| Local peach grower Tom McCullar and his orchard manager Ramero Estrada Bucio of Apaxigan, Mexico are planning on an abundant crop of peaches this season as the trees at the Mt. Olivet area orchard were recently in full bloom.
McCullar is planning to add vegetables as well as some "Jeff Crowell" watermelons for sale at his peach stands this summer.
| Hospital audit shows loss for 2003, 2004
|By Billy Davis
County supervisors received the 2004 audit of Tri-Lakes Medical Center Monday morning, learning that the public-owned hospital has lost money in recent years even as negotiations for a winning bidder for its sale are set to begin.
Country Administrator David Chandler presented the audit to the county supervisors, who listened to his report without comment.
The audit was performed by CPA firm Watkins, Ward and Stafford.
On page 17 of the audit report, the firm states it has "substantial doubts" about Tri-Lake’s ability to operate into the near future, citing "operating losses" over the past four years as a reason for the prediction.
The pending sale is another reason for the worry, the report also notes.
The hospital lost $1.5 million in 2003 and lost about half that amount last year, Chandler told supervisors, citing the report’s Statement of Revenues, Expenses and Changes in Net Assets on page five.
The CPA firm labeled Tri-Lakes a "growing concern," Chandler also noted, citing a term coined in recent years to alert the public about a company’s worrisome financial situation.
Chandler said the term "growing concern" was omitted in a 2003 financial audit by request of the hospital, but this time the CPA firm insisted that it be inserted to shield the firm from liability.
In full, the paragraph states:
On April 30, 2004, the owners of the facility accepted sealed bids for the sale of the facility.
On November 2, 2004 the citizens in the hospital district voted in the affirmative to authorize the sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center by the Board of Supervisors of Panola County, Mississippi, and the Mayor and Board of Alderman of the City of Batesville, Mississippi, as prescribed by law.
As of January 25, 2005, negotiations are continuing with certain of the bidders with regards to the consummation of a sale.
Given the active efforts of the owners of the facility to finalize a sale combined with operating losses incurred by the hospital over the past four years, there are substantial doubts about the hospital’s ability to continue as a growing concern under these circumstances.
Regarding the pending sale of Tri-Lakes, Chandler said negotiations with the bidders will kick off in a few weeks after they’ve had time to study the hospital audit.
"Some time after the 15th the negotiations will have started," Chandler told the supervisors.
Four bidders are seeking to purchase the hospital, including current hospital administrator Dr. Bob Corkern.
| In other county business:
||To dispel reports of its closings, McBride Engineering co-owner Warner McBride released a statement to this newspaper that the firm "plans to stay in business."
The statement notes that the company is "exploring ways to expand" its resources, but McBride declined further comment about the firm’s plans to expand or join another firm.
McBride Engineering performs work for both the county and the City of Batesville. The firm operates from offices at 204 Broadway.
McBride appeared at the end of the supervisors’ Monday meeting but did not address the Board of Supervisors.
Word of changes at McBride has apparently spread. Panola County native Billy Grantham appeared at the supervisors meeting, courting county work on behalf of an Olive Branch engineering firm in which he’s employed.
"I’m definitely aware that there are probably some winds of change coming about in the county," Grantham said. "We would love to assist if we could."
|| Supervisors approved a new computer software program for the county’s Solid Waste department. The new system will cost $7,500 to install.
Solid Waste billing clerk Jennifer Jackson and county purchase clerk Carolyn Mills made the request. The program will improve the department’s ability to bill customers, pull up account information and perform other needed tasks.
The supervisors voted 4-0 for the request (Supervisor James Birge was absent.)
|| Supervisors approved the purchase of a 13-inch TV for Justice Court Judge James Appleton to use in court.
Appleton said he needs the TV so he can view VHS tape recordings made by law enforcement officers, such as those made during traffic stops.
The supervisors voted 4-0 for the request.
||Board attorney Bill McKenzie informed supervisors that he is working with Tax Assessor David Garner after the Town of Courtland requested that its residents pay property taxes at the county courthouse.
Batesville is already set up to operate like that, McKenzie said. The county receives three percent of the gross for its service.
| Speed to be featured at annual Panola Partnership banquet
|By Rupert Howell
Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) Executive Director Leland R. Speed will be the featured speaker this Thursday night when the Panola Partnership holds its annual membership banquet.
A new Miss Hospitality will also be revealed from eight nominees at the banquet being held at the new National Guard Readiness Center.
Awards will also be given for excellence in education, citizenship and business of the year.
