Wednesday, March 19, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi Daybook: Formal announcement of The Mill at Mississippi State University
March 20. THE MILL -- Formal announcement of The Mill at Mississippi State University, a $40 million project to transform former cotton mill into a conference center, other office space and hotel. 3:30 p.m. Location: E.E. Cooley Building (Former home to MSU's Facilities Management operations) at 600 Russell Street in Starkville.
 
New restaurants, hotel will complement Mill project
A $20 million development along Miss. Highway 12's frontage area will soon hold a seven-space retail center and a full-service, 117-bed Holiday Inn, Cotton Mill Marketplace Developer Mark Nicholas confirmed Tuesday to aldermen. The project will transform the area next to the Mill at Mississippi State University development, which itself aims to transform the historic E.E. Cooley Building into a conference center and construct a hotel, and complement the project, Nicholas said. It, along with The Mill at MSU project, will completely redevelop the Russell Street-Miss. Highway 12 corridor. Nicholas confirmed three chain restaurants, including Hungry Howie's Pizza, Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches and Salsarita's Fresh Cantina, have committed to the project.
 
Spring Season Begins Saturday at MSU Riley Center
Thursday marks the first day of the meteorological spring, but Saturday marks the day of the MSU Riley Center's spring season. Soon the auditorium will be packed with people to see Rosanne Cash. The first show of the spring summer/summer season is slated for 7:30 Saturday night, and is expected to be a near capacity crowd. Dennis Sankovich, the Riley Center executive director, says "I'm excited. Our first concert, Rosanne Cash is here and Rosanne is someone that I've wanted to bring to the Riley Center for two years. So I'm really excited to have her coming. 'The River and the Thread' is her new album. It's great music. It's all based on this trail she has followed on her father's life and it's just really kind of neat."
 
Board of Trustees to Meet This Week
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning will hold its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. Members of the Board may participate in the meeting via teleconference. Members of the public and media may attend the meeting in the IHL Board Room, which is located in the Universities Center at 3825 Ridgewood Road in Jackson. The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi.
 
Hainsey: BRAC fight began when last round ended
It's been nearly a decade since the latest round of military base realignment and closures (BRAC) resulted in the decommission of nine military bases in the U.S. Now, the Department of Defense is pushing for more base closures beginning in 2017. Golden Triangle Regional Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey said more community partnership with Columbus Air Force Base would show its vitality to the area and prevent the base from being included in a future round of shutdowns. Hainsey, for example, had training pilots use one of GTRA's runways while CAFB was having major runway repairs were completed at CAFB. And the community-wide effort to keep potential BRAC measures from affecting the Golden Triangle began long ago, Hainsey said.
 
KiOR has 'substantial doubts' about future
KiOR may be done in Columbus. The Texas-based alternative fuel company shut down operations at its local biomass conversion facility in December. In January, Fred Cannon, the company's president and CEO, said the plan was to spend the first three months of 2014 implementing improvements at the $225 million plant, which sits on 30 acres on The Island. On Monday, however, the company filed its end-of-the-year financials with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 257-page report paints a bleak picture of the company's future. "We have substantial doubts about our ability to continue," the company states in the filing.
 
Wish list for borrowed money adding up
The state House has so far this session, through various bills, passed a more than $430 million wish list of projects for which the state would borrow money. But Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith on Tuesday said there's a "gentleman's agreement" with the Senate again this year to borrow only about $200 million -- roughly $30 million to $50 million less than the amount of debt the state will pay off. A final list of projects will have to be worked out between the House and Senate. The House on Tuesday passed the Senate's initial $95.9 million bond bill, but only after adding projects and bringing the total up to more than $150 million. The Senate on Tuesday replaced language in a House bill to borrow $31 million for a University of Mississippi Medical Center medical school expansion with the Senate bond bill language.
 
