Headlines – 5/10/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – May 10, 2005

  From the 5/10/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Hog Heaven
     Richard Byrd was one of many cyclist who participated in the Seventh Annual Ole Man Poker Run last Saturday that raised $9,107 for the American Cancer Society (ACS) according to event organizer Larry Shearon.
     Shearon said that participants and vendors donated all items needed which assured that all funds went to ACS.
     The event began at The Underground on Highway 51 S in Batesville where 160 bikers gathered to participate.
Corkern, county disagree over Tri-Lakes promises
By Billy Davis

Tri-Lakes Medical Center administrator Dr. Bob Corkern doesn’t have the $4 million of earnest money called for in the hospital sale contract, and he wants the county to help him secure a bank loan for the funds.

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Batesville attorney Collins Bailey appeared on Corkern’s behalf at the "second Monday" meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors, where he explained that Corkern wants to use the hospital’s west campus as collateral for securing the loan.

"It’s been conveyed to me that he can’t go forward and make payments of the $4 million if he can’t borrow the money without collateral" said Bailey, who told supervisors he was a "new player" in Corkern’s bid to buy the public-owned hospital.

Bailey said Corkern has arranged the $4 million financing from two Batesville banks, Covenant Bank and State Bank. Another bank, this one located in Florida, is backing Corkern’s $28 million purchase of Tri-Lakes, the attorney said.

Supervisors unanimously balked at the request, however, agreeing to stick by the agreed-upon contract as well as the Wednesday, May 18 deadline in which Corkern is to return the hospital contract to the county.

Supervisors set a 1 p.m. meeting time for May 18 to receive the contract from Corkern and allow him to explain why he appears to be reneging on his promise to put up $4 million.

If supervisors agreed to the proposal, Corkern would possess the deed of trust to the profitable west campus, a drug and alcohol rehab clinic known as Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health.

The county supervisors were visibly frustrated as Bailey described Corkern’s request, agreeing among themselves that Corkern is effectively removing the promised earnest money as part of his purchase of Tri-Lakes.

Bailey, however, suggested at one point that Corkern wasn’t taking away the offer of earnest money because, in fact, he never proposed such a deal.

The $4 million of earnest money is part of the contract – located on page 4 – under the title, "Non-refundable Earnest Money Deposit."

During negotiations for a winning bidder of Tri-Lakes, supervisors said the promise of the $4 million played a factor in Corkern’s winning the bid for ownership of Tri-Lakes.

The hospital contract calls for Corkern to purchase the west campus for $3 million, a transaction that’s separate from his approximate $28 million purchase of Tri-Lakes.

"If (Corkern) can, he’s going to lay his hands on the west campus without putting up any earnest money" District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said, directing his words at Bailey.

"But we’re not saying, ‘Give us the west campus,’ unconditionally. We’re going to give it back to you" Bailey said.

Avant continued, "Everything is the county’s, but (Corkern) says, ‘Use all your resources to get this for me. I’m not going to do anything. Y’all are going to do everything.’"

"He signed a note saying he owes $4 million to the bank" Bailey said.

"He also said he had $4 million that he was going to put up for earnest money, too" Avant said.
Reached after the board meeting by The Panolian, Corkern said he never proposed to put up the $4 million as earnest money. Instead, he said, all parties involved in the sale agreed that the west campus would be collateral.

"I didn’t hear the words ‘earnest money’ until I read it in the paper" Corkern said.

The hospital administrator also said he possessed a November letter, which was addressed to city and county officials, that spelled out the collateral agreement.

Told of Corkern’s statement, Perkins said the earnest money – not the west campus as collateral – has been part of the discussion all along.

"The Board of Supervisors never discussed not getting the earnest money" Perkins said. "We’ve always said we would have to have that."

Before the ‘Fest, there was a BBQ
     and the BIF-SIFF
By Billy Davis

When country music artist Chely Wright arrives in downtown Batesville Saturday night, she can thank a bunch of Batesville Rotarian barbecue cookers for the invitation.

