Headlines – 2/27/2004

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2004

Panolian Headlines: February 27, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 2/27/04  issue of The Panolian

Tri-Lakes Admits First ICU Patients
     Total Hospital Census
     Fills All Available Beds

Dr. Bob Corkern charts patient information in the hospital’s ICU unit while RN Pam Durham and interim director of nursing Elaine Ellett (r) review medical records.
By Kate B. Dickson

For the first time since the "new" hospital – Tri-Lakes Medical Center – admitted its first patient, the intensive care unit is open.

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"We’ve had five patients in the first two days," said interim administrator Dr. Bob Corkern, who is also one of two hospitalists (internists) on staff. The unit’s capacity is six patients.

Additionally, "the hospital is full," Corkern said Wednesday morning making reference to an increasing census which saw 62 patients hospitalized as of Sunday.

Corkern replaced the former administrator in July.

He attributes the unit’s opening and increasing patient numbers to "better service …that is what I think is really doing it. We’ve been wanting {to open the ICU} for a long time."

Ray Shoemaker, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said work has been under way for about 90 days to get the first-floor unit ready.

Stabbing Case Jury Has
     Speedy Verdict
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

It didn’t take a Panola County jury in Sardis long to disregard a self-defense claim and find a man guilty of stabbing a local drug informant four times.

Barry Joe Roberts, 47, was found guilty after only 20 minutes of deliberation following a three-day trial this week and he could face up to 20 years in prison for the aggravated assault. A date for sentencing has not been set.
Roberts is being held at the Panola County Detention Center without bond.

The drug informant’s name is being withheld at the request of Panola County Sheriff’s Investigator Mark Whitten. The informant is hereafter referred to as John Doe.

According to testimony in Panola County Circuit Court, Doe had been in Memphis at Showgirls during the early evening hours of March 1 prior to arriving at Rolling Hills at 24012 Highway 315, Sardis.

It was at the nightspot, according to testimony, during the early hours of March 2, 2003, where Doe got into a physical altercation with Roberts during which Roberts stabbed the informant.

Doe did take the stand, but The Panolian was not present for his testimony. Doe has recovered from the injuries he sustained.

Roberts’ attorney, David Walker, said John Doe, had "set up" Roberts’ son, Chase Roberts, on drug charges causing the younger Roberts to spend time in prison.

On the witness stand, Sarah Jane Mathews, who worked the door at Rolling Hills the night of the incident, testified the band was playing the last song of the night when a fight broke out.

"I saw Barry Joe [Roberts] leaving in a hurry and he was putting a shiny object into his pants pocket," she said. "Mr. [Doe] was standing there bleeding very bad."

Another witness, Brad Tedford, told the court the fight in the bar broke out between Doe and Chase Roberts and said that Barry Joe Roberts got involved.

"I saw Chase get knocked across the bar," Tedford said. "Then I saw [Doe] get stabbed.

"Born to Read …"
Funds Benefit Children
Panola County newborns and their families will benefit from grant funds received by the The First Regional Library system from the Library Services and Technology Act administered through the Mississippi Library Commission.

The grant will fund the "Born to Read with Reggie" program. The money is being used to purchase books, materials, and tote bags to be distributed to newborns and their families.

The goal of the project is to ensure that all newborn babies and their mothers in the five-county area receive an introduction to the library and the value of reading.

Current research has shown the value of reading to children during the early years. Mother Goose Rhymes, well-loved songs, and bedtime stories are not just wonderful traditions, they are essential for a child’s brain development! Library branch staff members want parents to see the library as a place to introduce even their very young ones to a love of reading and lifelong learning.

My FIRST Book Bag has been designed with First Regional Library’s mascot "Reggie the Reading Raccoon" and contains a T-shirt, board books, library information, and literature on the importance of reading to babies. The bag will be given to parents of any baby born in Panola County this year. In 2001, 614 babies were born to residents of the county.


Panola Officials May Get 20% Raise
By Kate B. Dickson

If legislation passes the Mississippi House of Representatives, Panola County’s elected officials could receive as much as a 20-percent pay raise.

Panola County Supervisors presently make $33,583 per year. With a pay increase of 20 percent (the Chancery Clerk could receive a 22 percent raise), supervisors would make $40,299.60.

The exact annual salary for the Chancery Clerk is not available because it fluctuates due to the numerous fees collected in the office. However, the 2003 cap for Chancery and Circuit Clerks is $83,160.

"The Chancery Clerk’s salary has some fee-based money in it, so there is no set salary," Supervisor President Jerry Perkins said.

Senator Nolan Mettetal told The Panolian Thursday the raise is meant as a cost-of-living increase for county employees.

"They haven’t had a pay increase in the last eight years and it will be another four before the senate discusses it again," he said. "So this is meant to cover a 12-year period."

If an increase of 20 percent is averaged over the 12 years in question, the annual increase will equal less than two percent.

"Basically, the 20 percent is a cap for the raise," Mettetal said. "They do not have to take the full increase.

Local Company Hard Hit
by Rapid Steel Price Hikes


ACI employee Jarvis Veal cuts steel that ACI will ship to a customer.
By Kate B. Dickson

With steel prices escalating 35 percent the past couple of months and no end in sight to the rise, it’s a national problem that’s impacting here at home, according to a Batesville manufacturer.

ACI Building Systems, which employs about 185 workers at its facility on Highway 6 West, is "in a lot of pain," due to the cost hikes, said co-owner Ron Knapp.

Additionally, according to a USA Today article this month, prices are up 66 percent since hitting a recent low in June.

The company manufactures metal buildings that are typically sold to contractors, said Knapp. The buildings, which can range up to 100,000 square feet or more, usually are designed for commercial applications.

Shelters to Provide
     Safe Weather Haven
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

Three area churches are working together to provide much-needed storm shelters in Panola County.

Batesville Presbyterian Church, Blackjack Presbyterian Church and Independence Presbyterian Church, collectively known as the Panola Presbyterian Partnership, have plans to install a total of five storm shelters throughout Panola County.

"The Partnership was organized because we wanted to get involved and make a difference in the community," Partnership representative Willard Williams said. "This was the best way we could think of to make a difference."

The Partnership worked with Civil Defense Coordinator Son Hudson to apply for a matching grant that would fund the five shelters.

"The way it has worked is like this," Williams said. "We build one at close to $7,000 total, then wait on the grant money and build another."

The first shelter installed in August 2003, was put in the Pope area and plans are for the second to go in somewhere in Pleasant Grove.