Criminal justice bill heading to governor takes detour
Legislation that was poised to go to the governor making major changes to the state's criminal justice system was unexpectedly sent back to conference Wednesday morning for additional negotiations. Rep. And Gipson, R-Braxton, said the bill, which was the result of a year's worth of work of a special task force looking for ways to curb rapidly expanding prison costs, was sent back to a conference committee to add "one technical amendment" that he said would make the proposal better. The proposal passed both chambers of the Legislature Monday with limited opposition and appeared headed to the governor. But it was held on a motion to reconsider, and Wednesday Gipson moved to reconsider the bill to send it back for additional negotiations. The Senate is expected to follow suit later today.
 
Wright confirmed as state ed chief on 46-6 vote
The state Senate on Tuesday confirmed Carey Wright as state superintendent of education after brief debate. Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, described Wright as "no nonsense," experienced in top-performing schools and "a fresh pair of eyes for the Mississippi public school system." The vote was 46-6, with those opposed questioning her support of Common Core standards and state preschool. Most of those voting against are members of the Senate Conservative Coalition, which opposes Common Core, which Wright has publicly endorsed.
 
Pay raise for state workers narrowly fails
An across-the-board state employee pay raise failed Tuesday in the Mississippi Senate. Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Armory, attempted to amend an appropriation bill for the Mississippi Department of Human Services to include a $1,000-per-year raise for state employees. The vote was 27-24 against Bryan's amendment. "This is to let them know we value them and are thinking about them," Bryan said of his proposal prior to the vote. Bryan said the proposed raise was feasible and doable. He said the impact to the general fund would have been about $17 million. But Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, asked fellow senators to vote against the raise.
 
House OKs $20 million for Cooper Tire
The state House voted Tuesday to issue $20 million in bonds to help secure a $140 million investment by Cooper Tire for renovations and upgrades at its Tupelo manufacturing plant. Lee County and Tupelo officials have been working on getting state assistance for the project at the plant, which employs 1,600. The Findlay, Ohio-based company has stated its intentions to spend $140 million to make upgrades at one or more of its plants, which are located in multiple sites in the United States and worldwide. The belief is if the state will make a financial commitment to the project, Cooper will expend the funds in Tupelo and ensure that the plant remains open, and possibly expanding, for at least the next 10 years. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who offered the amendment, said the funds would ensure that "Cooper is competitive in a global market and continues to employ people in Lee County."
 
Ingalls plans change in leadership; incoming president welcomes Cochran for visit
As Ingalls Shipbuilding prepares for a new president to take the helm, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi visited the Pascagoula facility Monday to take a tour. Cochran was welcomed by Brian Cuccias, Ingalls' vice president, programs management, who will assume duties as president of Ingalls Shipbuilding on April 1. "Ingalls Shipbuilding employs thousands of Mississippians building ships that are essential to our national defense," Cochran said. "The Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard are all stronger because of the high-quality, modern vessels constructed here by Mississippians."
 
The Barbour Gang rides to Thad Cochran's rescue
When Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran filed papers to run for another term, the snowy-haired Republican listed the address of his campaign as a P.O. box in Tupelo, a town best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and a hub of the state's conservative, northeast corner. But the focal point of Cochran's reelection effort might be more accurately placed in an office tower nearly 200 miles away, at a building in downtown Jackson -- 210 E. Capitol St. is the address --- where a pair of brothers, in suites separated by just one floor, work overtime to defend Mississippi's elder statesman. They are Henry and Austin Barbour, the nephews of Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor who is himself an integral part of the sophisticated political operation seeking to quash Cochran's primary opponent from the GOP's right flank.
 
McDaniel favors term limits, flat tax, elimination of federal departments
Chris McDaniel told the crowd at his Ocean Springs town hall meeting the first thing he'll do if he gets to the U.S. Senate is try to vote himself out of a job -- after two six-year terms. "I'm very much in favor of term limits," the state senator said in response to a question from someone in the audience at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center. The questions, written on index cards, were read by Melanie Sojourner, also a state senator and McDaniel's campaign manager. McDaniel is running against longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in the GOP primary.
 
