Archive for August, 2010

EMA director confirms reports of oil-like substance at Henderson Point

August 5, 2010

What appears to be oil has been spotted in two locations in Harrison County, the emergency management director has confirmed.

This morning, a sheen was seen near the Long Beach harbor.

Callers to the Sun Herald also reported oil under the water’s surface at the boat launch at Menge Avenue.

Later, an oil-like substance was spotted near the mouth of the Bay of St. Louis at Henderson Point. EMA Director Rupert Lacy said a skimmer boat has been sent to the Henderson Point location to clean up the oil.

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Bay eyes merging school systems

August 5, 2010

The Bay St. Louis city attorney has been asked to explore the legal path to consolidating Hancock County’s two public school districts. The city council asked attorney Donald Rafferty Monday to look into the possibility after the subject was raised during a council meeting. Waveland resident Lana Noonan suggested the possibility after describing the Bay-Waveland district as “a run-away train” with “extravagant” salaries being paid to many administrators.

The Bay-Waveland district lost enrollment after Hurricane Katrina, and currently has about 1,700 students. The Hancock County district has about 4,400 students. The Hancock district did not raise taxes for the new school year, while the Bay-Waveland School Board voted for a 1.32-mill tax hike.

Both districts have been hard hit by deep cuts to educational spending at the state level.

Noonan also pointed out a disparity in pay levels for superintendents of the two districts. Bay-Waveland Superintendent Rebecca Ladner, who is appointed, makes $105,000 per year. She and other administrators, along with other district personnel, took pay cuts in the new budget.

Alan Dedeaux, superintendent of the Hancock County system, is paid $89,000 per year. He is elected to office.

Noonan, who was a sharp critic of the Bay-Waveland system during its recent budget hearing, said she also intends to ask Waveland officials to consider the merger idea. “Between the two school districts, you have only 6,200 students,” she said. “You would have to work very hard not to save money.”

City Councilman Bobby Compretta endorsed the merger concept: “I think that’s a great idea, and I’d like to see Mr. Rafferty give us an answer on that at our next meeting,” he said.

Mayor Les Fillingame said a merger would require state legislation.

Sherry Ponder, president of the Bay-Waveland School Board, said Tuesday that her board is not opposed to the proposal, “if that’s what the community determines is best for them.”

However, she said, “we think we’re providing a fine education for our community.”

The question did not arise Monday over which school district would dominate if the two were to merge. As for the prospect of Hancock County taking over the city system, Ponder said, “I don’t really think that’s the intent.”

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

Kiln teen killed in crash on Hwy. 603

August 5, 2010

One person was killed and another injured Friday evening when a Ford truck struck a tree near Firetower Road and Highway 603, Mississippi Highway Patrol Cpl. Johnny Poulos said Tuesday.

William Arthur, 17, of Kiln was pronounced dead at the scene and Jody Jarrell, 39, was taken to Gulfport Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries, Poulos said.

The accident occurred at 7:25 p.m. On Friday, July 30.

Apparently, Poulos said, Jarrell was driving a ’98 Ford Ranger north on Highway 603 when the truck left the roadway on the right side and struck a tree.

Arthur, who was riding in the passenger seat, was killed at impact, officials said. Hancock County Coroner Norma Stiglet said Monday that Arthur died of massive head and body injuries.

Neither Jarrell nor Arthur were wearing seat belts, Poulos said.

No charges have been filed in the case, but it remains under investigation, Poulos said.

Arthur lived in the Silver Creek community and was a student at Hancock High School, officials said.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

Diamondhead man dies when vehicle runs into palm tree

August 5, 2010

A crash Monday evening in Diamondhead took the life of a 21-year-old Diamondhead man, officials said Tuesday.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Investigator Ricky Fayard said a single-vehicle crash involving an Infinity Q-45 was reported on Diamondhead Drive East at 11:15 p.m. Monday.

William Paulk, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene, Fayard said.

Fayard said preliminary investigation points to a high-rate of speed being a factor in the crash.

“He apparently went off the side of the road to the right and tried to overcorrect the vehicle, causing it to spin,” Fayard said.

The car then careened into the median and broad-sided a palm tree, Fayard said. The impact of the crash caused the vehicle to be practically cut in two, and wrapped the car around the tree.

The Diamondhead Fire Department arrived on scene shortly after, along with sheriff’s deputies.

Fayard said Paulk died on impact and was not wearing a seat belt.

Apparently, nobody else was in the vehicle and no other vehicles were involved in the crash, Fayard said.

Fayard said the crash is still under investigation and no other information was available by press time Tuesday.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

Heatwave literally boils crabs & fish in marsh

August 5, 2010

How hot is it? Hot enough for the sun to boil crabs in their natural habitat, in a few inches of water.

Hancock County emergency management officials responded Tuesday morning to a report of a fish kill in the marshes, inland from the beach at Clermont Harbor. They found thousands of dead fish and a number of crabs, apparent victims of the brutal heat that has been pounding the landscape.

The dead fish included menhaden, croakers and trout, officials said. They were found in extremely shallow waters at out-falls in marshes near the CSX railroad tracks.

John Albert Evans, deputy director of the Hancock Emergency Management Agency, said the fish did not have enough water to swim away, and died in the heat. “The base temperature yesterday was 104 and the heat index was 110. With that little water, these fish boiled,” he said.

The dead crabs were so deeply cooked by nature that their shells turned red, as if they had been boiled in a pot.
Dr. Robert Travnicek, district health officer for the Mississippi Department of Health, said the current weather pattern is equally dangerous for humans. Heatstroke can come unexpectedly and be fatal, he said.

“It can some so quickly you don’t know what hits you,” Travnicek said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke can be brought on by exercise or other exertion in high temperatures and a lack of hydration. Signs can include rapid heartbeat, fast, shallow breathing, a change in blood pressure, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea and fainting.

