Headlines – 5/20/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – May 20, 2005

  From the 5/20/05 issue of The Panolian :             

Graduation season in full swing
     Veteran Mississippi Highway Patrolman Sgt. Dennis Darby of Batesville was recognized this week as Mississippi Trooper of the Year. Darby’s current partner is Algo, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, a trained search dog.
21-year Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) veteran Dennis Darby of Batesville has been named the 2004 Trooper of the Year by the Mississippi State Trooper’s Association (MSTA).

"After more than two decades with the Highway Patrol, Sergeant Darby is still just as dedicated to his job and to public safety as the day he began," said Colonel Marvin Curtis, Chief of the MHP. "That’s what we heard from the ranks and why he is so deserving of this title, because he is the epitome of what it means to be Trooper of the Year." The announcement was made today at a luncheon hosted by the North Jackson Exchange Club in Ridgeland.

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"This is the highest honor any Trooper can receive," said MSTA President Bobby Reed. "That’s because it is given to Troopers by Troopers."

Ten district winners were selected earlier this year, one in each of MHP’s nine districts, plus a representative from headquarters in Jackson. The statewide winner was chosen from the ten district winners.

"We know that there are so many troopers who are deserving of this award and we hate we can’t recognize them all," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner George Phillips. "These troopers are daily putting their lives on the line to keep our roadways safe. We appreciate them and their dedication to the public and to the State of Mississippi."

Sergeant Darby holds membership in the MSTA and the prestigious 100 Club for his work in the area of DUI enforcement. His activities within the patrol include FTO (Field Training Officer), CPU (Criminal Patrol Unit), K-9 and the Legal Defense Committee.
"In the past year, he has become involved with the K-9 unit because of his dedication and concern with the use of drugs and the result it has on the youth of the county," said Trooper Shane Phelps, who nominated Sergeant Darby for the award. "My admiration for Dennis Darby began when I was in junior high and trying to decide what I wanted to do with my future. He talked about his job and I could hear in his voice his dedication and respect for law enforcement. I knew then I wanted a career that would give me the same satisfaction and pride."

In 2004, Sergeant Darby led his district in the number of felony arrests.

"Sergeant Darby is a credit to this agency and the community he lives in," said Captain Roosevelt Howard, commander of Troop E. "He is an officer who actively and fairly enforces all of the laws of the state of Mississippi."

Sergeant Darby is also active in his community, visiting local schools and serving First Baptist Church of Batesville as a Gideon.

Sergeant Darby is married to the former Kim Rodgers of Batesville. The couple has five children: Brandon and Emily Darby, Chelsey Russell and Jeff and Josh Boothe. Sergeant Darby is the son of Edgar Leo Darby of Batesville and Audrey Hall Simpson of Monee, Il.

Morrow overcomes Ingram in runoff
Will face Allen for seat as alder-man-at-large
By Billy Davis

Alderman-at-large candidate Teddy Morrow won a spot in the June 7 general election Tuesday, defeating opponent J. Boyd Ingram by 159 votes.

Morrow will now face Republican Ed Allen in the general election.

Morrow netted 787 total votes, or 55 percent, compared to 628 votes and 44 percent for Ingram.

Morrow, 35, and Ingram, 65, matched up in the May 17 runoff after tying 853-853 in the May 3 primary.

Both candidates said last week that bringing their supporters back to the polls was the key to a runoff win.

The total vote count in the runoff was 1,419, down from 1,806 votes – or 387 ballots less than those cast in the primary.

Voters cast 87 affidavit ballots in the runoff, said City Clerk Judy Savage.

Morrow credited his runoff win to supportive voters and volunteers.

"I appreciate everybody who came back again to vote, and now we’ve got to do it again on June 7," Morrow said. "We had some really good volunteers. They called a lot of people, which I think helped us a lot."

Reached at home Wednesday, Ingram congratulated Morrow on his win and thanked voters for their support.

"I thought Mr. Morrow ran a good race and I don’t have a bad word to say about him whatsoever," Ingram said. "I was just disappointed in the turnout."

Of the city’s four voting precincts, Ingram and Morrow won two boxes each, a repeat of their primary results.

