably going to be something that has manifested itself at the local level, something that state or local law enforcement agencies call to our attention.”
The FBI has become a national security organization since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in addition to its role as a law enforcement agency.
McMullen listed other priorities as counter-intelligence, cybercrime, public corruption, civil rights issues, white-collar crime and criminal enterprise.
The FBI recruits people with diverse backgrounds such as environmental, accounting or health-care, and those who speak a second language fluently. Applicants must be between ages 23 to 37 and have at least an undergraduate degree.
They’ll tell you where they’re from, but otherwise they won’t comment — the hundreds of men and women who’ve been brought in to the Mississippi Coast to work on the BP oil spill.
Almost 3,700 are here now, although as time passes workers who had been brought in from all over the U.S. are being replaced by Mississippians.
More than 40 percent are local now, a BP spokeswoman said.
The major deployment areas the company has set up along the Coast from Pascagoula to Waveland are like hives, with workers moving in and out near rows and rows of equipment for vacuuming, hauling, bagging and moving about the roads, bayous and open water.
BP’s Marti Powers said the company has contracted with more than 160 companies — some as far away as Norway and some as close as Ocean Springs. Those companies, in turn, hire work forces set to hit the ground running.
Mum’s the word
They’re well-schooled on not talking, and each of the major deployment sites has a makeshift security-guard stand.
At BP’s “north staging” area, one of two near the industrial area off the east end of Ingalls Avenue in Pascagoula on Tuesday, the Sun Herald was greeted by an armed security guard wearing a Taser and a local police department shirt who said, “Nobody comes by here who’s not authorized. That’s all I can tell you.”
That’s the norm at each site, Powers said.