Headlines – 3/16/2004

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Panolian Headlines: March 16, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 3/16/04  issue of The Panolian

Hospital Hearing Draws Crowd
Supervisors, Aldermen Will Decide
     If Tri-Lakes Sale Bids Will Be Sought

Members of the auxiliary at Tri-Lakes Medical Center were among those attending the public hearing. From left, Ramona Mitchell, Carolyn Steinwinder, Dot Barnett, Dorothy Herring and Dot Watson.
By Kate B. Dickson

Whether to advertise Tri-Lakes Medical Center for sale or not – that will be the question going before city and county officials now that the public has had its say.

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The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen could vote today during its regular meeting today at 2 p.m. at City Hall. The next meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors is March 24 at noon at the courthouse in Batesville.

"Don’t sell the hospital" was the opinion most expressed Thursday night when a standing-room-only crowd of upwards of 175 people attended the hearing at the courthouse in Batesville.

Sale, assuming it’s to Baptist Memorial Hospital Health Care Corporation, would limit competition some said. Others believe Baptist will only use Tri-Lakes as a feeder hospital for its other facilities including those in Oxford and Southaven where expansions are under way.

Some proponents of not selling the hospital say now that the facility is making money the current operators should be given a chance … that the facility can always be sold at any time.

But others want the hospital sold to Baptist, and, still others, expressed no firm opinion saying only that officials should research the issue and make a sound business decision.

Selling to Baptist, some believe, is needed to "get the city and county out of the hospital business" and because BMH has deep pockets for facilities and physician specialists and services.

Baptist, and Dr. Bob Corkern, current interim administrator, were the only prospects talked about as possible buyers for the hospital.

But if the decision is made to seek bids, other hospital corporations will be invited to bid, officials said.

Corkern is owner of Emergent Health in Jackson, a physician staffing service.

Sources close to the issue, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have told The Panolian that so far only Baptist and Corkern have expressed interest.

If Baptist, or another not-for-profit group purchases Tri-Lakes, it will not pay ad valorem taxes. If Dr. Corkern, or another private company, buys the hospital it will pay taxes. Currently, taxes aren’t paid because the facility is owned by the city and county.

If both boards agree to seek bids, according to assistant City Attorney Colmom Mitchell, three things can happen:

? The highest and best bid can be accepted

? Bids can be rejected

? Or, if 1,500 registered voters in the hospital district file a petition an election will be held and the hospital will be sold only if the majority vote in favor of that.

Currently, the hospital is run by a five-member board of trustees whose members are appointed by the county (three) and the city (two).

New County Fueling Method
     Cheaper, Easier to Monitor
By Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

County employees will have a new fueling method by the beginning of April.

County Administrator David Chandler told the supervisors last week he planned to change from the FuelMan system to the Community Fuel Network in an effort to save the county money and unwarranted headaches.

"The price per-gallon is about four cents cheaper than it is with FuelMan," he said.

Chandler said there are several ways of tracking the new system which operates on a fuel card.

"If you don’t want anyone fueling up on the weekends, you can make that happen," he said. "This is a much easier system to police."

Supervisor president Jerry Perkins said he had been monitoring the FuelMan reports closely since the county discovered misuse of the system months back.

"Whenever we get those reports, I have been going over every little detail," he said.

Perkins said now that the county "tightened its grip" on the FuelMan usage, a significant drop in gallons used can be seen.

"We were starting to see some savings under FuelMan," Perkins said. "I think if we keep a strict policy and police the new system properly, we could see even more savings for the county’s taxpayers."

Perkins added that the investigation into the FuelMan scandal is still ongoing.

Earlier this year, two county employees were terminated after it was discovered they were getting cash instead of gas.


Who Is This Woman?
Batesville Police Want to Know
By Kate B. Dickson

Do you know this woman?

If so, the detectives at the Batesville Police Department (563-5653) want to hear from you.

BPD Lt. Paul Shivers thinks the woman is connected to the theft of Martha J. Hall’s purse from a shopping cart at Wal-Mart.

But one thing’s for sure, this woman’s photo now adorns a fake Mississippi driver’s license bearing Hall’s name, personal information and her Batesville address, Shivers said.

Additionally, checks from Hall’s purse have shown up – cashed – at gambling casinos in Tunica and St. Louis as well as other spots. One of the casino checks was for $2,000.

Local police obtained the fake ID when a store clerk in Memphis mailed it to Hall, after it was left behind by the woman in the photo.

"They wouldn’t cash a check for her and she got nervous and ran out of the store leaving the ID behind," Shivers told The Panolian. The store mailed it to the address on the license" – Hall’s address.

"We really want to find out who this woman is and put her in jail," Shivers said. "Maybe someone out there knows who she is."

Alcohol Overdose Official Death Cause of Man on Roadside
by Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

Overdose of alcohol – that is the official cause of death of Stephen Rudd, a former Sardis resident, who was found by sheriff’s deputies on Old Panola Road in February.

According to a report by state medical examiner Dr. Steven Haynes, Rudd’s death was caused by what is commonly known as alcohol poisoning.

Rudd’s body was found along the side of Old Panola Road during the morning hours of Feb. 23.

Investigator Barry Thompson of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department said the 26-year-old Rudd had been involved in a physical altercation prior to his death, but would not comment on whether or not the fight could have perpetuated the death.

"All we can say at this point is there was an altercation between Rudd and another man," he said. "The other man involved has been arrested and charged."

Timothy Evans, 25, of 399 Crawford St., Senatobia, has been charged with aggravated assault for the beating of Rudd.

Thompson said he believes a tire tool was used along with fists in Rudd’s beating.

Evans is being held at the Panola County Jail without bond pending a meeting of the grand jury.

If convicted, Evans could face up to 20 years for the aggravated assault charge.

Chief Deputy Craig Sheley reported earlier that the two men were friends.

"That is the only known relationship between the two men," he said at the time.

Land Usage Calls for
     Multiple Zones

A confused property owner has so many plans for his land that he will have to have it rezoned in portions according to the Panola County Land Development Commission.

Jordan Bankhead, owner of a section of land on Highway 6 East on the south side of the road near B&J Barbeque, told the commissioners recently that his plan will come together in phases, with the first phase being a mini-storage facility.

According to Bankhead’s proposal, he wants to construct warehouses, RV storage units, mini-storage, office space and develop some of the area for homes. There is even the possibility of what he called a "mini-industrial park.

Bankhead’s initial request was to rezone the property from agricultural to commercial with billboards staked in portions of the property, but due to zoning regulations, that couldn’t happen.

"If the frontage of this property is rezoned as commercial, he will have to remove the billboards form the plans," Commissioner Dan Stewart said. "Areas with billboards have to be zoned as industrial."