Headlines – 7/5/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – July 5, 2005

  From the 7/5/05 issue of The Panolian :             

What to do with committed patients with hospital sold?
By Billy Davis

With the pending sale of county-owned Tri-Lakes Medical Center moving closer, Panola County faces a delicate subject: where does it place committed patients before they’re sent to a state mental hospital or a clinic?

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Panola County Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock posed the question to county supervisors at a May 27 end-of-the-month meeting, asking that they mull over the situation.

With a chancery judge presiding over the case, Panola patients are committed by the judge to a mental institution or drug/alcohol clinic, most often the state mental hospital in Whitfield or a Tupelo clinic.

Some female patients stay in Batesville at the Robert F. Maddux Crisis Intervention Center, which is a women-only facility.

Until a space becomes available in Whitfield or Tupelo, a patient could spend days and weeks at Tri-Lakes’ west campus behavioral clinic.

Reached at Tri-Lakes this week, Chief Financial Officer Ray Shoemaker said the hospital and the county have a long-standing agreement to house patients on the west campus free of charge when space is available.

"At a bare minimum it costs about $350 a day to house a patient in our west campus," Shoemaker said, adding that Panola County is one of the few counties in the state that houses committed patients for free.

Shoemaker said the west campus is licensed for 45 beds and is squeezed to capacity. "It’s a challenge," he said.

The final contract between the hospital owners and the top bidder, Dr. Bob Corkern, stipulates free healthcare for county jail inmates once it’s sold.

The contract doesn’t cover other county costs, however, such as the commitments from chancery court.

"The state has told us in the last few months that the county would be responsible for the care of the individual while that individual waited to go to a treatment facility," Pitcock told the supervisors.

"On a lot of A and D (alcohol and drugs) cases, we’ve got people waiting for six months to go," Pitcock added.

At that same supervisors’ meeting, jail administrator Hugh "Shot" Bright noted that some chancery patients are housed at the jail when the beds are full at Tri-Lakes.

"We’re just not properly equipped for that," Bright said. "The jail isn’t designed to take care of patients."

Pitcock also told supervisors that a better system is needed to properly identify "paupers" who come through the chancery court system. Many people claim "pauper" status but don’t qualify, he said.

Court costs include an $81.50 filing fee, $30 for a hearing, and $30 for a doctor’s exam, the chancery clerk later told The Panolian.

Still another problem plaguing chancery court is people filing false commitment claims on others due to family squabbles or personal matters, Pitcock said.

"I had one (case) the other that we had just dismissed that day and (the family) called back that afternoon and wanted to file commitment papers on the same guy and have him put in a different place," Pitcock said.

"Sooner or later the board’s got to take a stand on that or somebody’s got to take a stand," Pitcock told the supervisors.

"I think it’s going to be the legislature," Board President Jerry Perkins replied.

MDOT: No plans yet for former MHP site
By Billy Davis

After trucks hauled away Batesville’s former highway patrol office last week, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) says it has no current plans for the now-vacant site.

The one-story building once housed Troop E and a driver’s license station, which moved to a new facility in 2002 on Hwy. 35 North.

MDOT spokesman Amy Land confirmed that the state agency declared the building unsafe but has no plans for utilizing the available ground.

"The building was very structurally unsound and was unsafe," Land said, relaying the words of a state engineer.

Retired highway patrolman Troy Carver, now 85, said the facility was built in the mid-1950s.

"I came in 1955, and it was built shortly after then or could have been under construction about then," Carver recalled.

A south Mississippi company, Specialty Abatement Services, Inc., demolished and hauled away the building over a period of two weeks.

Specialty Abatement won the demolition contract with a bid of approximately $43,000, Land said.

Specialty foreman Bill Avent said a crew of nine used five trucks and two backhoes to haul away the materials. The county used some of the materials for riprap, he said, and other materials went to a Tate County landfill.

The floor tiles in the building contained asbestos, so workers spent about five days carefully removing that material, the foreman said.

The asbestos material was "non-friable," Avent said, meaning it must be finely ground to be dangerous. Even so, he said, the workers were cautious.

"They were suited up and had respirators," Avent said. "They looked like they were from outer space."



Municipal officials taking oaths for upcoming term
     Jerry Autrey took the oath of office to become Mayor of Batesville Friday, July 1, before Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson Jr. who administered oaths of office to the mayor and aldermen in a short ceremony at city hall.
     Carlson encourages city officials to "lay aside the differences of the campaign and election and govern together."
Autrey won both the Democratic primary and general election by substantial margins.
By Jason C. Mattox

Jerry Autrey was sworn in as Mayor of Batesville Friday, July 1, as family and friends of elected officials filled the City Hall’s board room and overflowed into the lobby.

