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Tornado debris yardage may surpass expectations

Since removal of debris caused by April 13’s tornadoes in Hamilton and the eastern part of Monroe County began earlier in June, 92,000 cubic yards of material has been removed, and the south part of the county hasn’t even been completed.

“We thought we’d have between 100,000 to 125,000 cubic feet, but that may be 125,000 to 150,000,” said county road manager Sonny Clay.

He said DRC Emergency Services crews will work through July 3 before taking time off for the Fourth of July and resume work July 8. Clay said last week the company was confident it will have made its first pass in the south part of the county by then.

After returning to work next week, removal crews will begin making their first pass in the north part of the county and will begin their second pass in the south. Ultimately, crews will make three passes.

He recommends for people who haven’t moved construction and demolition [C and D] items, vegetation and stumps to their rights of way to take advantage of the coming days to do so.

“In talking with one of the people monitoring debris, he said usually by the second pass, there’s only 10 percent more volume. We knew during the first pass, some of these roads they may have gone down 10 times, but looking at the area, there are homes with blue tarps on them but they’ve actually been totaled,” Clay said. “C and D is going to be twice as much as what I anticipated.

“There’s no guide book to tell you what to expect, but the county and board of supervisors is committed.”

Some residents have asked why one form of debris has been picked up from their property but not another, and District 3 Supervisor Chip Chism said it’s because different types of trucks are being used to pick up different types of debris in some cases.

Clay has been asked by some people if trucks could come up their driveways to pick up debris, but it has to be moved to the rights of way.

Since the county received a federal disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the debris removal cost, leaving the county to evenly split the remaining 25 percent with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“Two hundred thousand to $300,000 is what it will probably cost the county. That’s the reason you have a rainy day fund for an emergency like this,” Clay said.

He added a statute allows for the county to borrow money interest-free, if the board of supervisors chooses to do so instead of tapping into savings. During Monday’s board of supervisors meeting, however, he said he cannot find any lending institutions offering interest-free loans.

Chism asked if FEMA would pick up any low-interest rates from a loan, but Clay said no.

Clay asks for anyone who volunteered significant time following the tornadoes to report it to the county to be credited towards the 12.5 percent it will have to pay for debris removal.

“The county is going to be on the hook for a little more money towards our 12.5 percent. We don’t have enough recorded volunteer time to make much of a dent,” he said. “We’ve had instances when people helped right after the storm. Since Hamilton is such a close-knit community, we had people helping their neighbors out because it was the right thing to do.”

People can call the county road department at 369-2509 to report unregistered volunteer hours.

Due to volatile weather events plaguing Mississippi this year, a number of counties have received federal disaster declarations. With the aftermath of the 2011 Smithville tornado, Monroe County had both FEMA and MEMA representatives to go along with the process. With this event, personnel from both agencies is stretched so thin, so Monroe County will be assigned a representative from just one of them.

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Happy Independence Day

Fireworks light up the sky behind Amory High School through a program provided by the city’s parks and recreation program. Rains that came through Saturday evening forced the cancelation of live music, but the fireworks show began a little after 9 p.m.

Fireworks bust after 10 p.m. Saturday at Goat Rye Fields for the Friends of Nettleton Fourth of July celebration, which also featured a free showing of Disney’s 1992 “Aladdin.”

Retiring Amory assistant police chief reflects on years of law enforcement

AMORY – Retiring Amory Assistant Police Chief Steve Hunt wanted to be a police officer since he was a youth. After nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience, he is closing that chapter in his life.

His father was the late justice court judge Clyde Hunt, who brought him to work as the opportunity permitted. Steve interned with local law officers while he was a student at Itawamba Community College. He began his career in public service as a deputy for former Monroe County Sheriff Pat Patterson. He recalled Patterson’s admonition about packing heat on his hip.

“He always told me to be careful with those guns,” Steve said.

He was hired as an Amory police officer in 1982 by the late chief Carl West.

“It’s not all about writing tickets. The mission is helping people and preventing crime through investigation and detective work,” he said.

Steve became Amory’s first officer to handle a K9 in 1994.

“I got bitten in the first 10 minutes of training to be a handler. I was trying the dog out but just couldn’t get bonded with that one,” he said.

Steve was injured while on duty in 1987 by an assailant who stabbed him in the throat with an ice pick that narrowly missed cutting his jugular vein.

“I was in the hospital for four days. The infection from the rusty pick swelled to the size of a grapefruit,” he said.

He had another close call in 2008.

“I suffered a heart attack while attending a class on stress. I began to experience severe chest pains on the last day of a four-day school,” he said.

Fortunately, both incidents occurred within a close distance of the hospital where Steve received quick treatment to save his life.

He was once able to save someone stranded in a vehicle who drove into a ditch during a flash flood by pulling him to safety with a dog leash. Another rescue attempt didn’t go so well as he and a lieutenant failed to get a person out of a house fire before the structure exploded into flames.

He responded to an armed robbery at a grocery store where the robber got away but due to his work with the cashier, he was able to get a composite sketch together that helped get the criminal apprehended on a beach in Florida not long afterwards.

In another instance, Steve had just gotten back into his patrol car one wintry day on the Highway 6 bridge over the Tenn-Tom Waterway when he was hit by another vehicle whose driver lost consciousness due to a heart condition. Hunt quickly radioed for assistance to get traffic blocked to make way for an ambulance to get the driver to the hospital.

