Headlines – 5/23/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – May 23, 2006

  From the 5/23/06 issue of The Panolian       

Townsend Reception
     In a reception held for Deshea Townsend of the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday night, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey presented him with a key to the City. "This is my first one," Autrey said. "We don’t give these out very often."
     The reception was sponsored by The Panolian and hosted at the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Mississippi. The event was held in conjunction with Townsend’s Pay It Forward football camp held Saturday. More than 500 children participated in the camp.
SP trustees approve personnel director, raise for clerical staff
By Rupert Howell

Dr. Terri W. Davis will be the new curriculum, instruction and personnel director for the South Panola School District following the May meeting of the district’s board of trustees Tuesday, May 16.

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Trustees also voted to increase the subsidy by $250 annually for teaching assistants and granted an across the board raise of $500 annually for clerical staff.

Davis presently serves as assistant superintendent in the Cleveland School District. She had previously served as assistant superintendent in the Greenville school district for one year. Prior to Greenville, she was employed in the Water Valley School District last serving there as high school principal according to Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer who recommended Davis for the position.

That position was vacant during the last year, having last been filled by Shaffer before he was selected superintendent. Shaffer asked that the position not be filled last year after he was appointed superintendent, telling board members that the most qualified applicants would already be committed to a contract. The salary approved for the position is $83,000 annually. She will begin
July 1.

Board President Lygunnah Bean commended Shaffer on the hiring of the new administrator, noting that she was in the top three applicants for superintendent’s job when Shaffer was hired.

The other top applicant was Dr. Gearl Loden who is now principal of South Panola High School.

"It’s comforting to know that you (Dr. Shaffer) are not afraid to surround yourself with highly capable people," Bean told Shaffer in front of other board members, reminding them that Shaffer has recommended staff that were competing for his job this time last year.

South Panola assistant teachers’ salaries currently range between $12,850 and $14,850 depending upon years of service.

Assistant teachers in the South Panola School District must meet minimum requirements such as an associate’s degree from a community college or 48 hours of college credit.

District subsidies for certified teachers were increased $500 per year at last month’s board meeting following a recommendation by Shaffer.

Other business at the May meeting included:
approving a budget calendar for next month when a notice of tax increase hearing and public meeting for adoption of the 2006-07 budget will be held;
accepting resignation and retirement notices and approving personnel recommendations;
approving purchase of seven used buses and granted permission to advertise for other transportation supplies;
hearing reports from principals and department directors;
approving two expulsions;
hearing financial report from finance director Suzanne Covington;
hearing report from school board attorney Colmon Mitchell.

School trustees hold a regular monthly meeting on the third Tuesday of each month at the 7 p.m. at the Parent Center located behind Batesville Intermediate School at College and Atwell Streets.

Trustees are Bean, Dr. Joe Gardner, Kim Renfroe, Sarah Dell Grey and Dr. Carlock Broome.

Litter plan gets tabled by county supervisors
By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors tabled a vote Monday on adopting a county litter ordinance, saying it might need "tweaking" before being accepted.

District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant led a two-minute discussion on the ordinance, suggesting that the matter be tabled. Supervisors unanimously agreed to table the discussion.

The litter ordinance would allow greater freedom for catching illegal dumpers and litterers, but it also punishes landowners with "junky" private property.

Solid waste manager Dean Joiner presented the ordinance to supervisors at their May 1 meeting, where he voiced support for it and asked that they consider and adopt it.

Joiner later told The Panolian he was unaware the board of supervisors had been handed a similar ordinance last year and never acted on it.

During the brief discussion Monday, only District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup seemed to consider adopting the ordinance, suggesting that it deserved a closer look but needed "tweaking."

Waldrup solely spoke up when he and other supervisors were prodded by Avant for comment.

Speaking on the subject, Avant cited the "one man’s junk is another man’s treasure" adage.

"I’ve got concerns about it," he said.

Reached after the meeting, Avant told The Panolian that he voted to table the idea to allow time to consider it and "tweak" some of the rules.

"I think we need to change some things that will create a hardship for people," Avant said. "I do feel like there are some good things to use."



County hears high price tag; may negotiate with Tri-Lakes
By Billy Davis

A representative from Tri-Lakes Medical Center will meet with county officials to negotiate a price tag for housing mentally ill patients at the facility, county supervisors said Monday.

Tri-Lakes chief operations officer Ray Shoemaker, who appeared before the county board Monday, agreed to meet soon with Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock and County Administrator David Chandler.

The daily cost to house a mentally ill patient at Tri-Lakes ranges from $800 to $1,200, Shoemaker informed the county board, but he also acknowledged he’s aware the county could not afford to pay that amount.

Shoemaker told supervisors the hospital accepts patients from other counties but did not elaborate on the cost.

