Headlines Cont. – 7/8/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 8, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – July 5, 2005


Meter readers could be in hot water for overcharged bills
By Jason C. Mattox

City of Batesville meter readers may find themselves explaining their actions following a pair of complaints about bills.

Members of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen were informed by Cheryl Bishop, manager of Dale’s Smokehouse, that the wrong amount of the restaurant’s water bill was drafted out of the restaurant’s checking account.

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Bishop said she called city hall and asked to have the meter rechecked, but a meter reader did not come back until a week or so later.

"When they checked the meter, they realized it had been read wrong," she said. "So I would like the difference for the water bill refunded instead of credited to the account."

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said he did not have a problem with issuing a refund unless it would set a precedent for the city.

"Traditionally, we have been crediting the account," he said. "I don’t want to see us start getting a lot of people in here wanting refunds."

The board unanimously voted to refund $2,577 to Dale’s for the difference in actual charges.

Following the vote, Manley said he felt like something needed to be said to the meter readers.

"The people pay their bills, and they need to make sure their meters are being read right so we don’t have a problem like this again," he said. "If there is another issue like this, maybe we need to consider disciplinary action."

Manley suggested written warnings and possibly additional training for meter readers if mistakes continue.

Mayor Jerry Autrey told Manley he would meet with the meter readers in both the gas and water departments to try and minimize mistakes.

In other board business:
The board unanimously voted to promote Tony Jones to the assistant chief of police position. Other moves in the department were discussed but none were made.
Code Enforcement officer Pam Comer asked for permission to advertise for the sale of a home grant house located on Van Voris Street and for permission to set a hearing for a sign variance.
Aldermen approved the hiring of Lee Martin pending completion of pre-employment testing with the Batesville Police Department.
The board voted to allow Autrey and Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell to negotiate with the Neal family regarding the private road connecting Highway 51 South and Eureka Street near Dunlap and Kyle.
     "I have been told that Dunlap and Kyle will pursue whatever legal steps are needed if you try to close the road," Glen McKittrick said.
      McKittrick stated that both Panola County and the City of Batesville have provided maintenance to the private road that has been used by the public for the past 30 years.
Warner McBride of McBride Engineering told aldermen that the Sand Creek Ditch project is on its last site. Once that site is completed, the city crews will move downtown to work on the drainage and resurfacing of the square.
     "We are also continuing to work with Mr. Manley to find cost effective ways to handle the proposed sidewalks on Martin Luther King Drive," McBride said.
Aldermen unanimously voted to rehire all city employees at their current salary and position.
     "I am very happy with all of our city employees and have no problem with us rehiring each and every one of them," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.
Arkansas, Missouri reps tour Behavioral Center
By John Howell

The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Center has become a model for delivery of rural mental health care, a consultant for a group of hospitals in Arkansas and Missouri said last week.

Ben Bloom of Affinity Healthcare Inc. brought representatives of Piggott Community Hospital in Piggott, Arkansas and Pemiscot County Hospital in Hayti, Missouri to tour the facility which formerly housed the South Panola Community Hospital and which is now known as the west campus of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

"We are here because of the success of the west campus," said Bloom, a clinical psychologist.

"There’s not another rural hospital that’s developed what they have done here," Bloom said.

"I’m not sure the community understands what’s been done here as far as the success of the west campus," the consultant added, noting that the facility did not exist three years ago.

Affinity Healthcare’s Web site states that it has served over 70 rural health clinics.

Bloom said that he contacted Tri-Lakes about its behavioral program based on research which pointed to its profitability and the quality of programs offered.

"None of these (hospitals whose representatives joined Bloom for the Tri-Lakes visit) have behavioral health centers," Bloom said.

"In rural areas there is a lack of access to quality behavioral health care; acute care hospitals are still required to care for behavioral patients," Bloom added.

The consultant said he learned about Tri-Lakes’ intentions to expand behavioral services "in talking to (Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center Chief Executive Officer) Ray Shoemaker about his plans for additional outpatient programs in surrounding counties."

"I don’t see any end in sight," Bloom added.

The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center is licensed for 45 inpatient beds, a spokesman said. The average outpatient census includes 10 senior behavioral health care patients and an additional 12 senior patients who are treated for alcohol/chemical dependency. An average of five juvenile outpatients are seen weekly for alcohol/ chemical dependency, the spokesman said.

The Tri-Lakes Behavioral Health Care Center is part of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center which Dr. Robert Corkern is purchasing. The City of Batesville and Panola County are joint owners of the hospital facility, but the county is sole owner of the west campus facility.

Corkern was the successful high bidder in the medical center’s sale.

He paid $500,000 in earnest money on June 3 and is expected to consummate the $28 million purchase on September 2.



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