Making the News in 2013, Part 2

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Meridian, Miss. July began with the swearing in of Meridian's new mayor, Percy Bland.

Mayor Bland wasted no time getting the ball rolling. The next day, he announced several new appointments at his first city council meeting, including James Lee as his police chief and Curt Goldacker as his CAO. Goldacker worked as a temporary employee for several months before stepping down. Longtime Public Works Director Monty Jackson was replaced by Hugh Smith in early July.

July was also the first full month of operation for the new wing at Neshoba General Hospital. The new section is roughly 52,600 square feet. County officials say it could generate as much as $50 million each year.

July ended with a total of 26 armed robberies in the Queen City alone, putting residents even more on edge after months of robberies and shootings.

In early August, state leaders and dignitaries were in the Queen City to formally celebrate the return of the KC-135's and air refueling mission to Meridian's Key Field. Between 1992 and 2011, the 186th performed more than 21,000 air-to-air refueling missions.

The Mississippi Secretary of State's Office accused the Wesley House Community Center in Meridian of mishandling money. Documents from the Delbert Hosemann's office noted missing memos on checks to document transactions. Executive Director Ginger Grissom has declined Newscenter 11's requests for an interview about the investigation.

Some tense moments at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility in late August after several inmates attempted to take control of the jail. SWAT Team members quickly regained control. Sheriff Billy Sollie said jail overcrowding was to blame for the incident.

Philadelphia's police chief, Bill Cox, said farewell at the end of August to accept a job with the town of Olive Branch. He served as chief for about 10 months. Grant Myers will take over as chief on January 1st.

In September, plans were announced for two new hotels, two new restaurants, and an office space near Interstate 20-59 in Meridian. The project is estimated to cost around $17 million, which the city will help fund.

In early October, concerns were raised about Meridian's police chief and his treatment of officers. Some officers claimed Lee used profanity when speaking to them. The officers also said they feared for their jobs. Chief Lee denied the allegations and told Newscenter 11 his main task is protecting the city of Meridian.

Later in October, longtime Meridian police officer and spokesman Dean Harper was fired from the department. Harper and Chief James Lee have not spoken publicly about the termination. Harper was arrested a month later on the charge of impersonating a police officer.

At the end of October, longtime Meridian Parks and Recreation Director Mark Naylor was dismissed from the role he served in since 1992. Naylor told Newscenter 11 that Mayor Percy Bland decided to go in a different direction.

In early November, dignitaries and energy representatives from eight different countries visited the Kemper County coal plant. Dr. Ernest Moniz says the plant could set a precedent across the world. Environmentalists strongly oppose the plant.

In mid November, a petition was submitted to the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, opposing a $3.5 million bond for recreational facilities. The money was placed back into the county's $14 million bond, currently tied up in litigation.

In November and December, multiple area schools were victims of break-ins. Those included Clarkdale High School, Sumter Academy, West Lauderdale High School, West Lauderdale Elementary School, and Southeast Lauderdale High School.

Former Mississippi Governor Bill Allain died on December 2nd. The 85-year old served as governor from 1984 to 1988. The democrat is remembered for appointing significant numbers of women and minorities to government jobs.

People in our area and around the world are still reflecting on the life of Nelson Mandela. The former South African President died on December 5th at the age of 95 after suffering from a chronic lung infection.

Specialist Terry Gordon from Quitman was killed in Afghanistan on December 17th while conducting a mission on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when the aircraft underwent a hard landing.

The old Village Fair Mall in Meridian was purchased by a company out of Texas. There are now plans to turn that area into a mixed-use facility with retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and possibly medical facilities.