Headlines – 4/19/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – April 19, 2005

  From the 4/19/05 issue of The Panolian :             

City, county: Corkern top bidder for hospital
Officials go to work on contract
By Billy Davis

Dr. Bob Corkern appears to be the highest bidder for purchase of Tri-Lakes Medical Center and should own the facility, city and county officials agreed in a joint meeting held Monday morning.

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The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Panola County Board of Supervisors voted for a six-page resolution accepting Corkern’s total bid of $28.1 million for ownership of public-owned Tri-Lakes.

Corkern is the current hospital administrator.

The two public bodies met at 11 a.m. at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville. Both bodies voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.

The hospital’s board of trustees was also present at the meeting.

The old South Panola Hospital known as the west campus is not included in the sale of Tri-Lakes, the resolution states.

The next step in the sale of Tri-lakes is a contractual phase in which Corkern and the hospital’s owners, the county and city, must work out the finer details of the sale.

The proposed contract will be ready for the city and county to review on Wednesday, April 27, and both boards could take up the matter at their meetings in early May. The contract will then be sent to Corkern.

City leaders voted to adopt the resolution without discussion, but supervisors questioned the future of quality healthcare at Tri-Lakes as well as Corkern’s ability to pay for the facility.

Corkern’s bid beat out the next-closest bidder, LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., which bid $23.3 million for the purchase of Tri-Lakes.

Since the bidding process began, Baptist Memorial Healthcare and Resurgence Healthcare have dropped out, leaving Corkern and LifePoint as the leading contenders.

Corkern’s bid for Tri-Lakes came through a partnership he belongs to, Physicians and Surgeons Group, LLC (P & S).

Asked by The Panolian who belongs to his new firm, Corkern said he is presently the sole member.
"It’s just me as far as ownership," Corkern said.

Corkern is promising to pay $28 million for Tri-Lakes even though he has yet to actually start P and S, noted Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins, who voiced skepticism about Corkern’s ability to pay $28 million.

The comparison figures between P & S and LifePoint were prepared by consultant J.C. Burns and associates of his firm, who were present at the meeting where they explained the resolution and answered questions.

Burns, a former Batesville banker, is under contract with the city and county to work with hospital bidders.

Corkern is putting down a $4 million non-refundable deposit as a promise to fulfill his bid, Burns noted, and he will lose that money if he’s unable to come up with the funds.

Apparently unconvinced by that gesture, Perkins pressed Burns to vouch for Corkern’s ability to pay the remaining $24.1 million, asking if Burns had asked for a commitment letter from a financial lender.

"Do you have a firm commitment that they have the money?" Perkins asked.

"No," Burns said, adding, however, that the possible loss of $4 million is an obvious indicator that Corkern can pay for the hospital.

"Personally I don’t know of any people – however wealthy they are – that could walk away from $4 million," Burns said.

"So you’re not going to ask for a firm commitment on $21 million?" Perkins asked.

"The asking will be when you send to them the contract," Burns said.

According to Corkern, he selected a financial lender from among five that offered to back him financially. He would not name the winning lender.

Perkins also pressed for reassurance from Burns that, should Corkern fail to come up with the funds, LifePoint would be an option.

Burns said LifePoint’s offer would still be on the table if the deal with Corkern and P & S fell through.

According to Burns’ comparison analysis of Physicians and Surgeons and LifePoint, P & S will pay the bulk of its bid for Tri-Lakes through $19 million in bonds while LifePoint has $21.5 million in cash. P & S claimed zero cash in its bid.

P & S also has $2 million in assets over liabilities and promised $4.6 million for assumption of liabilities.

LifePoint claimed no assets over liabilities and $1.2 million for assumption of liabilities.

Corkern apparently modified his Tri-Lakes bid on June 4 and June 11, bumping his bid $3.8 million after diverting $3.5 million from a plan to fund scholarships and promising to pay $300,000 in various fees.

Reached after the meeting, Burns said the $4 million promised by Corkern is included in the $28 million total as is the cost of the bond defeasance.

After the meeting, Perkins said he voted for the resolution because Corkern is the apparent high bidder.

"Corkern’s the highest bid, and by law we must accept it," Perkins told The Panolian. "If he can’t pay, then we’ll move on to the next bidder."

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant also pressed for reassurance that the hospital would provide quality healthcare if it’s purchased by Corkern.

"He might be the highest bidder, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best," Avant said. "You all are talking a lot about dollar figures, but there’s no mention of the quality of healthcare."

The details about the quality of healthcare are covered in the Request for Proposal sent out to potential bidders, answered City of Batesville attorney Colmon Mitchell.

"Everyone on our team is gratified and grateful, and we hope to make good on the trust the people of Panola County have placed in us," Corkern told The Panolian following the adoption of the resolution.

Downtown park dedication is Sat.
By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Batesville will dedicate its new Memorial Park amphitheater on the Downtown Square on Saturday, April 23, at 10 a.m.

"We are very happy to be able to dedicate Memorial Park," said Colleen Clark, manager of Batesville’s Main Street downtown revitalization program. "This is something we had been wanting for a long time, and we are very proud of it.

"We are very pleased with the finished product," she added. "It has improved the appearance of downtown and brought back a piece of history to Batesville.

"I think everyone involved with the project is excited about its completion, and we are looking forward to having some events there," she said.

Activities during the dedication will include speeches from local Main Street program leaders and elected officials. Candidates in the upcoming municipal elections will have the opportunity to speak, and there will be sidewalk sales all day by downtown businesses.

Music for the event will be provided by Casey Lipe, Calvin Flint and friends, Clark said.