Before there was a Batesville SpringFest, there was a Barbecue on the Square. And before the Barbecue on the Square, downtown was home to something called "BIF-SIFF" that began in the late 1980s.

The acronym means "Batesville’s International World-Wide Swine, Fowl and Food Fare" a barbecue cooking event dreamed up by Rotarians Ted Smith, Ray Lipe and Rick McMahan.

Smith, a Batesville attorney and practical jokester, said he wanted the event to be held on the Square and won out over McMahan’s idea to "have it in some field."

"Rick is a practical thinker, and he wanted it somewhere where there would be plenty of parking" Smith said, "but I wanted it on the Square so we could clutter it up."

Like the present-day SpringFest, the food and music began on Friday night and started up again Saturday morning on the third weekend of May.

According to Smith, the annual event "got so big that we couldn’t handle it" and by 1990 the City of Batesville was sponsoring the Barbecue on the Square.

According to a May, 1990 story in The Panolian, the Batesville Lions Club cooked 500 chicken halves and the Rotary Club cooked 2,200 pounds of pork.

The City of Batesville dedicated its downtown pavilion that Saturday morning.

The City of Batesville eventually convinced the chamber of commerce, Panola Partnership, to take on the growing downtown event. In 1999 Barbecue on the Square became SpringFest.

On that third Saturday in May, The Drifters headlined the event.

Panola Partnership handed off the event to its fledgling Main Street Program in 2000, putting the event in the hands of Main Street manager Colleen Clark.

Clark has overseen SpringFest since, her work bolstered by the Partnership, a five-person board, 100 volunteers and husband Brad.

"Colleen spends a lot of time and effort on SpringFest, and takes a lot of pride in making it a success, because she knows it’s the marquee event for downtown and the city of Batesville" her husband said.

If past numbers are an indication, SpringFest will bring over 10,000 people to the Square this weekend. Half that many will likely gather to hear Wright sing "Single White Female" "Jezebel" and other country tunes.

Clark said SpringFest has found its niche as a music festival that fills the Square with a variety of music performed by regional and national acts.

Wright’s concert Saturday will follow past appearances by Steve Azar, The Coasters, Exile and The Byrds.

Clark said the top-name acts come to SpringFest thanks to an annual donation from the city and corporate sponsorships.

The same civic clubs that began Bif-Siff more than a decade ago are still a part of the event they created, selling plates of barbecue and other goodies, minus the fowl.

Jail torn down, space to be used for
     parking, expansion
     Panola County road manager Lygunna Bean peers through the bars of the old Panola County jail before it was demolished last week to make room for a courthouse parking lot. The jail was built in 1955 and has been vacant for 10 years.
By Billy Davis

A caravan of dump trucks hauled off the old Panola County jail in pieces last week, sparing a historic section of the 50-year-old jail in the process.

The jail’s remnants are being dropped at a county site, where workers will separate concrete from metal.

The county will use the concrete as rip-rap for creeks, said road manager Lygunnah Bean.

"The metal will go to Martin Brothers for scrap metal, and that money will go into the county’s road fund" Bean said at the jail site Friday morning.

Assistant county road manager Raymond Mickens is overseeing the demolition work, Bean said.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted Monday, May 2 to knock down the old jail, located at 200 Broadway in downtown Batesville.

The jail site will soon serve as a parking lot, said Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins. The county eventually hopes to use the property for an addition to the courthouse.

"We already have plans for the expansion, which were drawn up six or seven years ago" Perkins said.

The courthouse expansion depends on the expected sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center to Dr. Bob Corkern. In addition to Corkern’s $28 million purchase of Tri-Lakes, the supervisors are asking $3 million for the county-owned west campus.

If the sale is successful, the county will use the $3 million for the expansion, Perkins said.

The jail was built in 1955 when James L. Travis was sheriff.

The county began using its current facility that houses the jail and sheriff’s department in 1995. That facility, known now as the David M. Bryan Justice Complex, is located at the county airport on Hwy. 35 North.

The late Sheriff Bryan and his family were the last residents of the jail’s adjoining home. They moved into another home in Batesville in 1995 when the new jail neared completion.