Morrow took the wins in Ward 1 and Ward 4 while Ingram beat his opponent in Ward 2 and Ward 3. He slid past in Ward 3 by two votes.

The ballot box at Fire Station No. 2 in Ward 1 benefitted Morrow. While he beat Ingram by 40 votes there on May 3, he improved his win by 110 votes – 302 to 183 – in the May 17 runoff.

A total of 486 voters cast ballots in Ward 1, down from 564 in the primary.

Ingram did his best at the Patton Lane Community Center in Ward 2, where he beat Morrow by 29 votes in the May 17 runoff. He beat Morrow by 50 votes there in the primary.

The turnout at Patton Lane was the lowest in the runoff, down by 164 votes from the primary total.

Ward 3 votes were also fewer, down 109 votes from the primary totals.
Reached Wednesday, Morrow thanked Ingram for running a "good, clean race."

"I know J. Boyd worked hard," Morrow said.

Morrow said he will now get back on the campaign trail, where he will keep stressing economics and unemployment, and street improvements.

Allen said he too is stressing economics and the county’s double-digit unemployment during his campaign.

"I plan on getting out and working hard, and showing tax payers where money is being wasted," Allen said. "I’ll tell them my plan on trying to cut the budget back and that I will not, under any condition, raise taxes or fees."

Allen, 64, is retired from the City of Memphis engineering department, where he was a construction inspector.

Allen is also known for his former business, Batesville’s Best Pizza, which operated for about five years.

Morrow owns and operates two downtown department stores, Stubbs and Williams.

When voters return to the polls on June 7 to choose between Morrow and Allen, they will also pick the city’s new mayor from Democrat Jerry Autrey, Republican Dr. Richard Corson and independent candidate Gary Kornegay.

Voters in Ward 1 and Ward 4 will also choose aldermen in the general election.

Ward 1 candidates are Democrat incumbent Bill Dugger and Republican challenger Danny Jones.

Ward 4 candidates are Democrat incumbent Bobbie Jean Pounders and Republican challenger Michael Harbour.

In Wards 2 and 3, where there were no Republican challengers, voters returned Alderman Rufus Manley in Ward 2 and Alderman James Yelton in Ward 3.

All city officials will take office for a new term on July 4.

Graduation season in full swing
     South Panola High School seniors received their graduation robes in a special "robing" ceremony Tuesday night in the school gym. Each senior had the option of writing a brief essay describing the teacher who had most inspired him or her. Kenika Money wrote about band director William McEwen, who then had the honor of presenting Miss Money with her robe.
About 300 Panola County families are anticipating seeing their sons and daughters in caps and gowns this weekend as South Panola High School and North Panola High School hold commencement exercises. North Delta School awarded diplomas to its 39 seniors on May 13.

Tonight at 6:30 North Panola’s approximately 80 graduating seniors will receive their diplomas in ceremonies at Northwest Community College’s coliseum. Their top three graduates, Marteena Taylor, Whitney Whitehead and Nisa Lewis, will speak.

Sunday afternoon South Panola High School’s Class of 2005 will have graduation ceremonies at 3 p.m. at Tad Smith Coliseum on the campus at the University of Mississippi. About 220 seniors are expected to receive diplomas. South Panola’s valedictorian is Kelley Lynn Reinemann. Salutatorian is Bobby Pelts and historian is Brandon Lamar. These three will be the commencement speakers.

Tri-Lakes proposal gets further study
By Billy Davis

Tri-Lakes Medical Center administrator Dr. Bob Corkern told city and county leaders Wednesday that he would put $500,000 of earnest money toward the purchase of the public-owned hospital and asked for a six-month span to close the deal.

More than 30 people – county supervisors, attorneys, aldermen, hospital trustees, Corkern supporters – crowded into the county supervisors board room at the courthouse in Batesville, where Corkern presented his version of the hospital contract.

Corkern was joined by his counsel, Batesville attorney Collins Bailey, and Tri-Lakes Chief Operating Officer Ray Shoemaker.

The Batesville Board of Aldermen and the county Board of Supervisors are now reviewing the contract, comparing Corkern’s version to the one they submitted to him about two weeks ago.

