Demo begins to make way for Main Street green space

The City of Collins will soon get a green space on Main Street.
The Board of Aldermen voted to purchase a piece of property that once housed the Collins Cleaners and the old Bill Dent Law Office building.  The cleaners is falling in and had been declared unsafe by Public Works Director Bob Shoemake.
Mayor V.O. Smith explained his ideas for the 30’x90’ property.
“We began revitalizing our downtown in 2003 with new lighting, sidewalks and landscaping,” he said. “Several years later we received a grant to renovate the depot on the east end of town, and we’ve said we need a green area on Main Street.”
Plans for the project include two entrances built from the antique bricks from the buildings.
“We want to create two arches like we have at the Robertson Park,” Smith said.
Smith explained that in addition to the arches, the park will include restrooms, a small concession stand, a small stage with an arbor for concerts, tables and chairs with umbrellas and a fountain in the center.
“It will be a place that can be used for Santa Claus during our Christmas events, and it will be a place where we can have special events going on during Okatoma Festival.  It’s going to be a spot we have needed on Main Street.”
Smith said he would like to have the space finished by the Christmas season.
“I think it’s going to be a big asset for Collins,” he said.  “Wherever I go, people always brag on Main Street in Collins.  It’s important to keep it looking nice.”
Smith said he estimates the project to cost about $25,000-$30,000.
“We are going to use the money we receive off the city’s rental property at the industrial park for this project,” he said.  “We have several hundred thousand dollars from that rental property so it wont be taxpayer funds that are used.”
The park will include lighting and landscaping.
“It will be another area along Main Street we can be proud of,” said Smith.

Collins FD sends aid to flood victims

Residents in Covington County are coming together to help the flood victims in Louisiana and Southwest Mississippi.
Organized by the Collins Fire Department, residents are invited to drop off supplies to help with clean-up and recovery.
Supplies may be dropped off at the Collins Fire Department, Seminary Town Hall, Rex’s Resolutions in Collins, Boswell Regional Center in Magee and Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg..
“We will be accepting supplies throughout this week and next,” said Fire Chief John Pope.
The chief is planning two deliveries to the impacted area.
“The first will be sometime the end of this week, and we will probably go back the early part of next week,” Pope said.
The Seminary Police Department has joined the effort and will be a drop off point for supplies.  SPD will be collecting supplies each morning and afternoon during school drop off and pick up at the Seminary Baptist Church House of Hope which is located on the corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue.
Donations will also be collected during Friday night’s Seminary High School football game.
“The House of Hope will be open Friday night to take in supplies,” said Seminary Police Chief Michael Kelly.
Donations that are being accepted include bottled water, canned and other non-perishable foot items, personal hygiene items and toiletries, baby supplies, pet food, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, blankets and other essential items.
Cleaning supplies are in high demand right now in the aftermath of the flood, Pope said.
“They are really looking for mops, brooms, buckets, disinfecting wipes, bleach rubber gloves, work gloves, storage containers and garbage bags,” he noted.
For Pope, helping flood victims is personal.
“I worked down there at LSU for years,” he said, “and I wanted to help.  As for the Collins Fire Department, it has always been our mission to do the most good we can.  We had a  lot of help from a lot of different places during Hurricane Katrina, and it’s our turn to offer help to others.”
For more information on how to help, contact the Collins Fire Department at 601-765-5110 or the Seminary Police Department at 601-722-3205.

MDOT to update Highway 49 through Covington County

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has announced an update on the safety improvement project on US 49 in Covington County.
The project encompasses US 49 southbound from the Forrest County Line to Mount Olive and will include the addition of shoulders and safe slopes throughout the 22 miles of roadway. The US 49 intersection with Kola Road in Collins will be signalized and improved, while all crossovers and local roads throughout the project will be analyzed to identify safety issues such as site distance and accident patterns.
Originally, MDOT had plans to close Fruitstand Road at Seminary. After review, it has been decided to temporarily restrict some of the access to Fruitstand Road, opposed to closing the intersection, for the duration of the project.
“We’re planning to purchase right of way outside of the construction project to relocate the intersections of Fruitstand Road and Kelly Creek Road at a safer point of intersection with US 49,” said District 7 Engineer Albert White. “Currently, we are working on the survey and design of the new location. We will update the public once the design is completed.”
District One Supervisor Sterling Craft said he was pleased with the adjustments made to the plans for the intersection which is in his district.
“It’s oing ot take a little time to complete,” Craft said, “but once it’s finished it’s going to be better in the long run.”
Craft complimented MDOT on hearing and addressing the concerns of the residents and Supervisors.
“They heard what we had to say, and worked with us to come up with a better plan,” he said.  “With the new plan, you’ll still have another exit and entrance to Seminary.”
The original concern was by closing Fruiststand Road it would cut down to only one entrance and exit to Seminary and bottleneck traffic getting into and out of town.
“I’m pleased with their plan,” said Craft, “it’s much safer and better.”