Budding Liberal Protest Movements Begin to Take Root in South
The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, took firm root in Georgia on Tuesday, where the arrests at the Capitol were the group's boldest action since it started protesting here in January. There were similar protests in South Carolina, where a smaller but persistent campaign of civil disobedience played out for the third week in a row. The movements are rare stirrings of impassioned, liberal political action in a region where conservative control of government is as solid as cold grits and Democrats are struggling for survival more than influence. The question raised by all three groups, which have echoes in at least four other states, is whether they can become more than an outlet for protests by liberal activists who feel shut out of state politics.
 
Meredith statue desecration investigation ongoing
Just over a month has passed since the Feb. 16 desecration of the James Meredith statue, and university officials say both the FBI investigation and the judicial process to determine university punishment for the three involved students are continuing. "The judicial council has made no decisions on possible suspensions or expulsions (for the involved students)," University of Mississippi Communications Director Danny Blanton said. "Obviously, we are approaching the situation with extreme care in order to be fair to all parties involved. "
 
USM Gulf Coast library commemorates Women's History Month with exhibit
The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast library is commemorating Women's History Month in March with an exhibit honoring Mississippi women of achievement. The exhibit occupies space on the first and second floors of the library, which is on the USM Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. The women featured in the exhibit have diverse backgrounds and accomplishments. They include Robin and Sally-Ann Roberts, Osceola McCarty, Ruby Bridges, Fanny Cooke, Natasha Trethewey and Frances Lucas, vice president and campus executive officer at Southern Miss Gulf Coast.
 
Immigrants Need Affordable College, Advocates Say
Immigrant-rights advocates have been working to change the law to make college more affordable for Mississippi's growing immigrant population. One proposal, House Bill 209---which Rep. Reecy Dixon, D-Macon, sponsored---failed to make it out of the House Education Committee this session. Rep. Greg Holloway, D-Halzelhurst, who sits on the committee, held a hearing at the capitol Monday afternoon to discuss the issue. Holloway told the Jackson Free Press that questions about how much changing the rules would cost taxpayers needed to be addressed.
 
U. of Alabama students to assist tornado recovery
A group of University of Alabama students and leaders from the Capstone's Community Service Center will spend spring break helping build new homes in Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City struck by a devastating EF5 tornado in 2013. About 16 students will make the trip for the 2014 Alternative Spring Break from Sunday to March 28. The trip is the outgrowth of the original response on campus by the Community Service Center and the UA Student Government Association to the May 2013 tornado, said Kimberly Montgomery, assistant director of the center.
 
Machen wants 'visionary' to lead law school, Florida faculty told
In a meeting off limits to the media and the public, University of Florida President Bernie Machen met with about 65 Levin College of Law faculty and staff Tuesday morning to explain his decision to end the search for a new dean and nominate George Dawson as interim dean. The closed-door meeting caps a months-long process that had been criticized for a lack of openness, delays in obtaining records related to the search, and a sense among some faculty members that they were being excluded from the process. After quizzing Machen for an hour before he had to leave for the airport, some faculty members left the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom shaking their heads, rolling their eyes and sighing -- but unwilling to talk to the media about what transpired behind the double set of wooden doors guarded by security.
 
Affordable Care Act sees low interest at U. of Florida
Many of the Affordable Care Act enrollment events at the University of Florida have gathered just a scattering of students, and Tuesday's -- the last push before the enrollment deadline at the end of the month -- was no exception. Scant student interest is not necessarily a bad sign, however. It likely signals the fact that at least part of the "young invincibles" who the government is keen to enroll are staying on their parents' insurance plans. The law mandates they can do so until they are 26 years old. "Here at UF, we are blessed with a population of more well-off kids who can get health insurance through their parents," said Jeff Feller, the CEO of WellFlorida, one of several organizations around the state charged with overseeing navigators, who help people enroll in federal health insurance. "Still some students will fall through the cracks," Feller added.
 