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson Jr. swore in Batesville’s elected officials at the mid-morning ceremony.

"During the campaign there is a lot of rhetoric," Carlson said in brief remarks prior to swearing in the mayor and aldermen to their new terms which begin on Monday.

"When the election is over, it is time for officials … to go about the business of governing," Carlson continued.

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell served as emcee, including the introduction of Batesville First United Methodist Church minister Russell Fletcher, who conducted the invocation and Panola Baptist Association Director of Missions Courtney Selvy, who spoke the benediction.

Outgoing Alderman-at-Large Hudson Still spoke briefly, praising the city’s employees.

"They are on the front lines of this board," Still said.

"I urge the board to work with our new mayor, and I urge the mayor to work with this board," Still continued.

Still also recalled four former aldermen with whom he had served during his 20 years as Alderman-at-Large: the late Calvin Mangrum, the late Bobby Carlisle, Willie King and Cowles "Pete" Horton.

Mayor and Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow were sworn in separately, and aldermen from the city’s four wards were sworn in together.

Carlson commented that Morrow is Batesville’s youngest elected official and that Autrey is the second youngest. It is the first term of public office for both men.

Ward One Alderman Bill Dugger begins his third term, Ward Two Alderman Rufus Manley begins his second term, Ward Three James Yelton begins his sixth term and Ward Four Alderman Bobbie T. Pounders begins her fifth term.

Justice Carlson concluded his remarks by paraphrasing Micah 6:8, a Bible verse his mother had given him prior to first taking office as a judge:

"Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God," he said.

Officials in other Panola area municipalities, with the exception of Crenshaw and Crowder, will be sworn in next week.

In Crenshaw, an inauguration was held Saturday night, July 2, at the Church of God in Christ. Sylvester Reed took oath of office as mayor. Aldermen are Alberta Bradley, David Whitsell, Milton Phipps, Keith Pride and Shirley Morgan.

In Crowder, officials will be sworn in on Thursday evening, July 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the new town hall. Stephen Stanton is mayor. Aldermen are Mary Stroupe, James King, Walter Shegog, Joe Cole and Chuck Wilson. Lynette Bland is town clerk.

In Como, Sardis, Pope and Courtland, officials will take their oaths on Tuesday, July 5.

Justice Carlson will also administers oaths of office to Sardis city officials. The ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by a reception. Rusty Dye will be sworn in as mayor. Aldermen will be Roy Scallorn, Rufus Smith, Mike Wilson and Rivers McArthur.

In Como, officials will be sworn in at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Azria Lewers will take oath as mayor. Aldermen will be John Walton, Clark Gregory, Richard Taylor, Everett Hill and Ruby Johnson Higgenbottom.

In Courtland, Debbie Aven will be sworn in as mayor at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday along with aldermen "Topper" Olson, Carolyn Kilgore, Gerald Aven, Chris Olson and Mary Catherine Baglan.

In Pope, Ricky Briscoe will be sworn in as mayor at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday along with aldermen Edith Mae Pratt, W. T. Rikard, John Mark Pickett, Farris Green Jr. and Ricky Roebuck.

School board approved budget totaling more than $36,000,000
 By Rupert Howell

School trustees for the South Panola District approved a budget of approximately $36 million at the annual budget meeting held Thursday, June 30 for the 2005-06 school year.

The meeting followed a budget hearing the previous week when trustees learned that they would need $5,956,838 in local funds for operations and $358,000 in local funds for debt service.

According to the combined budget, state and federal revenue make up approximately $21 million and $6.5 million respectively.

District Financial Administrator Suzanne Covington warned that budget totals could be somewhat misleading because some funds never come into the district’s accounts. Those funds are mandated by the state and paid by the state, but the district must record them as budget items

Expenditures for instruction (teacher pay) total almost $20 million while support services total approximately $10.5 million. Non-instructional services total over $2 million, facilities acquisition and construction total approximately $1.5 million and debt service totals $953,000 in principal and approximately $700,000 in interest.

The budget includes an approximate $1.3 million "reserve" for unforeseen needs.

Last week outgoing Superintendent Dr. C. L. Stevenson warned trustees that an untimely failure of equipment such as the old boiler that heats Batesville Intermediate School, could quickly deplete the majority of the reserve fund.

Other business transacted at last Thursday’s meeting included:
 Employment of Shaunna Myers as a SPHS counselor;
Employment of Coleen Conner at BJH for special education;
Naming Coach Ricky Woods athletic director and coach Charlie Howard assistant athletic director and setting the payroll subsidy at $8,000 and $2,500 respectively;
Approved board meeting dates of the third Tuesday for each month for the upcoming school year;
Approved a request to advertise for sale of salvage equipment, and
Approved donation of an old, used bus to the Boys and Girls Club.


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