The public boards will return for a joint meeting at noon next week on Tuesday, May 24, to announce their response to Corkern’s version of the contract. The city aldermen and Mayor Bobby Baker will also meet earlier that morning at 10:30.

The agreement for the Tuesday meeting came after a push from Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins to meet today or Monday.

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant told Perkins he could not attend either day, however, and the Tuesday date was set.

The city and county jointly own the hospital, which Panola Countians overwhelmingly voted to sell in 2004.

Corkern has since beat out several bidders for the purchase of Tri-Lakes, including Baptist Memorial Healthcare. He is offering about $28 million for the east Batesville facility and another $3 million for the west campus, which houses a behavioral clinic.

Corkern’s purchase of the hospital would be in addition to his plan to buy a public-owned hospital in Texas (see related story).

Corkern was brought to Tri-Lakes as an interim hospital administrator about two years ago and was later named administrator of the facility by the hospital’s board of trustees.

The Miss. Department of Health lists Shoemaker as the hospital administrator, however, according to MDH spokeswoman Liz Charlot.

That listing is incorrect, Corkern said when told of the department’s records.

At the Wednesday meeting, Corkern spoke to the city and county officials for about five minutes, rattling off highlights of his version of the contract. Those highlights included:

A $500,000 earnest money payment toward the purchase of Tri-Lakes.
     The non-refundable money comes after the hospital owners expected $4 million in earnest money, an amount that Corkern has said he never suggested and never promised.
     Instead, Corkern has stated, he wants to use the hopital’s west campus as collateral for a down payment.
     In the Wednesday meeting, Corkern said he was now addressing earnest money in the contract for the first time with his $500,000 offer.

Corkern will conduct the purchase of Tri-Lakes as an individual, not part of a corporation, a process meant to ensure he will not declare bankruptcy and tie up the hospital in the courts.
     "I am personally making this offer, which means that if something goes wrong and (the hospital) goes down, then I’ll lose everything I have," Corkern said.
     Reached after the meeting, Corkern said he was pressed by consultant J.C. Burns to purchase the hospital as an individual, citing the bankruptcy fear as the reason behind the request.

     The principal from a July 1 bond payment on the hospital will remain part of the overall purchase price.
     The bond payment is about $900,000, an amount that includes about $500,000 in equity.

A six-month span to close the purchase of Tri-Lakes.
     Corkern said he and other unnamed parties have had a "lot of trouble" with the planned closing date, which is June 30.
     Corkern said experts have told him that six months is an "industry standard" for such a large deal.
     "I would be afraid to put my money out there and my word out there, saying I could do it in less time than they tell me it’s going to take," Corkern said.
     Corkern told those gathered that his deal totals $25.5 million in cash.

After Corkern’s appearance, Baker and the city aldermen reassembled for about 50 minutes with city attorneys, hospital board attorneys and consultants in the courtroom.

City Attorney Richard "Flip" Phillips noted several changes in the hospital administrator’s counterproposal and cautioned city officials to withhold decision until the lengthy document could be reviewed line by line.

Alone in their board room, the supervisors also discussed the matter. Board attorney Bill McKenzie suggested that they carefully review the documents, paying careful attention to any changes made by Corkern.

"I know everybody’s anxious but my advice is don’t get frustrated because that’s just the process," McKenzie told the supervisors.

Perkins said he was concerned mostly about Corkern’s $500,000 earnest money payment and the six-month time period, neither of which were included in the original contract sent to Corkern.

Corkern also seeks hospital in Texas
Tri-Lakes Medical Center Administrator Dr. Robert Corkern is among buyers seeking the Golden Plains Community Hospital in Borger, Texas, a spokesperson for that facility said Thursday.

Borger is about 30 miles northeast of Amarillo in Hutchinson County.

An April referendum to renovate the hospital was turned down by voters of that hospital’s district, Golden Plains Director of Nursing Melody Henderson said. The decision to sell followed, she added.

The public-owned facility in the Texas panhandle is operated by a governing board, part of whose members are elected and part appointed by the county’s commissioners.

Dr. Corkern on Wednesday confirmed that he is seeking to purchase the Texas hospital.





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