Headlines – 3/5/2005

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2005

Panolian Headlines: March 5, 2005

  From the 3/5/05 issue of The Panolian :             


Staffing service names Tri-Lakes in lawsuit
By Billy Davis

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A Greenville-based nurse staffing business is suing Tri-Lakes Medical Center for $718,124, alleging it’s owed the monies for non-payment of staffing services.

Prime Care Nursing, Inc., which no longer does business with Tri-Lakes, filed the lawsuit February 3 in Panola County Circuit Court.

Prime Care president Ann Barnes told The Panolian the nursing company enjoyed its relationship with Tri-Lakes and waited patiently for months to receive payment for its services.

"We don’t want to put a negative impression on Tri-Lakes because our nurses enjoyed working there, but we’re a small business," Barnes said. "We pay our nurses weekly whether we get paid or not, and we couldn’t carry that kind of debt any longer."

Barnes said Tri-Lakes went "weeks and months" without payment for Prime Care’s nursing services.

The suit names as defendants hospital administrator Dr. Bob Corkern and Ray Shoemaker, the chief operating officer. The hospital’s Board of Trustees is also named in the suit.

Prime Care is represented by attorney Lawrence Little of Oxford.

County Administrator David Chandler, who is also the chairman of the hospital board, said the trustees would likely hire an outside attorney to represent the hospital in the suit.

Tri-Lakes hired Prime Care in August 2003, paying $193,142 since that time, court documents filed by the nursing company allege. That leaves the $718,000-plus amount as the outstanding balance, the documents state.

According to Chandler, he became aware of the lawsuit Friday, February 25 even though Corkern had been served notice of the lawsuit 18 days earlier, February 7.

Corkern and former hospital trustee Larry Pratt – and not Chandler – were served notice of the lawsuit, according to court documents.

"I came in after lunch on Friday, and the notice was there in my office," Chandler said. It had been hand delivered by Pratt, he said.

Since Corkern was served notice of the lawsuit nearly a month ago but failed to alert the current trustees, the board now faces a five-day deadline for filing a response, Chandler said.

That response to the lawsuit is due Monday, March 7.

"We’re going to try to get an extension on the deadline," Chandler said.

Reached by The Panolian at Tri-Lakes, Corkern acknowledged that he had not mentioned the lawsuit to Chandler or any of the current trustees since learning of the suit February 7.

Corkern also said he has yet to file any papers responding to the lawsuit but expected Chandler and the trustees to take up the matter at the board’s Monday noon meeting.

Regarding the pending sale of Tri-Lakes, Chandler said the lawsuit will not affect the intentions of the bidders.

"The bidders won’t be responsible for this. The owner will, and that’s the taxpayers," Chandler said.

Asked about Prime Care’s charges, Corkern downplayed the lawsuit as an attempt by a "small provider" to get paid before the hospital is sold.

"They don’t want to be left out in the face of the (hospital) sale," Corkern told The Panolian.

"If Dr. Corkern says we want our money before the hospital is sold, he’s exactly right about that," said Barnes, responding to Corkern’s words. "But is $750,000 a ‘small provider’ to (Dr. Corkern)? To us, that’s not small."

Corkern also said that Tri-Lakes is making weekly payments to Prime Care per a verbal agreement to do so.

"We’re paying every week, and we’ve done what we said we would do," Corkern said. "We’re about six months from paying off what we owe them."

According to Barnes, however, Tri-Lakes’ payments to Prime Care have been hit and miss and have picked up only after the lawsuit was filed.

Speaking on behalf of Prime Care owner Emry Oxford, Barnes said that while Corkern may be "under the impression" that the payments are being made, Prime Care is not receiving the monies it’s owed.

Barnes said the Tri-Lakes administration has been promising payments since last fall, when voters were about to cast ballots in November on the sale of the public-owned hospital.

During the weeks leading up to the vote, Barnes said, Shoemaker promised to make payments but told her the hospital staff was focusing on the upcoming referendum.

"He asked us to be patient," she said.

Barnes also said Oxford, the Prime Care owner, met with Corkern in December of last year, asking for payment and promising a lawsuit if the business did not get its monies.

Layout of SpringFest rearranged;
Downtown Park causes changes
By Jason C. Mattox

This year’s SpringFest will have a different look thanks, in part, to the new downtown park.

Batesville Main Street Manager Colleen Clark told the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the current plan is to put the carnival on the side of the square nearest to the Panola County Courthouse.

"With the construction of the downtown park, we think it will be necessary to put the carnival on the other side of the square," she said. "They need more space than what would be available to them at their former location."

That move would mean the staging and civic club booths would be moved to the festival’s former location.

In addition to the change in the festival’s layout, Clark said she wanted the city to close off the usual streets around the Square and the street running in front of the Panola Partnership.

"We would like to see the road closed Friday after school gets out," she said. "We don’t want to hinder the school traffic."

Clark said the road would be closed Friday and Saturday while the other roads in question will close Thursday afternoon.

City leaders questioned how that would effect the police and fire departments in the event of an emergency.

"I have spoken with the police and fire departments," she said. "They told me that a contingency plan could be in place prior to the festival."

Alderman James Yelton asked what the plan was if Dickens’ Funeral Home had a service during SpringFest.