Regents approve tobacco ban on Georgia campuses
Tobacco use will be banned on Georgia public college campuses starting Oct. 1. In a preliminary vote, the state Board of Regents voted unanimously for the ban with little discussion during a Tuesday meeting in Atlanta. The final vote is approve the ban is expected today. The ban will apply not only to faculty, staff and students, but visitors, contractors and subcontractors, said University System of Georgia vice chancellor for human resources Marion Fedrick, who explained the reasons for the policy before the Regents voted.
 
Louisiana legislators eye safety rules for campus gun sales
The Louisiana House on Tuesday afternoon approved legislation that would impose certain safety restrictions on nonprofits that auction or sell guns on college and university campuses. House Bill 244 sponsored by state Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, would require certain restrictions when outside groups lease property on college campuses to host fundraisers and auctions where guns are present. The measure came under attack from state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, who said it sends the wrong message. Norton argued that the bill implies it's acceptable to have guns on college campuses.
 
Texas A&M staff council updated on status of outsourced dining, maintenance efforts
The Texas A&M University staff council received one of its first updates on the massive outsourcing effort that privatized more than 1,500 jobs. Ralph Davila, executive director for contract administration of outsourcing, updated the group Tuesday morning and took questions. It was the second public update to the group since the outsourcing decision was made at the behest of A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, who, in November, gave the first and only other update to the group. In 2012, dining, landscape management, custodial services and building maintenance services were turned over to North Carolina-based Compass Group USA.
 
Texas A&M ready to break ground on $54M rec center renovations
Texas A&M plans to break ground on a massive renovation and expansion to the Student Recreation Center next week. Texas A&M Rec Sports administrators and an architect with Marmon Mok held a press conference Tuesday in an activity room to update the public on the status of the $54 million project. Construction begins on Monday and organizers hope to have it completed by December 2015. It will be the first major facelift for the building since it was built in 1995. The remodel includes 56,000 square feet of renovated space and 113,000 square feet of new construction.
 
Sophisticated Mobile Apps Are Reshaping Campus Safety
Underage drinking. Cars parked illegally. Threatening social situations. The nature of the real-time alerts that started rolling in to Virginia Commonwealth University's police dispatch center this past fall -- sometimes as many as five a day -- surprised campus-safety officials. Before, says John A. Venuti, police chief at the university since 2010, "I would never get those kinds of tips." Even for smartphone-loving millennials, a suspicious-looking person doesn't usually prompt a telephone call, according to Mr. Venuti. But not only are he and his colleagues now fielding such tips, they are also receiving details that can prove critical to a response, including exact GPS locations, physical descriptions, and photographs of license plates. The conduit is LiveSafe, a mobile application that was adopted by the university in August and has been downloaded 4,200 times.
 
BRIAN PERRY (OPINION): Nunnelee cruising to re-election
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) is the only federal incumbent this year in Mississippi to not face a primary challenge, but come November he will share the ballot with Libertarian Danny Bedwell, Lajena Walley of the Reform Party, and the winner of the Democratic Primary between Ron Dickey and Rex Weathers. In other words, Nunnelee will win election to a third term with little effort."
 
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Teacher pay raise politics gets complicated for House
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "House Speaker Philip Gunn's decision unexpectedly to jump out front in support of a teacher pay raise this past December was arguably both good policy and good politics. It appeared to be a proposal that was nothing but a win-win for Gunn and the House leadership. After all, Mississippi is beginning, again, to fall further behind the nation, and more importantly neighboring states, in teacher pay at a time when the state's political leadership is saying it wants to attract the best and brightest to the classroom. From a policy standpoint, it made sense to increase teacher pay not only to keep teachers from leaving the field, but also to lure the universities' best students to the profession. ...But at some point along the way, in closed-door meetings, as Gunn and his leadership team developed the proposal, they maybe got a little too cute for their own good."


