Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment


Mississippi-based regional bank OK’d to buy Georgia bank

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) – Shareholders of Renasant Bank of Tupelo have approved the purchase of HeritageBank of the South, based in Albany, Georgia, in an all-stock deal.

Shareholder approval came Tuesday.

The merger will move Renasant into southern Georgia and northern Florida for the first time and slightly bolster the bank’s position in the Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, markets.

Renasant announced the merger agreement in December.

The merger is expected to be completed on July 1, and it would be Renasant’s largest acquisition in its 111-year history.

Heritage brings about $1.9 billion in assets, bringing Renasant’s total to $7.5 billion. It has offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

The merger also adds about 600 employees at 36 banking locations, 21 mortgage offices and five investment offices.


Council approves bond proposal for Crossroads expansion

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) – The city of Meridian will contribute $2.8 million toward expansion of the Crossroads Shopping Center project.

The city council agreed Tuesday to a tax increment financing bond issue. A TIF is designed to use future tax revenue to pay for improvements.

Local media reports are that the money is the next step to bring a variety of new stores to the local shopping center.

The projected increases in sales taxes will come over a 15-year period once the Crossroads expansion is finished and the new stores are operational. Construction on the expansion could start in September and be finished by fall 2016, said Jeff Miller, RCG Ventures’ vice president of acquisitions and development.

Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Mike McGrevey said there will be cost to taxpayers. “Sales tax growth will finance the initiative,” he said.

With the council’s approval, Miller said six more anchor tenants will be coming to the Meridian Crossroads by 2016. Miller said construction of the Crossroads addition will take between nine to 12 months to complete.


Monitor: State is backsliding, not improving, on foster care

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A court monitor finds Mississippi is backsliding in efforts to comply with orders to improve its child welfare system.

The latest shortfalls in the long-running Olivia Y case could fuel a push by those who sued over foster care conditions to have the state found in contempt. They want an outsider to take control of the child welfare system from the state Department of Human Services.

Grace Lopes, appointed to monitor progress by a federal judge, wrote in a report filed Monday that the Department of Human Services doesn’t appear to be able to meet many of the settlement agreement’s most basic requirements. She found that during a monitoring period that ended last year, the state fell further out of compliance.

The Department of Human Services declines to comment.


Some Mississippi waters temporarily closed to shrimping

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) – The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is temporarily closing some waters to shrimping until the shrimp are bigger.

DMR spokeswoman Melissa Scallan tells The Sun Herald waters north of Intracoastal Waterway in Mississippi territorial waters will close at 6 a.m. Thursday and will remain closed until the shrimp count has reached the legal requirement of 68 per pound.

All other Mississippi waters will remain open to shrimping.

All regulations set forth in state statute and titles of the DMR will be in full force and effect, and all boats engaged in catching or transporting shrimp in or from Mississippi waters must be legally licensed.

For the latest updates, call the toll-free Shrimp Information Hotline at 1-866-WE-TRAWL (938-7295).


Fire destroys Mount Holly Plantation near Greenville

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) – A fire has destroyed Mount Holly Plantation, a historical Antebellum home overlooking Lake Washington.

The fire was reported about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Mike Jones, who lives a mile up the road from Mount Holly, tells the Delta Democrat-Times only the walls were left standing.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The 30-room mansion was completed in 1856 for Margaret Johnson by her father. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 1973.

Mount Holly, built of slave-made brick with 14-foot ceilings and 2-foot thick walls, was once owned by the family of Shelby Foote, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian.

In 1944, the Cox family took over the plantation. Greenville Mayor John Cox says his family owned the plantation until 1974.


Mississippi goes through hurricane ‘contraflow’ drill

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) – Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King would just as soon see any emergency protocols dealing with violent weather sit gathering dust with nothing but sunny days and blue skies.

But with hurricane season officially underway, King, Mississippi Department of Transportation and Mississippi Highway Patrol personnel gathered Tuesday to oversee a drill that would speed traffic evacuating from the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

The Hattiesburg American reports about 200 people took part in a “contraflow” drill.

The drill, which alternates years between Interstate 59 and Interstate 55, mimics a scenario where the interstate would be closed to southbound traffic, opening all four lanes to bring traffic north during a coastal evacuation.

The only time that call has come was ahead of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


Gulfport-Biloxi airport to offer expedited screening process

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) – The Transportation Security Administration will begin an expedited screening process for select flyers at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

Officials said the new screening process will allow flyers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and keep compliant liquids and gels in their carry-on bag.

Airport Authority Executive Director Clay Williams tells The Sun Herald having expedited screening is a great convenience for passengers.

The South Mississippi airport will become one of only 150 airports in the country where passengers can experience the expedited screening.


Judge mulls whether teacher license hearing can continue

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A judge will decide next week whether Mississippi education officials can restart a license revocation hearing for a Clarksdale teacher who is accused of cheating on standardized tests.

Frances Smith-Kemp’s attorney says state law specifies a teacher would have to be convicted of a misdemeanor charge of misconduct before a license revocation hearing can be held.

But, attorneys for the state Department of Education disagree. They say a specific portion of state law allows a revocation hearing to move forward without a misdemeanor charge being prosecuted. They say revocation is a civil procedure, and a misconduct charge would be a criminal procedure.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas heard arguments Wednesday.

Smith-Kemp is accused of coaching her elementary school students during standardized tests, and of changing some of their answers.


New superintendent for Amory schools

AMORY, Miss. (AP) – The Amory School Board has hired a high school principal as the new superintendent.

The Monroe Journal reports that Ken Byars will replace superintendent Tony Cook, who is returning to his hometown of Houston to serve as superintendent of that district. Byars will begin work July 1.

Byars came to the district in January 2013 as principal of Amory Middle School, then went on to serve as principal of the high school for the 2014-15 school year.