Natchez Area News
     by Peter Rinaldi

March 2017

Natchez Area Local News
           by Peter Rinaldi  

    The 29th Annual Natchez Powwow will be held March 25-26 at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. Events include a stickball game, gourd dancing and intertribal dancing. Arts, crafts, and exhibits of Native American culture will be on display. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. For more info and a schedule of events, visit

    Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft and economic developers Heather Malone and Chandler Russ said a manufacturer may lease the Fruit of the Loom plant for $1.3 million a year, with an option to purchase the site for $12 million. The unnamed company would invest more than $40 million in the plant and employ as many as 300 workers. Vidalia, Concordia Economic Development and Natchez, Inc. are working to close the deal, which could be announced in April.

    Franklin County Supervisors debated whether stores should can sell cold beer or just room temperature brew. They voted 3-2 to allow the sale of cold beer. Bude and Meadville have passed ordinances that allow the consumption of beer and wine on premises when served with food. Sheriff James Newman said the county is already having problems with teens consuming beer, even though the legal sale of alcohol began just two months ago.
    Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten asked supervisors to consider funding a new jail, expected to cost $5-8 million. Patten would like the new jail to be built on the old IP property, which the county owns. Supervisors took the request under advisement, but Board President Mike Lazarus said he would try to get Patten his jail as soon as possible.

    In early February, a group of young men gathered at Five Star Convenience Store in Meadville. An argument ensued, guns were drawn and at least 20 shots were fired. There were no reported injuries, although several cars were damaged. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office arrested seven men on aggravated assault and other charges. Those arrested included Rhytedrick Coleburt, 20, of Natchez, Deangelo Stampley, 20, Joshua Hilliard, 23, Kentavious Bowie, 24, of Roxie Trianthony Hunt, 20, and Kiarra Sykes, 21, all of Roxie. A 16-year old juvenile from Natchez was also arrested. The men were released on bonds of $30,000 each.

    Riverland Medical Center's board of directors is expected to present its final plans for a new hospital to the Concordia Parish Police Jury as early as next month. The board wants to build the facility on land along Hwy. 84 across from Camelot Leisure Living. The $35 million project would be financed with the help of a USDA loan.

    Valerie Moore, 54, of Natchez, was charged with aggravated assault, after she allegedly stabbed her girlfriend in the leg twice at Moore's home during an argument. The victim was treated at a Jackson hospital and is expected to recover.

    Bill Calvin, 39, of Natchez, was arrested for kidnapping, after he allegedly forced a man into his car at gunpoint and drove around town, threatening to kill his victim. As the car went by McLaurin School, the victim saw a police officer and jumped out of the car, suffering minor injuries. The police officer intervened. Calvin was identified in a lineup and is now in the city jail on a $200,000 bond.

    Vidalia aldermen haven't approved Mayor Buz Craft's amended budget for the current fiscal year, because of spending items they don't like. Sabrina Dore, Tommy Probst and Tron McCoy formally voted against the changes. The mayor said the new $32.3 million budget projects a $300,000 surplus.

    FOR Natchez held a public meeting at the Natchez Convention Center to talk about plans to redevelop downtown Natchez from the bluff to St. Catherine Street. Volunteers have raised $100,000 to commission former city planner Phil Walker and his firm to draw up a comprehensive study of what can be done to improve the downtown area through private and public sector funding.

    The Mississippi Historical Society gave awards of merit to former Mayor Butch Brown, Jennifer Ogden Combs and Stratton Bull for their work on the Natchez Tricentennial.

    Vondell Hawkins, 29, of Ferriday, was charged stalking, damage to property, trespassing and disturbing the peace, after he went by his girlfriend's house to argue and then ripped out pipes from underneath her mobile home. Hawkins had been convicted of the shooting at Tootsie's Body Shop in 2016 and was free on a suspended sentence.

    Adams County Supervisors reported their healthcare costs for county employees are lower than expected. The county had budgeted about $2 million for their partially self-insured program. But it looks like costs this year might be as low as $1.8 million.

     Jonathan Williamson, 43, of Harrisonburg, carried his girlfriend, Shelly Mixon, 44, to the Northeast Ambulance station on Harrisonburg. Williamson reported that Mixon had been shot in the head accidentally. The woman was transported to Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria where she died. A subsequent investigation showed the Williamson had purposely shot her and he was arrested, charged with second degree murder. He remains in the Catahoula Parish Correctional Center on a $500,000 bond.

    The new 3,275 foot Ouachita River Bridge on La. Hwy. 8 in Harrisonburg should be open later this month. LaDOT originally thought the bridge would cost $31.8 million but the final tally will come to just over $33.7 million. The new bridge replaces the old drawbridge that was built in 1931-1933.

     Ronnie Reed Cupstid, 47, of Vidalia, was charged with attempted second degree murder, kidnapping, battery, criminal damage to property, aggravated assault and parole violation, after he allegedly used his truck to ram a woman's vehicle and assaulted her. He then kidnapped her and took her to Tensas Parish, where he raped her. Returning to Fred's Wrecker Service in Concordia Parish, Cupstid left his truck momentarily and the victim sped away to Lakeside Ford, where she had seen a deputy's vehicle. The deputy intervened and saved the woman. Cupstid remains in the Concordia Parish Jail.

    Several Southwest Mississippi towns will hold municipal elections this spring, including Fayette, Woodville, Centerville and Crosby. The primary will be held May 2, a runoff on May 16 and the general election will be June 6.

    Magnolia Bluffs Casino's business is improving. As part of its contract with the city, the casino paid an extra $400,000 in rental fees and gaming taxes to the aldermen recently, over and above its base rent of $1 million per year. The casino is contributing additional community development funds, participating in the building of the community pool and basketball courts. Aldermen reacted to the extra influx of cash by restoring $122,000 in cuts from the fire department.

    Wilkinson County Supervisors paid off their $1 million tax anticipation loan from property taxes collected. The county also paid the school district $144,800 for the schools' share of mineral stamps, homestead exemptions and national forest funds. County Comptroller Francis Daniel has recently visited all department heads reminding them to stay within budget.

     The new Natchez YMCA will start a youth career development center at Margaret Martin School. The program will help troubled kids ages 12-18.

    The Concordia Parish public schools have applied for $2.4 million in federal grants that would fund the hiring of 11 teachers to help mentor students.

    Natchez Children's Services will add two programs, Stewards of Children and SafeTouch, to its programs to help identify, report and reduce the incidence of child abuse.