SPORTS
 
WNIT chance for Mississippi State women to shine
This is the first step. As much as Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer would like to point to a victory against No. 11 Georgia last season or a win against Vanderbilt at home this season, the announcement late Monday night that MSU (19-13) had received a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament was the first tangible sign of progress for Schaefer in his second season as the head coach of the program. The bid, one of 32 at-large berths to the 64 team-field, validated the maturation of a program. On paper, MSU has plenty of motivation to make a deep run in the WNIT. It will start at 7 p.m. Thursday against Tulane (20-10) at Humphrey Coliseum.
 
Mullen, Mississippi State enjoy quarterback depth
One of the first snaps of spring practice sailed through Dak Prescott's hands. Mississippi State's quarterback turned picked up the ball and went to the locker room. Minutes later, he returned and looked at freshman quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. "I gotcha, Nick," Prescott said. The spring season didn't start flawlessly, but the fact Prescott was on the field along with two other scholarship quarterbacks was a success for Dan Mullen. "Who did we have last year? Tyler (Russell) and," Mississippi State's coach said before a brief pause. "Me, some walk-ons. It's good to have a couple guys out there."
 
Bulldogs return 17 starters as practice begins
Coming off its school-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance, Mississippi State returned to the practice fields on Tuesday for the first of 15 spring practice sessions. The Bulldogs have 17 starters and 57 letter winners returning from last year's squad that went 7-6 capped off by a 44-7 victory over Rice in the Liberty Bowl. Tuesday's practice saw MSU work in only shells and shorts and culminated with a light scrimmage. "I like the energy and excitement that our guys have," said MSU coach Dan Mullen.
 
New Mississippi State assistant Johnson pushes Prescott, QBs
Brian Johnson began molding his quarterbacks into point guards on Tuesday. The first drills Mississippi State's new quarterback coach ran with Dak Prescott and Co. resembled those on the basketball court. The Bulldogs' quarterbacks rotated a football around their waist, each leg and then in a figure eight. "He understands how to utilize your talents in order to become successful," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "He was always, fundamentally, a really sound guy." Johnson enters his first season with Mississippi State coming to Starkville from Utah.
 
Mullen likes depth at QB as spring practice begins
It took Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen a few minutes to remember the frustrations of a lack of depth at quarterback last spring. "Who did we even have out there last year besides Tyler Russell?" Mullen asked Tuesday after MSU's first spring practice of the 2014 season. A year ago, Mullen and the Bulldogs only had Russell, a senior, and a pair of walk-ons to run the offense. Graduate assistant coaches were forced to throw passes to wide receivers in drills to limit Russell's throws in the 15 workouts. "It's good to have a couple guys out there," Mullen said.
 
Federal judge orders U. of Alabama to pay artist Daniel Moore's court costs
A federal court judge has decided the University of Alabama should pay almost $17,000 in court costs to sports artist Daniel Moore, who prevailed in an eight-year legal battle with UA over the painter's artwork depicting iconic Crimson Tide football moments. In an order signed Monday, District Court Judge Abdul K. Kallon set Moore's court costs at $16,962.76. Moore originally requested $22,254.06, and the university argued it should not pay more than $15,197.46. Moore is also seeking attorney fees from UA, which opposes the request.
 
Bruce Pearl electrifies crowd upon arrival at Auburn airport
Bruce Pearl emerged from the Auburn University private jet and pumped his left fist. Then, almost spontaneously, the newest Tigers head men's basketball coach advanced toward the large group of fans on the Auburn University Regional Airport tarmac. Without breaking stride, Pearl walked straight into the horde and incited an impromptu mosh pit. After several exciting seconds, Pearl backed away from the charged-up crowd and promised a return to prominence long sought on the Plains. "I don't know how long it's going to take but I want this same reception when we come back with an SEC Championship," Pearl said Tuesday afternoon.



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