Victims should be moved out of the sun, cooled with water or damp towels, and given cool water or other non-alcoholic beverage without caffeine. Medical help should be called immediately.

The weather forecast through Friday calls for highs in the mid-90s with a chance of rain. The heat index – which combines air temperature and relatively humidity to give the human perception of equivalent temperature – will be around 110. Stay inside if possible, stay cool and drink plenty of liquids, health experts advise.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

Man pleads guilty to possessing stolen machine gun

August 5, 2010


A Biloxi man awaits sentencing on a guilty plea to possession of a stolen machine gun.

Verlon Chad McKenzie, 28, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing Oct. 28.

A three-count federal indictment charged him with possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm.

He pleaded guilty to one count Monday before U.S. Senior District Judge Walter J. Gex III.

Documents identify the machine gun as a .223-caliber Bushmaster.

He was in possession of the automatic weapon in Harrison County on March 17, according to the indictment.

Court records show McKenzie on Monday agreed with the facts as presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams, but McKenzie said he didn’t know the weapon was a machine gun.

The National Firearms Act requires certain types of weapons to be taxed and records kept on their owners.

Registration was enacted in response to the St. Valentine’s massacre of 1929 in Chicago after seven people were killed in a gang war between opposing groups led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

Federal law prohibits civilians from owning machine guns manufactured after May 1986.

Older machine guns are taxed at $200 every time ownership changes.

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Hilton to find home near D’Iberville’s Promenade

August 5, 2010


A Hilton Home 2 Suites is coming to D’Iberville.

The hotel will be built behind the new Shoe Station, adjacent to The Promenade shopping complex.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to vacate a portion of Inglewood Drive, which is needed for the project. The developer is expected to come before the council with the plans at the next meeting, which was rescheduled to 3 p.m. Aug. 17.

The council also voted to pay $200,000 for land owned by Orey Krohn across the street from the new visitors’ center on Central Avenue.

City Manager Michael Janus said the property will be used as a staging area for the rebuilding of Central Avenue.

When the Town Green is complete in a few months, Janus said, the property can be used for overflow parking for large events.

“The long-term goal is to utilize it as the carrot in our downtown-development efforts,” he said.

With the CanCan casino project in progress and the developer’s French Marketplace mixed-use commercial development proposal moving through channels, Janus said city officials believe that area is beginning to take off.

“We want to make sure we maintain some property to be able to encourage other opportunities,” he said.

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Walker DUI case going to county court

August 5, 2010


Municipal Court Judge Matthew Mestayer said Wednesday he and the city’s prosecuting attorney are recusing themselves from the misdemeanor drunken-driving case of former mayoral candidate and local businessman Scott Walker.

Mestayer contacted four other local judges to hear the case, but they also had conflicts of interest. So Mestayer said he’s following state statutes and transferring the case to Jackson County Justice Court.

Once the case is transferred, he said, a Justice Court judge in Ocean Springs will be assigned to hear it. Barring any conflict of interest, he said, Jackson County’s prosecuting attorney, Mark Watts, could serve as special prosecutor.

Ocean Springs police arrested Walker on April 16 on the misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. His attorney, Adam Miller, waived his preliminary hearing and entered a not-guilty plea.

The arrest report said Walker appeared to be asleep behind the wheel of his damaged GMC Tahoe when an officer approached him around 12:30 a.m. the night of his DUI arrest.

Walker’s SUV was in a ditch at Halstead Road and Linda Circle, still running, when the officer knocked on a window in an attempt to wake Walker, the report said.

“I knocked on the window multiple times very loudly,” arresting officer Andy Lott wrote in his report. “I asked him to step out of the vehicle, which he complied. I had to help Scott walk to the back of the vehicle because he appeared to be very unbalanced.”

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Two held after meth lab found

August 5, 2010
meth lab arrest
Debra Jean Stracener
meth lab arrest
Paul Harold Bourque III


A man and woman are held without bond after a meth lab was found Wednesday night in an apartment on Eisenhower Drive, police said. Officers had gone to the apartment to arrest Debra Jean Stracener on a misdemeanor warrant when she fled, police said. Officers noticed evidence of meth activity and asked a judge for a search warrant and found a meth lab, meth and precursor ingredients used to make meth, said Aldon Helmert, narcotics investigator. Police arrested Paul Harold Bourque III, 35, and later arrested Stracener, 47, when she returned to the apartment complex.
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First day of the new school year is pure excitement

August 5, 2010

Katie Jarman, 8, has been practicing going to bed earlier so she’ll be sharp today for the first day of school at South Hancock Elementary.

The schedule is on the refrigerator — 5 p.m. dinner, 6 p.m. bath, 7 p.m. brush teeth.

Katie said she eased into the new schedule. First it was bed at 9 p.m., then bed at 8 p.m., with TV for a few minutes in her room. Then this week, she hit the sack at 8 p.m. — with no TV.

Her grandmother, Debbie Shifter, smiled as Katie explained the transition to getting up early for school.

It’s not just the kids whose lives change. The lives of parents, teachers, administrators and staff are altered all along the Coast this week and next as they make the mental and physical leap from long summer vacation days to the discipline of school.

But even with all the anxiety that comes with change, many see the first day of school as pure excitement.

“I don’t think there will be a child in the district who comes tired,” said Heather Dedeaux, guidance counselor for East Hancock Elementary. “It’s like Christmas morning, even for the teachers. The next two days are just excitement.

“They won’t be tired until Monday,” she said, “when it starts to becomes a routine and you start hearing, ‘You mean I have to get up and do it again?’ ”

For the younger kids, Dedeaux recommends a healthy dinner, a calming bath at night and reading a story for a calm-down period before bed.

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