Covington County Hospital celebrates 65th anniversary

The Covington County Hospital (CCH) staff and members of the community gathered last week to celebrate the hospital’s 65th anniversary.
“For 65 years this hospital has been a cornerstone in this community,” said Gregg Gibbes, CCH administrator.  “It’s a testament to the staff and your dedication hard work and service to others.”
Gibbes thanked the CCH Board of Trustees and the Covington County Board of Supervisors for their support.
“To give you an idea of the impact that Covington County Hospital has on our community, I’m going to give you a few statistics.  Our emergency room sees about 7,000 patients per year and our clinics see over 25,000 patients a year.  The economic impact this hospital has on this community is over $44 million per year. I’d like to thank all of you for the opportunity to lead this organization.”
The crowd heard from patients, employees and former adminstrators.
“Your fathers brought forth this hospital,” Patricia Moore told the crowd.
“They asked me to speak because I’m the dinosaur who’s been here the longest,” she laughed.
Moore explained that the hospital was opened in 1951 with 25 beds.
“They opened the hospital with the idea that all men deserve good, medical care at the least cost possible,” she said.
The hospital was expanded in 1956 to include an additional 19 beds bringing the total to 44 beds.  The third expansion came in 1972 when the hospital added 34 beds and a dietary department, nurses’ station, cafeteria and board room.
“Patients were offered room accomodations in private rooms, semi-private rooms and three-bed wards,” Moore explained.
Moore spoke of the legendary doctors, nurses and staff who walked the halls of the hospital.
“They are the pioneers who built this hospital,” she said.
Following Moore’s address, Irving Hitt a former hospital administrator spoke to the crowd.
“I worked at the hospital for about 25 years,” he said.  “The people here did a fantastic job and our group of doctors is as good of a group as you could find in a small community.  In fact our hospital is here because Dr. Crenshaw gave the property so a hospital could be built in Covington County.”
Each of the guest speakers praised the hospital staff and spoke of the excellent care provided by the hospital.  That was also true for Melissa Sanford Gilmore, a nurse and former patient of the hospital.  Gilmore told her story.  At 36 she experienced a heart attack, but mistaking it for an asthma attack, she drove to Covington County Hospital where she was treated and then transported to a larger facility.
“I’m humbled to be here today because of Covington County Hospital,” she said.  “I’m a strong believer in rural health because of my family.  Any time we needed to see the doctor or go to the hospital, we headed to Covington County Hospital.” Gilmore told of her ordeal and the care and compassion she received and still receives when she visits the hospital.
“I tell my own patients any time they have a problem to go on over to Covington County Hospital because they will take care of you,” she smiled.  “I honestly meant it when I said that I am humbled to be here because it if wasn’t for this hospital, I would not be here.”

Sales Tax holiday set for this weekend

Mississippi’s annual Sales Tax Holiday is set for this weekend. The 24-hour tax free event will begin on Friday, July 29, 2016, and end Saturday, July30.
The items exempt from sales tax during the Sales Tax Holiday are the same as previous years, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Clothing and footwear meant to be worn next to the body and cost less than $100 per item are exempt from sales tax during this period. Items priced at $100 or more are subject to sales tax at the regular retail rate of 7 percent.
For example, a customer purchases two shirts at $50 each, a pair of slacks at $75 and a pair of shoes at $110. No sales tax is required on the sale of the two shirts and the slacks totaling $175, even though the combined cost is more than the $100 limit. However, tax is due on the entire $110 for the shoes since that single item exceeds the $100 limit.
Accessories like jewelry, handbags, wallets, watches, backpacks and similar items do not qualify for the Sales Tax Holiday. Cleats and items worn in conjunction with an athletic or recreational activity are also ineligible. School supplies and computers are not included.
For an official guide regarding the Sales Tax Holiday, including a list of eligible and non-eligible items, go to www.tax.ms.gov/secondsalestaxholiday.html.
With additional questions regarding the holiday, contact the State Department of Revenue at (601) 923-7015.