“We work with emergency medical services as well as the fire department on a daily basis,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have been there that day, we may well have had another fatality.”

Steve is grateful to all who impacted his life during his career. He cites Patterson and West as his heroes, as well as Amory native Tim Rutledge with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, who is now director of training at the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy in Meridian.

“Because of his work, hundreds of officers are better trained, better equipped and much more effective,” Rutledge said during Steve’s retirement ceremony June 28. “This impacts countless citizens who will never even know that because of his work. They were not killed by a drunk driver taken off the street a half mile away or their children were spared getting addicted to drugs because Steve or the officer he trained got the dope off of the street they would have used for the first time.”

Rutledge summarized Steve’s career, as well as all others serving in law enforcement, with a verse of scripture from Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people, and continue to help them.“

Steve is grateful for his wife, Diane, who has been part of his journey for 30 years.

“I tagged along with a lieutenant to a local doctor’s office for an appointment where I first saw her,” Hunt said. “I married her 16 months later.”

She is also a partner in law enforcement, having served as a reserve deputy for more than 20 years.

Steve’s honors through the years have included Amory City Employee of the Year in 1995, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Award in 1996, the Walmart Hero Award in 2003 and Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for Monroe County in 2016.

He is grateful for the relief retirement brings but plans to remain active as an instructor in firearms safety.

“It’s been a great journey,” he said.

Fireworks, southern charm highlighting Smithville, Aberdeen’s long holiday weekend

From fireworks to live music to children’s activities, events this week in Smithville and Aberdeen will offer fun for the extended Fourth of July weekend.

Smithville will kick off its celebration at 10 a.m. July 4 at Memorial Park with Sparks in the Park, which is sponsored by the Smithville Event Committee and Masonic Lodge 548. It will begin with a reading of the Preamble to the United States Constitution by Mitchell Alred.

The American flag will be the center of attention during the first hour of ceremonies, beginning with the raising of the flag by the local Boy Scouts troop. Veterans from Smithville will be recognized and honored, and a retirement ceremony for flags that have flown over Smithville’s streets will follow.

“Many people don’t know the proper procedure to retire a flag,” said Smithville Town Clerk Kim Johnson.

The Boy Scouts will preside, standing at attention while the flags are burned, and Karrigan Callihan will following by leading the singing of the National Anthem.

Musical acts scheduled for the day include Spiritual Harmony, Leah Rose and the Blue Light Travelers. Local comedy will add to the festivities with Brenda Collums doing her popular impersonation of Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl.

Food vendors will be on hand providing summer favorites for everyone’s taste buds.

There will also be watermelon eating and seed spitting contests. The eating contest is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and the seed spitting contest at 4 p.m. Entry fee for the watermelon contests is $5.

Since this year is a county election year, a number of political candidates are scheduled to speak from midday to 5 p.m.

The day will wind up with a fireworks show set to begin by 9 p.m.

The Taste of Aberdeen Family Reunion July 5 and 6 will keep the holiday going, beginning with a day’s worth of live music at the municipal parking lot behind the Elkin Theatre alongside College Street.

Organizer Charles Scott decided to expand his family’s annual reunion to a citywide celebration. He’s an Aberdeen native now living in Kentucky.

“When I was thinking about the Taste of Aberdeen, I broke it down to food, hospitality and southern charm. When you speak to people and look them in the eyes, it has that level of hospitality to an outsider,” he said.

Gospel music begins at 10 a.m., and R&B groups will perform beginning at 4 p.m. before it wraps up sometime close to 10 p.m. The concert is free to the public.

Live bands include RMG Band, The Crossroadband, LJ Echols & the Neckbone Band and others. Music will also be provided by DJ Love Bone, and there will also be a fashion show in between acts.

“The fashion show is going to highlight some of the outfits our local merchants sell. On Friday night, if you see something you like, you can buy it from the local merchants. We’ll highlight them during announcements,” Scott said.

With the concert, there will be six inflatables for children and food vendors. To inquire about being a vendor, call Heather Stewart Wall at 436-5295 to find out which specialties have been filled.

Additionally, there will be a spades tournament at 10 a.m. Friday at the Aberdeen Park and Recreation Department with a $25 entry fee.

“Every dollar is going back to youth sports through park and rec. and to the [Belle-Shivers Middle School] Junior Beta Club. The only thing coming out of the entry fee is for trophies and if we can get someone to donate them between now and then, that’s one less expense,” Scott said.

Additionally, there will be the Your Night-N-White Dance Saturday at 6 p.m. at Aberdeen High School. Attendees will wear all white, and admission is $10. Music will be provided by DJ Chill and hosted by Theresa Barr. Proceeds will again go back to the community and school.

Scott’s goal is to bring new life to the Aberdeen Sportsplex near Morgan’s Landing.

“By bringing Morgan’s Landing back to an operating facility, it will give our youth program the opportunity to participate in weekly leagues and compete at a level where they don’t have to leave town,” he said. “I want to provide a venue in Aberdeen that won’t just host events but give the community a chance to participate in recreational-type leagues.

“I’ve come back to work to try to present as many opportunities for our youth to participate in a highly competitive level. I know Morgan’s Landing will be able to provide several events, and we’re working directly with park and rec.”