The Batesville Exchange Club is sponsoring the political speaking and also a concession stand with proceeds to benefit the Batesville Boys and Girls Club and the Family Crisis Center in Oxford, which works to prevent child abuse.

Mayor Bobby Baker said he too is pleased with the completed park, and believes it is just the beginning of improving downtown.

"We are working with Canadian National Railroad to get the crossing repaired," he said. "In addition to that the city will soon overlay the entire square.

"When all of these projects are completed it will be a huge complement to the newly finished park," Baker added. "When a project like this happens, it is going to make people stop and take notice of downtown and the entire city.

"That is a step in the right direction," he said. "We moved into the future by preserving the past."


Blues Man
     Jimbo Mathis backs up his partner, vocalist Olga Wilhelmine, during their performance at the Second Annual Blues for Opera. The event was held Saturday in downtown Como.
Hyde had long tenure of local educational service
By Myra Bean

If there was one word to sum up Robert Hyde, it would be "education."

Hyde, 74, died Sunday night at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford where he had been a patient for the last four weeks.

Hyde was a former educator in the Patton Lane and South Panola School District.

He was a former principal of Batesville Intermediate School from which he retired in 1990.

Not only was he a proponent of education in the public school system, but he carried that over to his church in Christian education.

Hyde was a deacon and Sunday School superintendent for Shiloh M.B. Church. He served as superintendent for the past 12 years. Each week he exhorted the church members to attend Sunday school because that is where learning the Bible starts, he said.

Hyde pushed the members of the church and community to be active in the political process and exercise their right to vote.

He was an officer and a teacher in the Sardis District Association of Sunday School and NBC Congress of North Mississippi.

He attended the General Baptist State Convention and the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education USA, Inc. almost every year.

In 2004 Hyde received double honor for his commitment to education.

On April 10, 2004, the Robert A. Hyde Scholarship Fund was established. Then on April 27, he was presented the James Hal Moore Excellence In Education Award by the Panola Partnership at its annual banquet.

Former South Panola superintendent David Cole will reflect on Hyde’s career in a commentary set for Friday’s issue of The Panolian.

Cole called Hyde a "quiet, unassuming gentle giant."

"We have lost a valued friend and a great educator," Cole said.

Hyde leaves his wife Catherine of Batesville; two sons, Michael Hyde of Chesapeake, Va. and Terry Foster of Chicago, Ill.; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be held Thursday at Shiloh M.B. Church in Courtland, but the time was not set at press time.

Cooley’s Mortuary has charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Hyde asks that donations be made to the Robert A. Hyde Scholarship Fund in care of First Security Bank.

Political forum is tonight
By Billy Davis

The Batesville Town Hall forum is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight at the TVEPA auditorium.

Sponsored by The Panolian, the forum is an opportunity for citizens to hear how Batesville municipal candidates stand on different issues pertaining to city government.

"This is a cordial town hall forum to allow candidates to voice their views and opinions, not a back-and-forth debate," said The Panolian publisher John Howell Sr., who will moderate the event.

All voters are urged to attend the forum where they can meet and greet the candidates. The forum will feature a 15-minute exchange for each alderman race beginning at 6:30 p.m. with Ward One.

A 20-minute exchange with the city’s mayoral candidates will conclude the event.

Questions for the candidates will be drawn from a list prepared by the staff.

Como to add lighting, security on Main St.
By Jason C. Mattox

In an effort to ensure the safety of people visiting Como’s booming downtown, Mayor Azria "Bobby" Lewers and the Board of Aldermen are taking extra security measures.

According to a press release issued by Lewers late last week, additional lighting will be installed on Main Street.

"There is already quite a bit of lighting on Main Street," Lewers said. "But we have realized that the people visiting the businesses on Main Street are parking everywhere.

"We want to make sure that the people visiting our town feel like they are safe," he added. "So we are adding a light that will make the area near First Security Bank and the old John Deere a lot safer."

The one additional light the city wants for Main Street will be installed by Entergy in the near future and will cost the city less than $30 per month.

Lewers, who is running for re-election, said there have been no incidents on Main Street but added that the city wanted to see that trend continue.

"We feel like that is money well spent when it comes to the safety of our residents and visitors," the mayor said.

Lewers said the city is also waiting on cost estimates to improve the parking situation along Main and West Streets.

"We literally have people parking everywhere," he said. "The city realized there is a need for additional space, and we have come up with a plan that might relieve the problem."

Lewers said the city plans to put in additional parallel parking spaces and line off the existing spots.

Another measure outlined in the press release is additional security.

"We have already upped the number of police officers from two to three on the weekends to handle the additional people and traffic," he said. "We now see that there is a need to have at least one more on duty."

Lewers said if a major event is taking place on Main Stree such as last weekend’s Blues for Opera, there will be two additional officers on duty.

"We want the people of Como and our visitors to be safe," he said. "That is our biggest concern."

With those additional officers will come additional training so they are prepared to handle the large crowds, the mayor said.

"Our chief is going to handle the training himself," he said. "We want to make sure that our officers know how to handle crowd control.

"Also, by conducting the training in house, it will cost no additional money to the city," Lewers continued.

As for the other security measures, Lewers said the money is in the city’s budget.

"We completely understand that when a small town experiences growth like Como has, you have to take the right steps to make sure your people are taken care of," he said. "We have been planning to do these things for quite some time, and now they will start to happen."

Lewers faces Judy Sumner and Dorothy Kerney-Wilbourn in his re-election bid for mayor.

"People are going to think it is happening because of the election, but it just worked out that this is when we are getting started on the project," he said. "Whether it was an election year or not, we were going to move forward with this project.

"Como is growing and we have to take the proper steps to handle that growth," Lewers added.


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