Speed is the chairman of EastGroup Properties, Inc., an equity real estate investment firm whose investment emphasis is in the development and ownership of industrial properties in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Speed also serves as the Chairman of Parkway Properties, Inc., a real estate investment trust specializing in the ownership and operation of office properties in the Southeastern United States, Chicago and Texas. Other business interests include the Chairmanship of Delta Industries, Inc., a building materials company.
Speed was named by Governor Haley Barbour as the executive director of the MDA, the state’s lead economic development agency. MDA has oversight of federal and state funding sources totaling some $170 million dollars with 310 employees.
The agency’s primary goals are to prudently administer taxpayer dollars to recruit business and industry, assist existing industries, market Mississippi as a tourist destination, and provide community assistance and support.
Born in Jackson, Speed graduated from the Jackson public school system, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Speed, and his wife, the former Bessie Sarphie, have three sons, and eight grandchildren.
| Panola Countians begin trash bash
|By Billy Davis
Panola Countians are bashing trash and reclaiming the roadsides, with volunteers in the north part of the county apparently leading the effort.
According to cleanup organizer Lygunnah Bean, the Clean Up Panola (CUP) program is in full swing after "cleanup captains" changed their strategy of anticipating calls from cleanup volunteers.
"We saw that the volunteer calling wasn’t working, so the captains began calling their neighbors and asking them to help," Bean said. "We’re finding out that people are glad to help clean up their road if they’re asked."
In the Como area, cleanup captain Chris Griffin is working with nearly 50 cleanup volunteers after holding an organizational meeting March 29 at the Como Public Library.
On April 19 and April 23, the volunteers plan to pick up roadside litter on Freeman, Compress and Abe Chapel roads, Griffin said.
When the recruitment of cleanup captains ended last month, 11 Panola Countians had volunteered to lead cleanup efforts in their community. In the northeast area of the county, however, Griffin was the sole captain for that entire swath of county territory.
When the drive for volunteers began, Griffin wondered if her neighbors would pitch in to help.
The volunteers have obviously pitched in to help, but the cleanup captain and her husband Sammie worked to bring in willing helpers.
"Sammie and I went door to door," Chris said. "We put up flyers around town, and we had the flyer published in The Southern Reporter to tell people what we were doing."
While volunteers are picking up the soda cans, beer bottles and other trash, county trusties are attacking the county’s illegal garbage dumps.
Jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright said two crews of trusties are working daily to clean up the dump sites. The trusties are also working with the cleanup volunteers to pick up their filled trash bags, he noted.
"We’re working one crew on the north end (of the county) and the second crew on the south end," the jail administrator said.
Over the past months, Bright said, the trusties have removed about 80 couches and loveseats, 2,000 tires, 1,000 bags of trash, as well as washers, dryers, bathtubs, hot water heaters, car parts, and many other materials.
A similar trash program operated about two years ago from the jail, Bright said, but slowed to a stop for lack of eligible trusties.
Bright praised Bean for beginning another drive to clean up the county, also praising county supervisors for working closely with volunteers across Panola County.
"We’ve picked up more bags in the north part of the county. They’re working hard up there," Bright said.
Bean agreed that the volunteers in the north part of Panola County are leading cleanup efforts in the county.
"The cleanup is happening all over the county, but they’re in the lead up there in the north end," Bean said.
| City Gears for Spring Cleanup
|By Jason C. Mattox
The Batesville Code Enforcement Office will soon begin its spring cleanup effort.
According to assistant code enforcement officer John McCollum, violators of the city’s junk ordinance will soon be receiving citations.
"We issued a lot of citations last year," he said. "This year we want to make people aware that the city is not going to allow people to violate the junk ordinance."
The city’s junk ordinance defines junk as property that can not be used in the manner or for the purposes it was designed or constructed.
This definition includes cars, scrap metal, tires, or motor vehicle parts.
The ordinance also outlines the manner in which violations are handled.
According to the ordinance, once a person is cited for being in violation of the junk ordinance, the person has seven days to clean up the property.
"The city has a good, solid ordinance when it comes to handling cleanup," McCollum said.
"If we cite a person and they do not get the property cleaned up within the original seven days, the Board of Aldermen will usually issue an extension if the property owner has made progress," he added.
Last year during its cleanup, McCollum issued 178 total violations.
"We had 355 junk cars removed from the city limits," he said. "Once people realize we are serious, they will usually clean the property.
"When I went to issue a citation, I always had a police escort," he said.
"There are some people that would get out of sorts when I would show up."
As for this year, McCollum said he doesn’t believe the city is as bad as it was when he started issuing citations last year.
"That junk ordinance has really helped clean up the city," he said. "I think that will continue this year.
"We are not trying to be mean about it. We just need people to understand that we want the city to look as good as it possibly can," he said.