Monday, March 25, 2019
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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Mario Nickson retrial goes to jury Wednesday

Two local families sit in the Tunica County courthouse separated by an aisle and the death of a young man.

Both groups attempt to abide by the instructions given by Judge Charles Webster. No one speaks or visibly reacts as witnesses are escorted in one by one to give testimony. They have only listened, as assistant district attorney Bill Gresham presented the state’s case against Mario Nickson in the shooting of Anthony Vaughn, and Nickson’s attorney, Mike Carr, brought forward witnesses on Nickson’s behalf.

Vaughn passed away on Dec. 7, 2013 at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis after sustaining multiple gun shot wounds. He was transported to the Med from Nickson’s Disco nightclub in downtown Tunica. He died on his 24th birthday.

Nickson, now 45, was arrested along with two others in connection with Vaughn’s death. He was initially charged with first degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and two counts of being an accessory after the fact at the time of his arrest. He previously stood trial for Vaughn’s murder and after deliberations, the jury could not reach a verdict. The other two defendants were tried separately and found not guilty.

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Planning Commission says no to bar variance


Planning Commission members voted this week to adhere to county zoning laws, turning down a request for a variance that would have allowed a bar within 1,000 feet of a church.

Bar owner Jesse Wilson sought the zoning exception for a new business, J’s Bar and Lounge, that he wanted to open at 1870 Old Highway 61 North. Wilson said in this variance application that the business would operate Monday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m. and employ five to seven people. The site is 575 feet south of Antioch Church.

“We want the county to grow, (but) this does not seem to be the place for this business,” commissioner Jannie Bonds said.

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A number of people who live or work close to the proposed bar spoke out against it during a hearing Tuesday, March 27.

One woman said she operates a nonprofit for battered women that is next to the site. She said she didn’t “need that negativity” around what is intended to be a safe haven.

Carol “Doll” Gill said her home backs up to the property. She said she likes to sit outside on her back patio in the afternoon.

“I’m going to hear that noise,” she said, adding that the neighborhood had been in that location for many years.

Another neighborhood resident, Jack Graves, asked planning commissioners not to “go around the law.”

Tunica mayor Chuck Cariker agreed. The proposed bar is just outside the corporate limits of the town.

“The laws were put into place to protect the church,” Cariker said. Allowing variances has a domino effect that ultimately undermines the original laws, he added.

Commission chairman Willie Shields and planning director Charles Finkley favored a compromise that would have granted the variance for a three-month period, with a review to follow. The Planning Commission would also have stipulated the addition of sound proofing to the building and limited the hours of operation from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Wilson sought to alleviate concerns, saying at the hearing that he would have security inside and outside the establishment to keep patrons safe and to monitor parking areas.

But ultimately, those safeguards weren’t enough.

“It’s unfair to upset those who have lived there a long time,” Bonds said.

Commissioner Justin Cariker agreed, saying he didn’t want to “throw laws out the window.”

Two of the five commissioners were absent from this week’s meeting, Carolyn Canada and Latony Burks.

In other business, the Planning Commission approved a variance on rear yard setbacks for Pleasant Ridge M.B. Church and a conditional use permit for a towing and storage facility in the resort area.


County repays HWCC

County supervisors voted Monday, March 19, to pay a judgement in excess of $189,000 to HWCC-Tunica, stemming from Hollywood Casino’s objection to a 2014 tax increase.

The state’s highest court upheld a lower court ruling for the plaintiffs in December 2017, agreeing that Tunica County had not properly advertised hearings on a tax increase and a proposed Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget. Earlier this month, the court declined to rehear the case.

Tunica County had asked for a rehearing to clarify certain issues in the case, including the method for calculating what amount Hollywood Casino overpaid in 2014 property taxes.

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County, fire district craft agreement

The North Tunica Fire District will put four men back on full time starting April 1, after county supervisors assured supplemental funding to operate the department.

County administrator Adrian McKay told the Board on Monday, March 11, that the fire rating would increase to 10 without immediate assurances that four firefighters are on duty round the clock.

Board attorney John Perry outlined terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between Tunica County and the North Tunica County Fire District for about $35,000 per month for 12 months, to supplement what the district receives from a special tax within the district. Perry said the tax once produced about $1 million in revenue, but that the 5 mill tax was now producing only about $400,000, leaving a significant budget gap.

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