Patients are housed temporarily at the hospital or at the county jail before receiving a mental evaluation by a doctor. If the doctor deems the patient mentally ill, then the person appears before a chancery court judge, who then commits that person for treatment.

Before the chancery hearing, the county pays for a patient’s housing and court costs if a family files as a "pauper," meaning it’s unable to pay.

Pitcock raised the issue of patient care to county supervisors earlier this month after receiving a $25,000 bill from Tri-Lakes for a patient who was housed there for about two weeks.

Speaking to supervisors Monday, Shoemaker said most patients are able to pay for their stay through medical insurance. Medicaid pays $1,276 a day plus a doctor’s bill, he said.

If a deal is reached between Tri-Lakes and the county, Shoemaker stressed that a discounted rate for the county would hurt the now-private hospital’s bottom line.

"If our beds are full and say a patient can pay $1,200 or $1,300 a day, then I can’t bring that patient in," Shoemaker said. "Then I’ll lose that patient to another entity."

According to Pitcock, yet another challenge facing the county is the filing of false affidavits that claim a person is mentally ill when they’re not.

Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright and Shoemaker agreed with Pitcock’s assertion that people often file false claims against each other.

"What if that person has no insurance and is found not to be mentally ill?" Pitcock asked. "Who’s going to pay for that?"

To remedy that problem, the chancery clerk suggested that the person filing papers be responsible for paying for the short-term stay if the person they’re filing papers on is not found to be mentally ill.

Board attorney Bill McKenzie cautioned on the legality of that suggestion and said he would research it.

If Pitcock’s idea is put into place, it might slow down the increasing number of court filings, District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup told his colleagues.

In other county business:
  Supervisors learned that a solo bid for renovating the courthouse heating and air unit has been voided by the bidder after material costs increased.
     Chandler informed supervisors that bidder Tri-Star Mechanical has backed away from its $544,000 bid after the cost of copper skyrocketed in recent weeks.
  Following a 25-minute executive session, supervisors announced they had hired Tom Austin as a road foreman for south Panola County.
     Austin formerly led a road department crew before being promoted to road foreman. He is responsible for Districts three, four and five.
     Austin’s salary will increase to $3,291 monthly beginning June 1. He replaces Buddy Holland, who left to pursue a private business.
Road manager touts new record keeping
By Billy Davis

A government accounting system intended to estimate the worth of Panola County’s road and bridges will also serve a dual purpose: improving the services of the road department.

The accounting system, GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board), is required by the federal government to ensure that states, counties and municipalities maintain easily accessible financial records.

To comply with the latest GASB requirement, Panola County must list then continually update the cost estimates of 900 miles of country roads and more than 200 bridges to comply with a federal requirement.

Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean, who is overseeing the project, intends to use the new computer system to improve the daily flow of information and road work.

County road department clerk Bobby Jones will use the system to receive and pass on work requests from citizens, hand out work orders to workers, and maintain a listing of work hours and assignments.

"A lot of this we’re doing already so people won’t see a change in our service to them," Bean said, "but we’ll have a system that will hold us more accountable and help us manage."

Panola County and its cousin counties across the state were required to be GASB compliant by June, 1999, but none of the counties hit the deadline, said Bean.

Right now, Panola County engineer Larry Britt is preparing a cost estimate of the county’s roads and bridges while Jones is researching computer software to accommodate the coming flow of road and bridge data.

The first detailed report of Panola County’s infrastructure must be submitted by October, 2007.
Before working for Panola County, Jones and Bean worked together at Batesville American, the now-closed plant where Bean served as manager and Jones served as quality manager.

At Batesville American, both men were familiar with GAAP, the private sector’s financial accounting version of GASB. GAAP stands for General Accepted Accounting Principles.

Jones used computer software to produce and tweak various policies and procedures at the Batesville plant, Bean said, and the county road manager is relying on the new hire to perform a similar task for the county.

The board of supervisors hired Jones last month at Bean’s request.

When county supervisors hired Bean in 2003, he was told that resolving the county’s GASB compliance would be part of his job requirement.

"The first thing they talked about with me was GASB," Bean said.

District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins recalled that Bean’s hiring coincided with chatter among counties and state agencies that the federal government was pushing GASB compliance.

"And when you looked at (Bean’s) resume, he certainly was qualified to take care of GASB," Perkins said.

The importance of GASB – besides being required – is that a cost estimate of roads and bridges could improve the county’s bond rating, which relates to its borrowing power, Bean said.

"And I think, personally, that it will be required in the future for federal and state grants," Bean added.

When Jones prints out records of road maintenance and paving, the results will break down various expenses such as the cost of materials and man hours on individual roads, in each of the county’s five districts, and across the entire county.

"When you buy a computer, you can buy it to play Solitaire on or to put your home budget on," Bean added. "We’re not buying it to play Solitaire – we’re using this to put our whole budget on it so we’ll know where our dollars are coming from and our dollars are going."



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