With a nod to county history, workers preserved the concrete "County Jail" slab that stood above the front entrance. The seven-foot-long slab came down nearly intact, minus a three-inch chunk at the top.

A home for the historic slab has not been determined. For now it’s sitting in a corner of the work site.

Assistant road manager Buddy Holland said he carefully used the forks of a Caterpillar front-end loader to chip away at the concrete caps that held the signage in place. He then used the forks to remove the slab.

Holland said the jail’s concrete flooring will be broken up into small pieces and hauled to creeks on Figg, Tocowa and Joiner roads.

"Except for the wood doors in the sheriff’s home, the entire building was concrete, even the roof and behind the bricks" Holland said.

The old jail has been mostly vacant since the newer county facility was built a decade ago. The county’s drug task force has been its only occupant.

Task force officers removed what they wanted last week, Bean said, and their left-behinds included pistol shell casings on a shelf and an NRA magazine in the bathroom.

The county used the jail for storage, filling it up with computer parts, broken chairs, and boxes of old records.

A tour of the old jail last week included a stop in a littered office, where the top of an old chest freezer had been used to stack an assortment of crime scene photos, mug shots, candid snap shots of sheriff’s deputies, and also a Father’s Day card.

A 1990 order from the Board of Supervisors, signed by the late David Ross Craig, lay atop the pile. The dusty, 10-page order apparently established a service work program for inmates for the sheriff’s department.

With the electricity off, the hallways and jail cells of the old jail were dark. The floor crackled from broken glass and who-knows-what-else.
"It gets spooky up in here" Bean said as he led the way.

In the back of the jail, light spilled into a row of jail cells, revealing green paint flaking off the steel cell doors.

Elsewhere in the jail, Bean pointed to a one-gallon jug of brown liquid that sat on the floor.

"Moonshine" Bean said. "We smelled it."

Holland later said he was in charge of the moonshine. Under his direction, the entire jar made the trip to a county landfill, meeting the same fate as the rest of the old downtown jail.

SP superintendent search narrowed
     to six finalists
Board chooses to interview six applicants for position
By Rupert Howell

Six finalists have been selected from 12 sets of r?sum?s and applications for the superintendent’s position of South Panola School District following a closed door meeting of school trustees last Thursday morning at the office of their lawyer.

Trustees conducted routine business before going into executive session excluding outsiders including the press.

According to Dr. E.E. "Butch" Caston whose company has been hired to conduct the superintendent’s search, trustees spent several hours reviewing resumes of those who entered the applicant pool.

Dr. Keith Shaffer who currently serves as South Panola’s personnel director is the only local name on the list of finalists released Friday. Shaffer is former district superintendent of Coahoma County Schools, an elected position.

Shaffer said that he chose not to run for re-election to that office during the last election cycle before applying for the personnel director’s position at South Panola. Shaffer currently resides in the school district.

Other finalists include: Dr. Terry Wooten Davis, elementary school principal, Cleveland School District; George Gilbreath, principal of Brandon High School; Dr. Maggie Griffin, superintendent of South Pike School District; Dr. Hubert Loden, executive director of Human Resources for Meridian School District and Dr. Joseph V. White, principal of Carriere Junior High, Pearl River County.

All six finalists will participate in interviews on either May 16, 18 and 19. Applicants and their spouses will first go through an interview with the board of trustees and be interviewed by resource team members.

Each trustee will choose several citizens to participate as a resource team in the different interview sessions.

"They (school trustees) want to involve as many people as they can to benefit their assessment of the candidate," Caston said.

Trustee Dr. Joe Gardner said last Friday he is trying to get a cross-section of the community for his choices of citizens for the resource team.

Caston has been in the education business since 1966 and president of his company, Delta Education Services Group, since 1985. He is also dean emeritus of Delta State University.

He said the formula being used that includes the application process, research of the candidates background, interviews with trustees and citizens and facility tours is a tried and tested concept that has been consistently successful in hiring school superintendents.

The tentative date set for a final decision is May 29 but Caston said that the process won’t close until the school board finds the best fit.



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