Students have new buses this year

Covington County students will head back to class with the help of 11 new buses.
“We are so happy to have these new buses,” said Dr. Arnetta Crosby, Covington County School District Superintendent.  “Everyone knows that our school district was in desperate need of new buses.  The school board was very clear that they wanted to purchase new buses.”
The district purchased 10 regular school buses and one special education bus, according to Crosby.
“We had planned to purchase the new buses when one of our special education buses was involved in an accident and was totaled.  So we had to go ahead and purchase a new special education bus also,” said Crosby.
The school district was able to purchase the buses with help from the state, explained Crosby.
“They grouped us with several other districts who were in need of buses and were able to purchase a larger number of buses at a better price,” she said.
The total cost for the new buses was $886,300.  Crosby explained that the buses were purchased on a lease purchase agreement.
“We have an annual payment of $139,185.52 that will allow us to pay off two buses per year,” she said.
The lease is a seven-year lease, and Crosby noted that the district plans to continue the rotation and purchase two new buses per year.
“That annual payment is the cost of two buses so we will replace two buses each year.
The district has been in need of the new buses for several years, but because of a very tight budget, that has not been possible.
“Because of all the budget cuts, there were so many other immediate needs that had to be addressed before our bus situation,” said Crosby, “but it’s no secret that we received a citation during the accrediting process for the age of our buses.  Some were over 20 years old, and we had to do something.
“With this new lease agreement, we will finally be able to update our buses.”
Not only are the new buses more comfortable, they are also much safer according to Crosby.
“The buses are designed to minimalize injuries if they are involved in an accident,” she said.  “They are going to be much safer for our children.”
Currently, the district runs 56-58 buses per day.  They will pull 10 of the oldest buses out of service and replace them with the new buses.
“The ones we replace will be used as substitutes when they are needed,” said Crosby.

Graves to represent Covington County at Miss Hospitality

Covington County’s Miss Hospitality Leah Graves joins 27 contestants competing for the title of Miss Hospitality.
The 67th annual Miss Hospitality Pageant will be held July 22 and 23 at the Historic Saenger Theater in Downtown Hattiesburg.  Graves will leave for Hattiesburg on Sunday, July 17 and participate in a week of activities OKand competition leading up to the final two days of the pageant.
This year, as the Pageant celebrates 67 years of hospitality and grace, as Mississippi’s best and brightest young ladies take the stage to compete for the 2016 title – a title that comes with a ticket to travel thousands of miles promoting the state’s economic development and tourism programs.
Graves is a graduate of Seminary High School and currently attends William Carey University.  She is a member of Gamma Chi Sorority and is on the President’s List.  Graves is majoring in nursing and plans to attend the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
She is the daughter of Neil and Kristen Graves of Seminary.  She is the granddaughter of Rev. Jerry and Jackie McRaney of Collins and Lou Graves and the late Roy and Mary Graves of Collins.
Graves said she is looking forward to competing for the title.
“Excited is an understatement for how I feel,” she said.  “I have such peace as I go to represent Covington County.  I have done my part in preparation.  I just pray for whatever is God’s will to be done.”
She has worked tirelessly getting ready for the pageant.
“I have simply taken adavntage of every opportunity I have had to practice hospitality,” she said.  “I’ve spent time with our county’s children, traveled all over our state to experience tourist attractions for myself and learned fine, delicate details of my home.  I’ve also studied until the wee hours of the morning and stood to answer mock interview questions without fear.”
Naturally, Graves is looking forward to getting to Hattiesburg to compete.
“Although my favorite outfit is my destination costume, I’m just going and representing  my home which- is enough excitment for me,” she said.  “For all those who have helped me and supported me, I’m forever grateful to go and accomplish my goals.  It brings me so much joy.”
During the Pageant Week, contestants will explore Hattiesburg, attend social events, and participate in rehearsals and competitions, all leading up to the crowning of the 2016 Mississippi Miss Hospitality. Guests of this year’s pageant will experience a night filled with excitement throughout the production and discover why Miss Hospitality has been celebrated throughout the state since 1949.
Tickets to the 2016 Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant may be purchased by calling the Saenger Theater Box Office at 601.584.4888, or online at HattiesburgSaenger.com.
The Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant is a program of VISITHATTIESBURG™, is presented by VISITHATTIESBURG™ and the Mississippi Development Authority, in conjunction with Forrest General Hospital, The University of Southern Mississippi and the City of Hattiesburg. For more information about the Pageant, contact the State Pageant Office at 601.268.3220 or mshosp@hattiesburg.org.  Additional Pageant information can be found online at www.MissHospitality.com.