Clark said the parking area in front of the building would be left open and there would be other ways to access the property if it was needed.

"In the past, they have worked with us by postponing arrangements," she said. "We don’t believe this year will be any different."

Rodeo headed toward BCC
     T.J. Kremling will perform his Roman Riding (shown above) along with various other feats during this weekend’s Lone Star Rodeo at the Batesville Civic Center. The rodeo will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night.
By Jason C. Mattox

Cowboys, cowgirls and a herd of livestock will invade the Batesville Civic Center (BCC) this weekend.

Veteran promoter Preston Fowlkes III, whose family has been in the rodeo business for more than 50 years, is bringing his family-oriented Lone Star Rodeo Company to town for two shows- one Friday and one Saturday.

Tickets will be sold the day of the show beginning at 6 p.m. The show will start at 7:30 p.m. and run for approximately two hours, Fowlkes said.

All tickets for the event will be general admission and cost $12 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Ticket booths are located on the east side of the civic center.

"This will be the most inclusive event we have held at the facility since we opened," BCC director Roy Hyde said. "We are excited that Preston wanted to bring his show to the building.

"Everyone loves a rodeo and this will be one of the best," he added.

Fowlkes said he wants everyone interested in attending the event to know that this is a professionally run rodeo and is geared toward the family.

"This is a family show," he said. "We are family owned and operated, and we are here to provide good clean wholesome entertainment that everyone can enjoy."

This will be Lone Star Rodeo’s first stop in Batesville, but Fowlkes said it will not be his last.

"I am always on the lookout for new markets," he said. "The opportunity to be the first rodeo in a new building is also a good thing for a company."

Fowlkes said he has been very impressed with the building and believes it is the perfect location for a rodeo like his.

McClarty will stand trial for ‘O4 murder
By Billy Davis

A trial date is set for Monday, March 28 for a man who has admitted to gunning down his mother’s live-in boyfriend.

David Scott McLarty, 33, faces a charge of murder in the May 2004 death of Kenneth Belvin.

While claiming self-defense, McLarty admitted to Panola County Sheriff’s Department investigators that he shot Belvin during an argument at 1211 Sardis Lake Drive, where Belvin lived with McLarty’s mother, Lynn Jenkins.

Jenkins, the sole witness to the incident, backed up her son’s claims in interviews with investigators.

McLarty shot Belvin six times with a Ruger .22 pistol, court records show, and Belvin later died at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

A grand jury indicted McLarty last November.

According to court records, McLarty told investigators Belvin brandished a gun first and, when the boyfriend threatened to shoot Jenkins, McLarty shot him first.

McLarty, who is free on $100,000 bond, is represented by attorneys David Zachary Scruggs of Oxford and Joey Langston of Booneville.

"The facts will show that David acted in self defense," Scruggs said.

Batesville Casket tour reaches Panola County
     Parked and set up at Batesville Casket Company’s Panola manufacturing facility this week was the company’s "Honoring Lives" tour. Plant Manager Ken Waldrip (center) welcomed
Pete Pierson
(front) and Loyd Bunch, who accompanied the tour to familiarize visitors from local funeral service staffs with the traveling display of products and marketing innovations.
By John Howell Sr.

Batesville Casket Company’s "Honoring Lives" tour came to its Panola manufacturing facility this week.
Launched in early January, the Honoring Lives tour is a mobile showcase of the company’s products and marketing innovations designed to suggest solutions to challenges funeral directors face today.

"Batesville has undertaken this unique approach to customer relations to make it easier for funeral directors," Batesville Casket vice president for sales Keith Ashby stated in a press release.

"Traditionally we have invited customers to visit us in Batesville (Batesville, Indiana corporate headquarters) … . However, funeral service is a profession that requires the funeral director to be on call 24/7, making it difficult … for the smaller, independent firms to visit Batesville. Therefore, we thought it only appropriate to bring Batesville to our customers," Ashby continued.

So they brought it to them in a style that those familiar with the company have come to expect: A sleek black Volvo tractor pulling a matching 53-foot expandable semi-trailer housing the mobile showroom. The rig’s outside eye appeal was not lost on the people who designed it. They also provide toy miniatures of the tractor-trailer and selected with a business card drawing at the end of each tour stop a winner to receive one.

"It’s the most popular thing on the tour," one Batesville Casket official said, laughing.

Inside on Tuesday morning, visitors from Waller Funeral Home in Oxford and a Ripley, Tennessee mortuary got a preview at the industry leader’s responses to what they perceive as the most important challenges facing the funeral industry today – the dramatic rise in the cost of funeral products, the growth in cremation, the increase in the demand for personalization and the need for products to accommodate the obesity problem in this country.

The presentation of product samples and multi media appeared subtle, colorful and well-planned. That the company had so effectively utilized the 1,000 square feet available in the expanded trailer to present its state-of-the-art ideas and programs also suggested to visitors that they could also effectively showcase Batesville Casket’s products in a limited space.

The tour began in Knoxville with plans to spend the first three months of the year in the south. It spends a minimum of two days at each stop to allow visits from funeral home directors and staff within the area.

"It’s a great way to stay in touch with our customers and help educate them on what’s new at Batesville," Ashby said. "But more importantly, it’s a way for us to listen to our independent customers."



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